UFC president Dana White says he's "at war" with EA, and any fighter who lends his likeness to the publisher's upcoming mixed martial arts game "won't be in the UFC."
Following the smash success of THQ's UFC 2009: Undisputed, Electronic Arts' EA Sports label soon announced it would make its own mixed martial arts fighting game, EA Sports MMA -- enraging White, who says EA didn't believe in the validity of MMA as a sport until THQ's game became so successful.
According to a report in sport-focused site MMAJunkie, White claims the UFC had approached EA, which holds the game rights to major sports including NFL, FIFA and NASCAR, hoping to collaborate on a sports title, and was rejected.
"EA Sports told us, 'You're not a real sport,'" White said. "'We wouldn't touch this thing. We want nothing to do with this.'"
"We put our asses on the line, THQ and the UFC, to make a video-game deal in the worst economy in the world," White said. "We go out there and do this thing, and it's successful, and now [expletive] EA Sports wants to do a video game. Really? That's not what you told us a year-and-a-half ago.
EA Sports boss Peter Moore has told Gamasutra in the past that the company is very interested in obtaining fighters' image rights for use in EA Sports MMA. Although EA hasn't confirmed any signings officially, famous ex-UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia said in a radio interview that both he and notable former UFC star Randy "The Natural" Couture have deals to appear in the game.
White said any tension with Couture was resolved through a recent court appearance, according to the report, but that it was a special case. "You won't be in the UFC," White said about additional fighters who sign with EA Sports. "EA doesn't give a [expletive] about mixed martial arts. They made that very clear."
MMAjunkie lists potential future UFC fighters Nick Diaz, Mohammed "King Mo" Lawal, Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Jake Shields as potential signees to EA's MMA game, with further claims that Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko might be on board, but White says he has no awareness as to whom the publisher has actually signed.
THQ's UFC: Undisputed has beaten even high expectations, shipping over 2 million units in just about its first two weeks. Analysts now expect it to top 3 million over the fiscal year.
[UPDATE: On the official EA Sports blog, division head Peter Moore's latest post seems to indirectly address White's comments, as Moore explains, as part of a larger update on EA Sports games:
"I know there has been some recent discussion about EA Sports bringing a challenger to this sport. I love mixed martial arts, and weíve been working on a game concept since I came to EA two years ago. I have great respect for the organizations and individuals that have invested in the sportís growth over the past decade Ė so this is one that is near and dear to me and Iím excited to see such good progress to date.
I trace my MMA video game roots back to my support of Craveís UFC title on the Dreamcast in 2000, and have been a fan ever since. Our title will bring both innovation and further authenticity to mixed martial arts, not to mention a strong global publishing network that will help spread the sportís popularity around the world."]