What a long, strange trip it’s been for Royce White, and despite all the ups and downs, the 30-year-old has found himself in the LFA cage.
The Iowa State Cyclones had a star on their hands and they knew it. Despite only sticking around for one season, White was able to lead the team in…. nearly everything. His 2011-2012 season still holds a place in the Cyclones’ Top Ten all-time for rebounds.
He had the skills, the brains and the charisma to be an NBA player fans could gravitate towards. It was obvious enough that even White knew it.
“I’m a unique character,” White said. “You could say I have a unique persona and I think unique personas like mine get a yay or nay. Sometimes the establishment loves them, depending on what inner niche you get in within the establishment: how they view you, how they want to tolerate you and sometimes you get completely exiled and excommunicated.”
A vocal push for mental health awareness and an intense fear of flying wasn’t enough to scare teams off. White would go on to be drafted 16th overall by the Houston Rockets and before he first stepped on the court, he showed the world just how serious about mental health he was.
“The politics are never off,” White explained. “The social issues never sleep, and I think people don’t understand just how big reputation, image, character assessment is in team sports.”
NBA media has made many changes to the way they speak of players’ mental health struggles… But not until over a half decade after White was pressing for it.
His requests fell on deaf ears and he was no longer “quirky” - he was “problematic.”
Nine years after being a first-round draft pick, White never logged a single rebound, point or assist in the NBA. Did White become the biggest bust in NBA history, deeming his cause a waste of time? White explains that skill has nothing to do with it. He was blackballed for a lack of capitalization opportunity for the league.
“We live by a false dogma in America especially the ‘if you’re the best player then they’ll come get you’; ‘if you’re the best they’ll make an exception.’ No, they won’t,” White explained. “It depends on who you are; it depends on what kind of divergence you are. If you’re a divergence, they feel they can capitalize on then it’s welcomed but if it’s a divergence that becomes a problem or they think is going to be disruptive, then you’re expendable.”
White has accepted that he will never play in the NBA, but it may have been a blessing in disguise. Playing professionally now for the Big3, he’s been able to take advantage of an opportunity to pursue a career in another sport he loves for the first time: MMA.
“I think when you look at how big pro sports are set up there’s a natural discouragement into the exploration of multi-sport athletes.” White said. “Just think of it that way. It’s not to say that the fight game doesn’t have some of that as well, I mean boxing and MMA crossovers are becoming a thing now, but it hasn’t always been that way in recent memory but it’s starting to flourish now.”
He promised almost three years ago that he was diving into MMA and planning to take it seriously. Under the experienced wing of Greg Nelson, White has a chance to make one hell of a splash in a division that’s always up for new blood.
You’re making a mistake if you’re assuming he’s “brand new” to the sport. Since the early days of YouTube, White has been up on the sport. Throughout high school and college, UFC pay per views were always a cause for celebration. There’s high odds he’s seen just as much of your favorite fighter as you have.
BASKETBALL 🏀 vs. FOOTBALL 🏈: #HEAVYWEIGHT SHOWDOWN at #LFA120! 💥— LFA (@LFAfighting) December 8, 2021
NBA First-Round Draft Pick@Highway_30
Collegiate Football Player @DaiqwonBuckley
Friday, December 10@MysticLake#PriorLake, #Minnesota
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In a sport that popularized a spectrum of athletes from Charles Bennett to Conor McGregor to Tyron Woodley to Colby Covington, Royce White may just find the home he thought he would be in with the NBA years ago.
The journey starts tonight!
Catch the MMA debut of Royce White at LFA 120 LIVE Friday, December 10 at 6 pm PT, ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!