By Zach Arnold | January 17, 2012
“Today, kids, let’s learn a new word in class, OK? The password is… Drostanolone.”
Perhaps we’re starting to find out why UFC has been so aggressive against ESPN for their report on fighter pay and other issues relating to treatment of fighters in Zuffa. The pressure cooker has been boiling lately for the company and now we know why –
- King Mo failed a Nevada steroid test. Not a WADA test, not a VADA test, not even a California test… a Nevada test. Within the time span of a couple of weeks, King Mo and Cris Cyborg, two of the most identifiable names for Strikeforce, got busted on steroid tests. These two suspensions come right after UFC and Showtime recently signed a new deal for Strikeforce programming. Bet the executives at Showtime are thrilled. In response to more fighters failing drug tests, UFC announced that any fighter who signs a UFC, Strikeforce, or Ultimate Fighter contract will have to pass a drug test in order to get the deal. Standard operating procedure at many companies, so I don’t know how much of a PR boost this really will be other than weeding out the stupidest of fighters.
- A postponement of UFC’s upcoming Montreal event in March. We’ve been screaming that they’re running too many shows and that the talent is stretched too thin. With today’s event postponement, finally we may start to see some scheduling sanity. Or maybe not.
- Chael Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping for Fox broadcast means a lot more than Sonnen/Munoz and Maia/Bisping, two fights that I was interested in seeing but probably not fights that were going to pull in casual fans. The IQ test for booking got passed here at the last minute. Good.
As I noted here yesterday, UFC’s ham-handed, overaggressive PR response to ESPN seemed over-the-top and really insecure. After all, why should they give any sort of oxygen to a network program with only a couple of hundred thousand viewers? Instead, Zuffa got too clever by half. They went on the offensive before the segment aired, giving people a reason to actually watch the segment instead of ignoring it. Then, once the segment aired, they went and gave ESPN more oxygen. Dana White getting into a Twitter battle with ESPN boxing Dan Rafael was just plain goofy.
It would be one thing if the ESPN report was damaging… but it wasn’t. Yes, the network wanted to create the impression to sports fans that fighters are as afraid to speak out against Zuffa management as political dissidents are in North Korea. However, most sports fans would simply shrug their shoulders at that and tell those athletes, ‘if you want better pay, find another profession.’ All of the PR huffing and puffing by Zuffa here on this little report has to be concerning. Why? The topics discussed on the ESPN piece have been discussed for years online, back and forth, non-stop. From a Zuffa perspective, none of the issues raised is exactly new. So why make it into a bigger deal?
What if a real scandal hits? Take a look at recent history to see what kinds of scandals we’ve had: a fighter dying in the ring/cage, organized crime scandal (PRIDE), blood testing scandal (as alleged against a trainer in Georgia), so on and so forth. Now, these are real scandals that can take down a company. If UFC is that paranoid about a Sunday morning ESPN report on fighter pay, how will they control their emotions in public when something grave eventually happens?
Here’s Georges St. Pierre stating that he expects to return to MMA action in November of this year. That’s really pushing the timetable of recovery from a torn ACL, given how most athletes take a couple of years to fully recover both physically & mentally from that kind of injury. That said, UFC can use all the good news they can get now with Brock Lesnar retired.