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ESPN’s John Barr on UFC pay report blowback: “It’s not our charge to do your public relations”

By Zach Arnold | January 20, 2012

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If you’re looking for an MMA audio interview-of-the-year candidate, look no further than this very lengthy interview with John Barr of ESPN’s Outside the Lines. If you have a long commute or some down time, it’s well worth taking 90 minutes out of your schedule to listen to the whole thing.

I obviously won’t transcribe the entire interview here, but I will give you some key summary points from it.

Mr. Barr said that the issue of fighter pay in the UFC was initially raised internally by ESPN producers after Zuffa bought out Strikeforce. He says that, at that moment, everything you read in the dot-com piece started being researched. The reaction to the piece, according to the reporter, has been very different than the kind of feedback they get when covering other sports & controversial topics. The value of the lengthy audio interview Mr. Barr did is more about his tone & surprise more than his actual comments. He emphasized how surprised ESPN was by UFC’s aggressive PR push back to the piece and that ESPN management advised him not to get into tit-for-tat warfare with online fans/radio shows. The most interesting characterization he had about MMA fans is one I always talk about whenever I write anything neutral or negative about Zuffa or MMA in general — I call it the ‘beehive mentality.’ According to him, the reaction they got from UFC supporters attacking the story was angry that the promotion was being criticized. As far as things escalating & deteriorating between ESPN & MMA fans and ESPN & UFC, Mr. Barr made this revealing comment.

“I would hope that it would not come to that and I would hope that things would quiet down and that we’d all just move on with our lives. Will we continue to cover the sport of Mixed Martial Arts? Uh, yeah, I don’t think there’s any question that we’re going to.”

As for what John Barr said during the interview, he left it all on the table in regards to his dealings with UFC and some of the statements they’ve made about him since the Outside the Lines piece aired on Sunday morning.

The first 30 minutes of the interview are about what % figure ESPN was able to estimate for how much UFC paid out to fighters. Mr. Barr said the low end estimate was 4% and that the number most bandied about was 10%.

Claim: Both Matt Serra & Chuck Liddell refused to go on camera for ESPN story

“I’m glad you mentioned Matt Serra because anybody who’s been following the hubbub, if you will… I’m not sure if Dana said it during a press conference, I’m not sure what the context was but at some point he said that we actually went to interview Matt Serra, put him on camera, and that when we didn’t like what he was saying that we decided to pull the plug on the whole thing. I’m going to give Dana White the benefit of the doubt and just say that he was misinformed. That’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that he’s lying because I can tell you flat out we never put Matt Serra on camera.

“I’ll tell you what happened. We had contact with his agent, his agent set up a meeting. I’ve never actually met Matt Serra. A producer that I work with closely on the television story that aired on Outside the Lines, Greg Amante, went to meet Matt outside of his gym on Long Island. We had no idea what we thought about this subject, we didn’t know if he was a guy who was thrilled with his pay, a guy who was upset, we had no idea. We just wanted to hear from the guy. And, you know, Greg had a pretty, well, first of all Matt was about a hour of late. But when he did show up, Greg had a good shot with him but he said it was bizarre. He said he was really guarded, every time he mentioned the issue of pay Matt got sort of evasive, you know, he said it was almost like somebody had spoken to him before we showed up.

“Well, look, it’s one of those things that, you know, I don’t, again, I don’t know Matt. I’ve never spoken with Matt but that’s what I’m hearing from a guy who I worked with who I trust, that was his read on the situation. Matt didn’t want to go on camera, OK? He didn’t have any interest in it, that was made abundantly clear to Greg. So, this suggestion that we put Matt on camera and then pulled the plug because we didn’t like what he was saying… it just didn’t happen, you know, and the suggestion that we did that with other fighters? Believe me, heh, I would have LOVED to have heard from more fighters on camera. As I said to Lorenzo (Fertitta) in person, if you have fighters who are thrilled about their pay, what… show me where to go, you know, I’ll be there tomorrow with the camera. But I got to tell you, people just didn’t want to touch this…

“There were fighters who we spoke with who are current champions and former champions who… you know, told us that, you know, if they were to speak out about this kind of stuff it would be the end of their careers. You know, there was one former champion who I can tell you is beloved within the sport who told us that if he were to speak about it it would have a negative impact on his current business and I don’t want to tell you what his current business because that would kind of narrow down the, you know, the focus a little more on just who this guy was or is, rather. But, there’s just this concern that, you know, if you’re in it…

Claim: Why fighters are afraid to speak out about UFC pay levels and the ‘culture of fear’

“Fighters basically broke down into three groups. There’s the guys who are in it and, you know, none of the current guys would attach their name to any quotes. There’s the guys who aren’t in it who want to get in it. Those guys won’t talk, either. And then there’s the guy who have been in the UFC but are no longer in the UFC and they want to get back into the UFC and those guys won’t speak, either, and then there’s I guess a completely another group, a fourth group of guys who have a business that is somewhat dependent on their continued good relationship with the UFC establishment and those guys are difficult to approach as well.

“So, there’s all sorts of challenges and on some level the UFC’s in a good spot because you wind up getting guys who, you know, in their minds and in their characterizations often have baggage. Does Ken Shamrock? Absolutely, he has baggage. Did we report that eh had been engaged, that he was involved in a lawsuit with Zuffa? We did. Did we do it within the context of the story? No. Bob Ley mentioned it after the story but we got the information in there. We actually received a letter from UFC’s attorneys not after the piece ran but after a short tease of the story ran and there was one little comment from Ken Shamrock in that piece and I’m not sure who saw that and who decided to pick up the phone and call the lawyers but as soon as somebody saw Shamrock they had their attorneys send us a letter and… look, to be fair, yeah, we should be mentioning that Ken Shamrock was involved in a lawsuit with the UFC and he lost and he owes them legal fees. Does that make what he was saying wrong? You know, I’ll leave that up to others to decide. I know what I heard from over two dozen fighters not named Ken Shamrock, so… I felt pretty comfortable with airing what we did as far as what Ken’s comments were.

“Look, there’s definitely a culture of fear that exists and I don’t know that people do fully appreciate that. Dana White is a, look, he’s a passionate guy. He’s obviously incredibly driven and, you know, he’s a large reason why that company is where it is today. The people who are really close to the situation give Lorenzo Fertitta more credit as far as his business acumen but there’s no question if the sport needed a bulldog to go out and just be relentless in his pursuit of growing the sport they found the perfect guy in Dana White.

“But, yeah, to your point about intimidation tactics… you know, look, we interviewed Monte Cox who has been around the sport forever, who has staged hundreds of his own smaller promotions, who has several former champions and 16 guys in it now, he’s got like 70 fighters I guess in his stable now… he’s been cursed out by Dana White over the phone. It’s almost like I don’t think you can be an agent or a manager with a fighter in the UFC and push the envelope and not meet some level of heated resistance at some point. You know, (there are) any number of managers who have stories about heated profanity-laced exchanges with Dana White.”

Theme: UFC management and MMA fans need to grow a set and be able to take some heat, Zuffa/MMA writers & getting credentials

“It’s clear to me that if the UFC really wants to mature as a sports entity, it’s going to have to be able to shoulder and weather the criticism. I live in Philadelphia, OK? You know, probably outside of New York, maybe Boston, I can’t think of a more passionate fan base in terms of, you know, columnists who are critical of the local sports teams, sports radio hosts who bring it every day with no holds barred, pardon the expression, critiques when you know the leaders of their local sports teams don’t call those shots the right way. Heck, there were people calling for Andy Reid’s head after the third week of the season. But those columnists go to press conferences every week, multiple times a week, they go into the locker rooms and talk to players, they’re not banned. You know, they’re big boys, they can take the slings & arrows. You know, if you want to really prove that you’ve arrived then put up with it, you know? That’s my take.

“If every story that comes out that’s mildly critical or takes a critical view of what you do if every story is to be responded to by somebody coming out with a series of half-truths and, you know, what was rather telling when UFC put two videos out. One of them was a 10 minute video that included interviews with Chuck Liddell, who by the way wouldn’t talk to us for our story, Matt Serra who by the way wouldn’t talk to us for our story, and Forrest Griffin who we never contacted. But it also included several clips from the interview that I did with Lorenzo… I didn’t tall them up but I think he may have made 10 to 15 salient points during the course of that UFC-produced video and easily 7 of them were either in the TV piece that we did or the dot-com piece that we did.

“Look, we’re not, it’s not our charge to do your public relations. You hire people for that. I had a news director years ago who told me, ‘PR people distort the truth, you report the truth.’ You know, that sounds like, you know, I’m trying to say I fight for truth, justice, and the American way but at the end of the day that’s all we want, that’s what we try to get at — the TRUTH. I know people are out there just convinced that we have this agenda and there are some people that are the conspiracy theorists who think (UFC) signed a deal with FOX so ESPN’s out to get them! And that’s convenient and it fits into somebody’s paradigm but it’s just not the way we work, you know?

“I can tell you, I can reel off the last dozen stories I’ve done, there have been stories that have been critical of the NFL. We did a piece recently that was critical of the quality of NBA officiating. We put hundreds of millions of dollars in the NBA’s pocket every year, you know. This is not about that. It’s about journalism, it’s what we do, and this is a story that we thought was important to do. Heck, we don’t cover Mixed Martial Arts enough, you know, and the few times we do it we get blasted for not doing it in a way that essentially would have us be nothing more than shills of the UFC. That’s not the kind of reporter I want to be.”

Addressing claims that ESPN selectively edited interview video to make UFC look bad & Dana White’s grudge against ESPN

“People can see it on Youtube if they want to watch the whole bloody 47 minute thing but I shook Lorenzo Fertitta’s hand and this was after he told me why Dana White won’t do any more interviews with ESPN and I said, ‘look, I hope this isn’t your last interview with ESPN, we really appreciate you making the time,’ and I do and I know… you know, I do think it’s important for us to have access to these guys if we want to cover them and cover them in a meaningful way. And, as I said earlier, I think it will go a long way in helping that company define itself as far as the maturation process is if they can demonstrate that they are not impervious to criticism. They need to… you know… I think it would go a long way in adding to the credibility of their product if they were able to withstand a critical analysis from the outside from time to time.

“Look, [Dana] wasn’t a big fan of ESPN to begin with. He’s still hacked off about a profile that our friends at E:60 did about him some months ago. You know, a very fine reporter Tom Farrey who I work with who I respect a lot did that story. He’s still upset about that and that was the reason cited for Dana not agreeing to not do an interview with us, it’s just the lingering… I guess ill-will he feels towards ESPN because of that feature. I actually thought that the piece was pretty fair, you know… I thought it was a pretty accurate reflection of a guy who… is, you know, at times profane, at times always passionate… and just… you know, one could argue an extremely aggressive and one might even argue ruthless businessman. But, what are going to do?

“Yeah, I’ve never received (feedback) like this, but it is what it is. It’s not going to change how I do what I do. At the end of the day, if you wake up and feel good about what you’ve done and if you feel like you’re true to your moral code, that’s all that really matters, you know. There could be 3,000 people on ESPN.com ripping me for being a lousy reporter, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to buy any of it. You’re never as good as they tell you are and you’re never as lousy as they tell you that you are. Like I said before, you throw out the Russian and the American judge and you settle for what’s left.”

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 40 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

40 Responses to “ESPN’s John Barr on UFC pay report blowback: “It’s not our charge to do your public relations””

  1. CAINtheBULL says:

    ‘beehive mentality’

    I think it’s a side effect of how the mainstream media has treated MMA. Most of them look down on the sport. It’s been us, the fans, versus them, the MM.

    “The MMA world is our club. It’s not perfect but will go after any outsider who dumps on it.”

    The old guard at ESPN has a history of trashing MMA on air. Everybody that was on the tv show had an ax to grind with Zuffa. They shouldn’t be surprised when the fans feel ESPN is not covering the sport fairly.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      ESPN has openly bashed MMA for years on their talking head shows. Hmmmm, I wonder why Dana & Lorenzo would be a little sensitive at this point.

      ESPN not only ignored a lot of the MMA coverage, they have also had long time reporters talk bad about the sport in general time and time again….

    • Mark says:

      That is true, Zuffa has a beehive/bunker mentality because they spent, what, 5 years fighting off “Human Cockfighting” stigmas passed down from the SEG’s awful marketing in the early days? It would be like, in a way, living under warfare and then coming home to peace: soldiers and citizens who lived in battlezones sometimes have a hard time readjusting to life after war. So UFC is probably going to take a few more years to adjust.

      For years I;ve been saying they need to let a PR firm more heavily coach how they handle media relations. And every time I have, people go “But! But! But! But! Then Dana will be told to stop swearing! We want our eternal bratty teenager!” And they’re missing the point. Although it would be nice for Dana to grow up, I’d settle for them just stop acting like the media is coming to Zuffa HQ with torches and pitchforks every time an article comes out that doesn’t stick to their talking points. The level of control they demand from writers, be it online MMA writers or MSM writers, is embarrassing. There have been some control freaks in the White House, but even they pale in comparison to how Zuffa treats the media. They don’t get they’re doing more harm than good in doing this. It sets them up for stuff like the ESPN piece.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    1) I will believe Matt Serra over some suit any day of the week. Serra is about as honest of a person as you can get. If he said the ESPN cameras came and wasted his time, I highly highly highly doubt he was just making it up.

    2) “Fighters basically broke down into three groups. There’s the guys who are in it and, you know, none of the current guys would attach their name to any quotes. There’s the guys who aren’t in it who want to get in it. Those guys won’t talk, either. And then there’s the guy who have been in the UFC but are no longer in the UFC and they want to get back into the UFC and those guys won’t speak, either”

    Many guys did attach their names when talking about fighter pay. Sean McCorkle, Michael Bisping, Matt Serra, Chuck Liddell, Nam Phan, Jacob Volkmann, & George Roop. Georges St. Pierre has attached his name to about $4 to $5 Million per fight. And of all of these fighters, none of them had anything negative to say. And the fighters who aren’t in the UFC can’t really talk about they have never received a paycheck from Zuffa, which just shows how dumb Barr’s point is. And the guys who are retired are mostly from the era that Zuffa was losing money and they still never had a check bounce.

    Not to mention that 5% revenue payout they talked about is so far off the mark just from what we know about GSP, Overeem, and Lesnar’s pay. They were either making information up or just flat out lying at ESPN.

    3) What Barr is refusing to admit is that they did a NEGATIVE piece on the UFC without any active fighters going on record and without any hard numbers. It would be one thing if the segment talked about how more transparency was needed. They didn’t do that. Instead they bashed the fighter pay with zero ammunition. And that was the biggest problem.

    NEWSFLASH: “Zach is piece of sh!t journalist who steals other peoples ideas and is the meanest guy in the world!!”

    I refuse to bring any proof to the table, but I’m going to do a segment on TV about it anyways. (For the record, those are actually all lies). That’s about what ESPN did.

    • Steve4192 says:

      “Not to mention that 5% revenue payout they talked about is so far off the mark”

      Yeah, Maysey came off looking awful. For a guy who is supposedly leading the charge to organize fighters, he demonstrated either a complete lack of understanding when it comes to Zuffa’s financials or a complete lack of honesty.

      Anyone familiar with what little Zuffa financial information is public (S&P data, PPV and gate revenue, disclosed payouts and bonuses, court records from Overeem and Couture’s contracts, etc.) can calculate for themselves that Zuffa’s payouts are are north of 20%, and that is without knowing anything about all the non-disclosed bonuses.

      Of course, Lorenzo’s 50% claim is also ludicrous, so I guess Maysey’s ridiculous 5% claim balances things out.

      • edub says:

        “Of course, Lorenzo’s 50% claim is also ludicrous, so I guess Maysey’s ridiculous 5% claim balances things out.”

        That’s what I get generally from having this argument (over and over).

        The people who want to attack the fighter payout claim 5-20% usually. With the little information there is out there on fighter pay, along with doing some educated guessing on bonus’s and undisclosed pay that number is off.

        The same can be said for Lorenzo claiming 50% (basically).

        I believe the key discussion to be having is if fighter’s receive between 25-35% of the profits, then what is the rest of the money going to. How much money is truly being spent on “growing the sport” and “growing Zuffa as a company”?

        • Mark says:

          Yeah, that’s the thing.

          All we’re getting is “ESPN ARE MEANIEHEADS!” But if Lorenzo just did a better job defending himself, this would not be half the CRISIS!!!! Zuffa is playing it out to be.

          You’ve got liars vs. liars, since even the hardened Zuffaites admit Lorenzo was full of crap, so it comes out to “whose lie do I like better.”

          The problem then becomes “50%” is such a boldfaced lie not even the biggest BS’ers in Congress would claim something so stupid. In 2008 Zuffa got a great credit rating for their 350 million dollar loan. And 2008 wasn’t even their best year on PPV (a year later was), so until you can point out a year they spent 175 million dollars on fighter pay, this is a lie too stupid to even come close to tolerating.

          And I fail to see how ESPN’s MMA coverage is any worse than any other mainstream media coverage. Nobody in the MSM gave it a nice portrayal but, what, 60 Minutes in 2006? So is only 60 Minutes allowed to discuss UFC and the rest of the MSM (but our friends at Newscorp, naturally) doomed to have to ignore it to appease Zuffaites?

  3. Jonathan Snowden says:

    Funny that no fighter would “attach their name to any quotes” when a bunch of MMA sites have managed to get them to do just that in the wake of this?

    What they mean is that no fighter would give them the quotes they wanted for this piece.

  4. Steve4192 says:

    First of all, I’d like to say that I don’t think the E:60 piece was a hatchet job. It was basically a MSM treatment of a bunch of issues the online MMA media has been covering since 2005. No new ground was broken and it wasn’t terribly biased one way or the other. That said, Barr is clearly tap dancing around the truth on a number of issues.

    In regards to Serra, he admits that they interviewed him but didn’t use him in the piece because they ‘felt’ he was being evasive. Funny how they determine that guys who say what they want them to say are being honest but Serra was ‘being evasive’ and therefore was not used. He also goes on later in the interview to say that Serra was not willing to do the interview, when that is clearly not the case. Serra sat down and did the interview with Greg Amante. If he weren’t willing, he wouldn’t have wasted his time doing that interview. Finally, he implies that Dana is lying about Serra’s encounter with ESPN when Serra himself has come forward.

    In regards to Shamrock, he admits that he completely omitted Ken’s legal entanglements with Zuffa in his piece. The fact that Bob Ley covered his ass after the fact does not change that.

    They also didn’t mention that Ricco Rodriguez has admitted that he knows exactly why he was banned from the UFC. His Golden Palace henna tattoo darn near got UFC 39 cancelled. Yet Ricco goes onto the show and claims he is banned because he didn’t kiss Dana’s ass and that he has no problems with Lorenzo. Ricco explains it all here in his own words to Cagepotato. Funny how that story changes when ESPN puts a camera on him.

    http://www.cagepotato.com/exclusive-ricco-rodriguez-explains-why-the-ufc-wont-have-him-back/

    Finally, he mentions Monte Cox, who has gone on the record on the UG that he is ‘disappointed’ in how ESPN cut his interview. Monte has flat-out said he has no problem with fighter pay in the UFC, and that the clip they used was misleading.

    At the end of the day, I think both sides come off looking terrible. Zuffa looks bad for over-reacting to a pretty tepid report that barely scratched the surface of what the MMA media has been covering for half a decade. Barr looks bad because he clearly went into the story with a narrative in mind and omitted people who didn’t support that narrative and included people with an axe to grind to support the narrative without disclosing their bias. Zuffa would have been better off ignoring the report. Their reaction made it “can’t miss TV” for the hardcore fan base and probably doubled the ratings for the show.

  5. Norm says:

    So if this wasn’t a smear campaign aimed directly at the UFC, why didn’t they speak to Monte Cox regarding the pay structure of all the shows he runs? I can’t imagine he’s allocating 50% of his gate/revenue towards the fighters themselves.

    Also, MMA/UFC is sport still in it’s infancy. Wasn’t there a time when professional football players and professional baseball players had to supplement their income by working job in the off season?

    I have no personal feelings regarding this story or any kind of personal investment in the UFC or ESPN. I really enjoy the sport, but isn’t the decision fighters face in whether the pay is worth it the same as what any other joe blow faces?

    If fighter A doesn’t feel like the time, effort, and physical punishment is worth the pay they are receiving, couldn’t they become a desk jockey like the vast majority of us? If I had any legit athletic or fighting ability, I know I much rather try my hand at MMA.

    • edub says:

      “Also, MMA/UFC is sport still in it’s infancy. Wasn’t there a time when professional football players and professional baseball players had to supplement their income by working job in the off season?”

      The owners weren’t generally worth billions’ of dollars back then.

  6. Mike Alfonso says:

    To be fair to both ESPN & UFC, I’ll share my points on both sides. First off, I agree that UFC has to be able to take the criticism if it wants to establish themselves as a “major sport”. OTL & E:60 cover all areas of sports in every light possible and Dana had the opportunity to be interviewed but he declined.

    At the other end, ESPN needs to do a better job with showing both sides of the story so their stories look more credible. Why not interview a fighter who has been paid fairly so they can give their side? They also need to interview fighters without a hidden agenda (cough, Ken Shamrock).

  7. Chris says:

    Zach,
    Easily one of Eddie Goldman’s best interviews. Thank you for linking that up.

  8. Wonderjudas says:

    1) “A producer that I work with closely on the television story that aired on Outside the Lines, Greg Amante, went to meet Matt outside of his gym on Long Island. We had no idea what we thought about this subject, we didn’t know if he was a guy who was thrilled with his pay, a guy who was upset, we had no idea.”

    This is a huge red flag. Producing television costs a lot of money, and, having worked in TV and radio for 20 years, I’ve never been involved in an interview where you didn’t know beforehand what you were going to get – except for career-spanning, personal pieces.

    2) On top of that, there are hundreds of fighters who are/were employed by Zuffa. Why would they cherry-pick Matt Serra out of the blue and send over people on a hunch? Why not have assistants grill tens of fighters on the phone before sending someone over?

    3) “Matt got sort of evasive, you know, he said it was almost like somebody had spoken to him before we showed up.”

    Here, we are meant to think that it’s kinda wrong to have someone prep you for an interview, which is far from the truth. It is quite normal to come prepared for an interview.

    ESPN’s version of the events don’t wash with me.

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  10. 45 Huddle says:

    UFC Tonight went from 39k, to 20k, and now 61k.

    I’m really interested in seeing how the prelim show on Friday does for Fuel TV…. As well as the first Fuel TV card.

    Don’t get me wrong. 61k being a series high is still an OBNOXIOUSLY low number. But I’m interested in seeing what Zuffa can do with the channel. It is likely going to take 2 years to find out, but I’m sure FOX doesn’t care because they have 7 years total to make this happen.

    If Zuffa can make UFC Tonight get up to 100,000 to 200,000 viewers…. And then the live shows to get closer to 500,000…. I would consider it a success. Now, if this was Zuffa’s main way of getting to fans, it would be bad. But it’s their 4th way…. PPV, FOX, and FX are the primary trio. So far I have really enjoyed Fuel TV…. But you can tell there are some massive growing pains going on…

  11. [...] ESPN’s John Barr on UFC pay report blowback: “It’s not our charge to do your public relations” | Fight Opinion [...]

  12. EJ says:

    Not surprisingly this was a laughable response to ridiculous and well below ESPN standard piece. Seriously it’s again not a shock that ESPN’s mma coverage has gone the way of Sherdog since Gross joined their crew. This is why you have to be carefull who you hire and get into bed with and sadly ESPN chose the wrong guy to hitch their mma bandwagon to.

    The OTL piece was a joke and the pushback they got will hopefully smarten them up about doing more of the same in the future. The UFC and it’s fans don’t have to change because a people or a company have their own agenda and want to do hit pieces on them. But they will have to if they ever want to not get the Sherdog treatment from the UFC trust me worldwide leader or not this type of stuff won’t fly with Dana and company.

    • Simon says:

      Glad I’m not the only one thinking this same thing about Gross. I ripped him rather harshly the other day on twitter, tearing into him on several different levels.

      His only response was to distance himself from both the OTL piece and the companion piece that he himself wrote as a precursor to the OTL piece.

      He either ignored answering my questions, doubts and outright call outs, or he literally had nothing and wasn’t prepared to respond to anyone calling him on his shit.

      I know if someone were to call into question my credibility, especially calling me out on my entire career and how much of a farce it had been up to this point, there is no chance of me not defending myself with clear answers.

      If I didn’t I would be considered a fraud. But I guess that’s how things go when you are an MMA journalist. People overlook everything as long as they perceive you to be good at what you do.

      No Josh Gross, just because you covered the sport almost since it’s inception, doesn’t make you a journalist, let alone a good one. You don’t just get to call yourself a journalist because you were one of the first to cover mma.

      • Kelvin Hunt says:

        “No Josh Gross, just because you covered the sport almost since it’s inception, doesn’t make you a journalist, let alone a good one. You don’t just get to call yourself a journalist because you were one of the first to cover mma.”

        Amen.

  13. Simon says:

    John Barr, (and others just like him, others not so much) tells himself he’s doing the honorable thing, that UFC needs to handle criticism, but when that’s all they receive with none of the praise for the more numerous things they get right than wrong.

    And when a good majority is made up speculation or rumor to confuse and stir a hornets nest, is it any wonder UFC doesn’t trust ESPN, or any reporter/news site?
    But people like John Barr say he’s doing what needs to be done because it’s the American way, that’s bullshit.

    He can keep telling himself that, and that may be his true intention, but he still works for a corporate entity with a bottom line disguised as a news agency who have their own agenda and their own story to push.

    They have to make sure they make the most out of being on top for as long as they can stay there.
    Espn did it right and they deserve to stay right where they are until someone else figures it out.

    Just like ZUFFA has accomplished. They got where they were by stepping over a few bodies along the way, just as ESPN did. But that alone didn’t get them at the top.

    It was a belief combat sports can work and people can enjoy it as long as it’s brought along at a pace that doesn’t tip the balance of power towards the greedy, whom ever that might be.

    So far, neither owner nor fighter can be considered greedy. Yes the fighters could get paid more.

    Everyone wants more money. But what they really want is job security and stability, which essentially seems to be what ZUFFA is trying to do by reinvesting into the future of the sport. No one should believe UFC makes all this money hand over fist, and just pockets it.

    There have been numerous disaster filled stories of top notch fighters leaving, some in their prime, most left with a chip on their shoulder.

    Almost all of them, and everyone who moved on to headline for the new next big organization ended up getting crushed so bad their careers never recovered.
    There was something in common everyone of those supposed giant killers shared. Their owners got greedy.

    They weren’t comfortable being number two so they went for the throat of the only giant able to stand of his own two feet, only to end up choking on it’s own blood before it ever got a shot off.

    Affliction, Strikeforce, Elite XC. If you paid attention at the time, you understood none of those companies stood a chance to begin with.

    But dishonesty and greed among most media sites, their Editors and their ilk, all decided it was much better for business to build up these other companies who were doomed to fail from the day they made their expansion plans known to anyone who would listen.

    Much better to build up also-doomed Affliction and suppress the sport by trying to convince the fans the UFC were in trouble because Affliction was capable of competing with UFC.

    Instead of extending everyone involved a curiosity by being honest with fans, MMA media thought it best to trick people into thinking Affliction and Elite XC stood a chance instead of writing pieces that tried to encourage slower growth and expansion by the newer companies.

    There is your dishonesty; maybe the few actual writers and journalist who were involved to better the sport rather than create controversy, maybe they tried.

    But more often than not it was those writers who, not by actually picking up on things that create positive buzz, but by inserting themselves into the narrative in order to create drama, all while placating to a certain new segment of the fan base who just happen to love that type of story line, they are the ones who are dishonest.

    But maybe it wasn’t those writers at all who were dishonest, but maybe their Editors and their corporate bosses who, along with every other mainstream form of journalism, have all become so milquetoast and vanilla in their coverage of actual stories and in it’s stead, chose to chase whatever story, real or fake that helps to further their ability to generate the most profits, maybe they pushed it to this.

    All at the expense of honesty and compassion and as John Barr puts it, “truth, justice, and the American Way”. Hand over fist, that’s the new American Way, John Barr. Ask your bosses, then ask yourself how much you had a hand in all of it. That Is up to you to decide.

  14. Jeff says:

    While I’m sure there are some valid points raised by Mr. Barr, I can’t take his comments very seriously simply because he’s interviewed by someone who openly hopes for the UFC’s demise. Eddie Goldman’s hatred of all things Zuffa simply kills his credibility, and anyone associated with him.

  15. Simon says:

    John Barr, (and others just like him, others not so much) tells himself he\’s doing the honorable thing, that UFC needs to handle criticism, but when that\’s all they receive with none of the praise for the more numerous things they get right than wrong.

    And when a good majority is made up speculation or rumor to confuse and stir a hornets nest, is it any wonder UFC doesn\’t trust ESPN, or any reporter/news site?
    But people like John Barr say he\’s doing what needs to be done because it\’s the American way, that\’s bullshit.

    He can keep telling himself that, and that may be his true intention, but he still works for a corporate entity with a bottom line disguised as a news agency who have their own agenda and their own story to push.

    • Simon says:

      They have to make sure they make the most out of being on top for as long as they can stay there.
      Espn did it right and they deserve to stay right where they are until someone else figures it out.
      Just like ZUFFA has accomplished. They got where they were by stepping over a few bodies along the way, just as ESPN did. But that alone didn’t get them at the top.

      It was a belief combat sports can work and people can enjoy it as long as it’s brought along at a pace that doesn’t tip the balance of power towards the greedy, whom ever that might be.
      So far, neither owner nor fighter can be considered greedy. Yes the fighters could get paid more.

      Everyone wants more money. But what they really want is job security and stability, which essentially seems to be what ZUFFA is trying to do by reinvesting into the future of the sport. No one should believe UFC makes all this money hand over fist, and just pockets it.
      There have been numerous disaster filled stories of top notch fighters leaving, some in their prime, most left with a chip on their shoulder.
      Almost all of them, and everyone who moved on to headline for the new next big organization ended up getting crushed so bad their careers never recovered.
      There was something in common everyone of those supposed giant killers shared. Their owners got greedy.

      They weren’t comfortable being number two so they went for the throat of the only giant able to stand of his own two feet, only to end up choking on it’s own blood before it ever got a shot off.
      Affliction, Strikeforce, Elite XC. If you paid attention at the time, you understood none of those companies stood a chance to begin with.

  16. Simon says:

    But dishonesty and greed among most media sites, their Editors and their ilk, all decided it was much better for business to build up these other companies who were doomed to fail from the day they made their expansion plans known to anyone who would listen.

    Much better to build up also-doomed Affliction and suppress the sport by trying to convince the fans the UFC were in trouble because Affliction was capable of competing with UFC.

    Instead of extending everyone involved a curiosity by being honest with fans, MMA media thought it best to trick people into thinking Affliction and Elite XC stood a chance instead of writing pieces that tried to encourage slower growth and expansion by the newer companies.

    There is your dishonesty; maybe the few actual writers and journalist who were involved to better the sport rather than create controversy, maybe they tried.

    But more often than not it was those writers who, not by actually picking up on things that create positive buzz, but by inserting themselves into the narrative in order to create drama, all while placating to a certain new segment of the fan base who just happen to love that type of story line, they are the ones who are dishonest.

    But maybe it wasn’t those writers at all who were dishonest, but maybe their Editors and their corporate bosses who, along with every other mainstream form of journalism, have all become so milquetoast and vanilla in their coverage of actual stories and in it’s stead, chose to chase whatever story, real or fake that helps to further their ability to generate the most profits, maybe they pushed it to this.

    All at the expense of honesty and compassion and as John Barr puts it, “truth, justice, and the American Way”. Hand over fist, that’s the new American Way, John Barr. Ask your bosses, then ask yourself how much you had a hand in all of it. That Is up to you to decide.

    • Simon says:

      My apologizes to everyone here for the seemingly random and out of place post. For whatever reason, my comments aren’t showing up correctly. I have a point here, I promise. Oh well, what a waste of time writing all that I did.

  17. DoctorMMA says:

    I find it ultimately amusing how an hack reporter says Dana and Co need to learn to take criticism as he is criticizing others for critiquing him it doesn’t really showcase his integrity in any way for having the same reaction as those he critiqued.

    If Mr. Barr in his own words had the maturity he would understand that it is not other organizations that he critiques job to just take his poor reporting. You reap what you sow.. and just because others did not retort does not mean you are doing a good job. It just means you have no credibility and they are above you. Like a blogger on the inter-web they don’t care.

    Why would the NFL care if this hack did a piece they have a product that is established and has been passed down through generations for 100 years. Talking about it would just shine more of a spotlight on a hack.

    The UFC alternatively has not been around that long and unlike the NFL has sports stars that openly communicate with their fans.. the NFL stars are too busy for their fans. The UFC is a grassroots business centered around pleasing the fan, because they are the ones that pay the bills..

    ESPN does not pay any UFC bills.. MMA Live was an internet show and when they actually got a TV slot it was at 2 am or something ridiculous like that on a Friday night.

    So the NFL that makes some money off of ESPN might be a little more tight lipped.. the UFC does not and they have to keep up an image with their fans.. screw ESPN.. hence the reason they did not trust them and had their own camera taping the interview.

    Barr gets it wrong completely with his cognitive bias because it is the NBA and other major sports that have put money in ESPN’s pocket not the other way around. It is they that create the content that they report on, without them there would be no ESPN. If they don’t play ESPN has no advertisers pay them.. FACT. The advertisers want heads and heads only tune into something interesting about topics they enjoy. This current stand will cost ESPN some money as other channels will be tuned in to get what the fans want.

    How come they are so concerned with fighter pay in the UFC and not fighter pay on their own network..?

    I will tell you why.. because no one cares about boxing on ESPN.. and the UFC is the big ticket that would get a few heads to watch.

    Maybe Dana should’ve been flattered that the high and mighty Barr was critiquing his business as that must be a sign that the UFC has become mainstream.. but Dana isn’t that guy as he says.. and like Loretta Hunt who worked for Sherdog who was cut off by the UFC for demanding a higher cut of video sales than any other “Hard Hitting News Site”.. had an axe to grind.

    Besides the cursing I pretty much agreed with Dana’s take on her pathetic style of reporting.

    As for ESPN funny how when the UFC got the Fox deal.. MMA Live has disappeared it pops up once a month if we are lucky now. No sour grapes.. even though Jon Anik one of their best reporters left them…?

    They also hired anti-UFC reporters such as Gross.. and then aired this witch hunt piece which is in stark contrast to Europe where ESPN was vociferous in picking up the UFC rights from Setanta Sports when they collapsed. So to say there was no interest in gaining the UFC rights in North America is absurd.

    Like Mr. Barr they probably low balled the UFC thinking hey we’re ESPN we have offered you a deal.. take it. We are so high and mighty.

    Fact is they failed and have since removed almost all UFC content from the network.. Bar… excuse the pun these hack stories.

    Now personally I know Dana is a shrewd business man and he got to where we are by being quite intelligent about it in a thug sort of way.. and that is why most people respect him… he is common.. and talks like your buddy even though he is much smarter and driven than you are.. he did not promote this hack job before it ever came out for no reason.

    He is a shrewd business man that has capitalized on many of these unfortunate situations before.. including the Loretta Hunt situation which she was correct.. it was his way of controlling the media around him.

    Ariel asks tough questions but he does an interview with him almost every week because he is fair about it. Dana knows questions have to be asked but it is the way they are pursued that he has a problem with. Like a fighter if you nut up and ask it to his face.. he rarely has a problem with it.. when you are sly and creepy.. then he gets weirded out.

    I think until the UFC came around.. like Barr who praises these critical hacks from his neighbourhood who complain about everything.. the truth is like he said about PR people which he is.. as a critical broadcaster your job is not to distort the situation it is to tell the truth.

    With Monte Cox a rival promoter/boxing lowballer at one point/agent looking to get paid more by richer contracts.. and Shamrock who clearly has an agenda.. he did not accomplish that. He couldn’t even find people to appear darkened out with a rapist voice.

    We all know UFC fighters at the bottom get paid less than what we think they should.. and we know that Randy Couture who was the main reference of ex-champion.. feels he should’ve got paid more.. it is not rocket science fighters want to get paid more.. it is the same for NFL players.. hockey players.. it is universal.. they are the talent.. but the league has to be profitable for them to gain more money.

    That is why the incentives in the background.. work magically to produce a great product.. like any other business if you go on to facebook, do social media well, promote your business by bringing in more customers.. you are rewarded with higher pay.

    It is contract work.. you take it you know what it means.

    Unlike boxing who I was a huge fan of I love the UFC model.. more great fights every night and with their dominance I get to see the best fight each other on a regular basis.. boxing you are waiting for years to see the fight.. it happens in months in the UFC. Just imagine the NFL if the NFC & AFC never met and they argued about it for years, there would be no super bowl every year to excite us all and to cash in on major advertisers.

    As you saw in the E60 piece they grabbed some irate people with Dana at the time.. was that meant to be fair…?

    Tito was on the warpath at the time.. and he still stayed with Zuffa and collects million dollar cheques even after what he said. He has since totally changed his tune.

    Dana is not perfect.. and has a lot of rough edges.. but to keep our sport running like a well oiled machine that is the character you need. Would you rather that the crazy russians who have avoided all fights.. were in control?

    If you do tune into M1.. on showtime.. I personally would not watch it.. I don’t read anything about it.. and I definitely would not support them.

    Trying to fleece others to get huge paydays for Fedor.. they also pay their fighters much much less than than UFC… flies in the face of their Fedor demands.

    Couture was one of the highest paid athletes in MMA his constant whining has made me sick… look at his record.. did he deserve those paydays? Should he not have been making less… therefore complaining less…?

    It was only the love from the fans that generated his pay and he wanted more. If it was not for PPV numbers that he got a cut of.. Dana would have cut his losing ass a long time ago.

    Besides being a douche to his wives.. he was a douche to the UFC who paid him more than anyone. He was always a cheater.. and that is the way Captain America should be known as.

    I like Randy.. but his attempts over the years in his personal life and in reality paint a different picture than the real man. Randy is all about money and could care less about the people around him including his son who he didn’t support until recently.

    We know he is the man in question because the history is there.. if you are doing a hack job on someone would you not pick out the most recent people that battled them in court?

    Sorry for the ramble but Zach needed it.

    • The Gaijin says:

      STFU. The only thing Zach “needed” was for you to write this insanely idiotic, rambling and incoherent drivel to make us really appreciate what a talented and insightful writer we have running this site.

    • Dave says:

      So, basically, if you aren’t a sycophant towards the UFC you are a detractor and trying to ruin them?

    • Mark says:

      I didn’t read the second coming of War and Peace there, but I did skim this part, and it’s something every Zuffaite is saying:

      ESPN does not pay any UFC bills.

      So I imagined UFC signing that deal with ESPN Europe to show the shows in several European countries, then?

  18. [...] “Yeah, I know this new episode of The Reem brings up a valid point. Of course, the point being that I should be hanging out with Alistair Overeem too. Where’s my invite? How do I get to eat an ‘Uber buffet’ like the one that was delivered to Overeem’s hotel in this video? Those are all questions that you don’t have the answer to. Damn you and your inability to answer my rhetorical questions. You guys should be on top of that. I don’t think I can handle any more of this. I’m jumping head first in the tenth episode of The Reem and never looking back. You can join me if you like, just make sure you bring a life vest. Enjoy. “  [...]

  19. edub says:

    My least favorite part of this whole process, has become the almost idiotic backlash towards ESPN.

    Now half the MMA world want to point to it as a hit piece, and completely ignore the fact that fighter pay is a legitimate point of the unknown.

    ESPN must just hate The UFC.

    • Mark says:

      I know, it’s so lame and tired.

      “They’re too close to boxing so they can’t be unbiased!” Uh, then why do they air UFC shows outside of America? Is ESPN in Europe now a different company from ESPN America?

      “They’ve said bad things about Zuffa before!”
      Well, who hasn’t? I’ll bet damn near everywhere besides Woodworkers Monthly and Ladies Home Journal has done some kind of negative piece on MMA between 1995-present. So like I’ve said before, since 60 Minutes gave MMA it’s most glowing MSM piece and FOX News can’t bash them anymore, are we stuck to where nobody else but them can talk about Zuffa?

      “You should have interviewed only fighters who like Dana!”
      Um, when you want somebody to give the negative slant, chances are you go to some guy with a grievance. It’s like, if you were going to say something wrong Obama is doing, you wouldn’t go interview his kids to be the doubters of the piece. If you wanted to do a story about something I did wrong, you wouldn’t go interview my best friend or even co-workers who tolerate me. You’d go to the guy who has the complaint. “Here’s what I think he did wrong.” Then it’s up to you or someone on your side to defend you. The problem is Lorenzo totally sucked at defending himself. So blame him, not ESPN.

  20. Mark says:

    Here’s another thing Zuffa should do:

    If they want to use “we can’t pay too much because we spend so much on international expansion”, then why not give us some kind of general idea of the money they’re putting into expansion?

    I’m not saying give away trade secrets, but if they’re throwing 50 million dollars into getting deals with a new country, and this is the big reason why raises can’t go beyond a certain point because it would be bad business to do that when they’re bleeding money to get Japan to like MMA again, then tell us. Their recon mission business workings are what caused this CRISIS 2012!!!!, when a general idea on what is going on would have saved it. Because it’s real easy to say “All you do is fly Ratner to meet people” when that’s all you see.

  21. Scott says:

    Of course Dana is passionate. If they lose their edge the whole UFC could go down. You know how many ppl depend on the UFC? Fighters, families, REPORTERS, web sites, media. A lot of ppl will lose if UFC loses. Isn’t this a wake up call in comparison to nfl which will never disappear? Owners aren’t screaming about lies because they are in a solidified sport. UFC is so young that they need a leader to forge ahead. Look at all the failed MMA companies that failed! Who were their presidents? Now you say Dana is to passionate?!   Before Dana and ufc was broke did we know the UFC president? Now that it’s successfull you criticize Dana for being popular? Wake up ESPN. 

    • Mark says:

      Before Dana and ufc was broke did we know the UFC president? Now that it’s successfull you criticize Dana for being popular?

      But the strides UFC made to get to where they are today were made before Dana became Dana 2.0 that we see today. Dana 1.0 (with hair) was still a ballsy businessman, but fame and power hadn’t gone to his head from Ultimate Fighter’s boom.

      The turnaround was the PRIDE War of 2006. Jerry Millen brought something out of him that never went away, into almost a total personality change (publicly, at least.) It was funny that 3 years prior to that Dana went on PRIDE’s PPVs a humble guy in awe that an MMA show could have such incredible production and such a big crowd. Then after he got burned by the Wanderlei publicity stunt at UFC 61, and he realized he was in the position of power after years of being at PRIDE’s mercy with “Sure, we’ll send you Sakuraba and Fujita” and other lies, he blew up on him in the media and it never stopped.

  22. [...] UFC’s love/hate relationship with the First Amendment on November 29th. Between this and overplaying their hand against ESPN on the fighter pay issue, it’s time for Zuffa HQ to rethink their current PR strategy. They [...]

  23. [...] ESPN’s John Barr on UFC pay report blowback: “It’s not our charge to do your public relations…. If you don’t have time to listen to the 90-minute interview on Outside the Lines, Zach Arnold sums it up really nicely on Fight Opinion. [...]

  24. [...] Because a sports writer protesting about treatment of MMA writers by Zuffa is as curious as ESPN going on the attack against UFC on the issue fighter pay. Again, just like execrable UFC/media relations is old hat, the issue of UFC/fighter pay is an [...]

  25. [...] to say, UFC probably wishes he hadn’t opened his mouth because what he said to Sherdog dovetails perfectly into the narrative that ESPN’s Outside the Lines program was pushing about the supposed climate of fear UFC pushes. Eduardo is a very competent guy, but he [...]

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