By Zach Arnold | January 26, 2012
It is no secret in the MMA online community that the viewpoint of UFC towards MMA writers is extremely hostile. Hell, we have been debating this forever and a day. Everyone already has picked a side on this issue as to whether or not MMA writers, mostly from web sites, should get credentialed to go to UFC events. The attitude on behalf of Zuffa has been the following: hey, we’re doing you a favor, shut up and play by our rules. Rather than play the politics & optics right on this issue, most MMA writers have demonstrated a high level of sycophantic behavior that has only buttressed the arguments that Zuffa officials have made in regards to why they have the media policy as currently implemented.
It’s not just management that is often hostile to MMA media writers, either. There are plenty of fighters who have the attitude that writers should be grateful that said fighters are even giving them a limited amount of time to talk for interviews or to get comments for various stories. Instead of demonstrating integrity and independence, most MMA writers cower down and ‘play the game.’ No fighter has been more shallow & demonstrative on this front than Chael Sonnen. He attacks the media because he knows most media members are weak & will eat a crap sandwich if it means they get web page traffic. Chael’s bombastic blustering towards the media would make Newt Gingrich blush.
On Wednesday afternoon, Sonnen gave us a perfect example of this when he went on the attack against Kenny Rice & HDNet, repeatedly calling Rice a liar.
The issue of UFC and its fighters beating up on the media is an old & tired issue… which is why I found it extremely curious that CBS Sports columnist & flame thrower Gregg Doyel decided to bring up the issue yesterday in his column online. Doyel basically admits that he is a UFC fanboy but that he’s all of a sudden had a change in heart to speak truth to power in only a way he possibly can. The timing of this attack raised my eyebrows.
Why? 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 of fighter pay. Again, just like execrable UFC/media relations is old hat, the issue of UFC/fighter pay is an issue that has been debated for many years online. So why are these topics being brought up all of a sudden by the general sports media? Doyel claims that he’s protesting the way UFC treats MMA writers because, hey, someone has to stand up to those bullies. ESPN said that the FTC investigation is the reason that they started their report about how much fighters under the Zuffa umbrella make.
To me, the FTC investigation as the impetus for why the sports media are speaking out against UFC makes little to no logical sense. If I didn’t know any better, I would suspect that there’s a sports media mailing list ala Journolist style where UFC has suddenly become a hot talking point or easy target point to coordinate against to generate manufactured article content. If you want to argue ‘better letter than never,’ fine, but that’s not the road I’m going down here in this article. Our friend Larry Brown advises that CBS/Viacom owning Bellator should be taken into consideration here for motive.
With no apparent logical reason on the surface as to why UFC is getting incoming fire from the general sports media, one has to make an educated guess as to why these attacks are starting to appear. The only semi-logical answer I can come up with is the following:
UFC’s boorish PR response to ESPN’s report about UFC fighter pay now has the general sports media, which largely has been skeptical of the rise of MMA and has largely detested the behavior of Dana White, smelling blood in the water. You have to admit, if you are a UFC fan you, too, probably came away with a ‘what is UFC hiding?’ vibe to the ham-handed PR campaign UFC launched against Outside the Lines. The OTL story was a rather benign story as far as having any sort of impact on UFC’s core business model and, yet, given the way Zuffa overreacted and gave ESPN some oxygen & free PR for it… there’s probably reason to think that this overreaction now has sport media types that were afraid to comment on UFC in the past a path now to launch some attacks.
Dana White is giving the sports media all the ammunition they could possibly want to go after him. We all know about his infamous Youtube video rant against Loretta Hunt. Now that topic is being brought up by Gregg Doyel in his CBS column.
The sport media, in general, is beginning to launch a series of attacks on Dana White on big platforms and is ready to launch a public case against him in similar fashion to a prosecutor laying out a criminal case. First, bring up all the old ‘evidence’ that has been discussed on MMA web sites in the past but not on major sports sites. Once you build up a foundation for a narrative in this manner, then you can bring up recent examples (like Dana White constantly attacking fans on Twitter) and start fusing a media narrative by waiting for Dana to say some more stupid things. Once you start building up that media narrative, it snowballs quickly and becomes very easy to use in a broad & generalized attack.
Dana White is not helping his own cause. I stated last November that his stance on backing SOPA & ProtectIP would become a demerit used against him. Then the UFC web site got hacked and Dana’s response to that was boorish in nature, especially given that people have ordered PPVs through the UFC web site and have given their personal financial information for said transactions. Dana’s response to this situation today? He’s taunting the hackers to go after him again and he isn’t too worried about the feelings of those who ordered PPVs through the web site.
And, right on cue, the hackers went after Dana White this time around. Dana’s response to the hack attacks tonight? Get into Twitter flame wars with the hackers, which is prompting the hackers to claim that they will do more document dumps. Dana here is tone deaf and clueless, which feeds right into the narrative that ESPN & CBS is starting to cultivate against him in a negative campaign.
I know a thing or two about the effects of elongated negative media campaigns against an MMA entity. (See: Shukan Gendai taking down PRIDE.)
As much fault as I give to Dana White & UFC in the way they have handled these affairs, I also find great irony in Gregg Doyel’s attack against UFC. In his zeal to speak truth to power against Zuffa, he’s all but admitting that he loved sucking up to Zuffa in order to get credentialed to go to shows. His admission that only now he cares about the plight of MMA writers basically implicates him (like many in other fields of the sports media) as cowardly and not willing to stand up for what’s right unless there’s a self-promotional benefit at stake. Only now is our brave warrior interested in speaking out about a topic that has been discussed ad nauseam in MMA circles for years?
As you often see with flame-throwing writers like Gregg Doyel, the most damaging & incriminating quotes are the ones the flame-throwers often write themselves.
To give you a real-life, real-time contrasting example of Gregg Doyel’s truth to power spiel versus a more genuine truth to power response, I present to you Mike Florio and his 100% correct defense of now-former Cleveland Browns sports writer Tony Grossi who lost his newspaper beat position job after The Cleveland Plain Dealer decided to give Grossi the demotion for an ‘insulting’ tweet about Browns owner Randy Lerner. Unlike our brave warrior Mr. Doyel, Mike Florio made an immediate and full-throated defense of an obvious case of blowback & intimidation. It won’t save Tony Grossi’s job, but it was the right thing for Mike to say. He didn’t sit on the sidelines and say nothing about the story only to speak truth to power years later after receiving benefits for being a professional suck-up.
A pox on all the houses of those who are hypocritical on this matter.