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« | Home | »

Of public relations issues and the UFC

By Zach Arnold | March 12, 2014

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So, Kevin Iole revealed that UFC is allegedly giving comps to some writers for their Fight Pass site. Perhaps those writers, should they be revealed, might want to talk to Mommy Bloggers about what happens when the FTC decides you aren’t being transparent enough in disclosing benefits on subjects you are covering/writing about. Supposedly buying off lapdog MMA writers isn’t the end of the world but it does say something about the UFC’s on-again, off-again schizophrenic ideas of wanting writers to eat the dog food and shut up about it.

And as we saw with Dana White randomly going after Luke Thomas on Twitter in a bullying fit over Luke stating that there needs to be less volume of shows and rather a focus on better quality, the UFC has no trouble putting writers on blast who aren’t being compliant to the company’s business doctrine. That’s why I never bothered kissing their ass in the first place. What’s the point of doing that?

While the UFC is supposedly busy giving out passes to their video web site, there are mark doctors and people inside the MMA industry who are fretting about athletic commissions no longer feeling comfortable in giving out permission slips to fighters for testosterone usage. MMA Junkie talked with Dr. John Pierce, who pushed the latest line from testosterone defenders about what repercussions there will be for no longer giving out the hall passes:

Dr. John Pierce, a Las Vegas-based anti-aging doctor, has heard from several fighters who say they’d rather go to the black market for performance-enhancing drugs than get a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) for testosterone.

“What they’ve in essence done is taken people that were forthright about their usage of testosterone for a medical purpose and punished them for it,” Pierce told MMAjunkie. “That makes no sense because, bottom line, it’s going to happen.”

Testosterone usage already was prolific and underground in nature in combat sports. It’s why VADA busting Lamont Peterson for microdosing on testosterone pellets while Nevada standard drug testing failed to detect such usage was a big deal. As I pointed out on Fight Opinion Radio, the absurdity of grown men fighting in a cage for living having to proclaim the need for anabolic steroids in order to inflict brain trauma is a political argument that would soundly get rejected by at least 80% of the general population. This isn’t a group of baseball players using testosterone to improve their ability to hit homeruns. This is a group of men who are trying to knock each other into a state of unconsciousness.

What the testosterone permission slip system did was glorify anabolic steroid usage. Instead of shaming those who asked for permission slips, it turned them into celebrities. It made them the class clowns, knowing full well that they were laughing at everybody and making fun of those who wanted to clean up the sport. And now those same individuals want to use the same kind of political argument (“hiding in the shadows”) that you hear when it comes to immigrants in the United States? There’s a big moral difference between debating amnesty for immigrants and amnesty for anabolic steroid users. But maybe that’s just me. Plus, there already was heavy underground testosterone usage happening in the first place. The permission slip system did nothing to slow underground usage in any way whatsoever.

If your body is so dysfunctional that you need anabolic steroids just to survive, why should you be allowed to fight in a cage? Furthermore, if you need to use testosterone to function on a daily basis, then why are some of the guys who got permission slips able to stop using anabolic steroids and continue their fighting careers? Homeostasis and all that jazz.

A good friend in the industry noted to me yesterday that the athletic commissions banning future testosterone permission slips to fighters is like a city posting a 50 MPH speed limit sign but not actually having any police radars to catch speeders. The regulators weren’t effective in catching the speeders in the first place and now a sign isn’t going to stop anyone who is already using testosterone. It’s why those who were celebrating the end of testosterone permission slips are missing the boat on the fact that, in terms of anabolic steroid usage in combat sports, this is just the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end. The fact that Dana White remains nervous about this topic and is lashing out against ESPN (hint: Josh Gross was part of the byline on Mike Fish’s article) indicates that there’s a lot more to be revealed in the near future. Dana yelling about how he supposedly never flip-flopped on the issue of testosterone usage in MMA makes him look completely out-of-touch with reality.

The UFC didn’t have a coherent public relations strategy to deal with the testosterone issue while fighters were getting permission slips and it appears they don’t have a strategy on how to address truthful criticism about cleaning up a sport that is currently as dirty as horse racing. If they don’t come up with a real solution to clean up the business in the next few years, there will be a permanent ceiling on the growth of the sport. It’s hard to argue to non-MMA fans about the problems plaguing the industry right now.

As for the mark doctors who are continuing to push testosterone usage amongst fighters, they’re never going away. Some of them have to pay rent for their strip mall outlets, after all.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 23 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

23 Responses to “Of public relations issues and the UFC”

  1. rst says:

    Its not that hard to figure out who’s lapdogging and who’s not.
    And its more then just “hating” on ufc or not.

    Unfortunately the people who bother to read between the lines in life are vastly outnumbered by the people who dont.
    You cant change really change that.

  2. Dick Tracy says:

    ” As I pointed out on Fight Opinion Radio, the absurdity of grown men fighting in a cage for living having to proclaim the need for anabolic steroids in order to inflict brain trauma is a political argument that would soundly get rejected by at least 80% of the general population. “

    Gold — 5 stars!

    Any link to the twitter bit where DW blasts Luke Thomas for his too much MMA comment?

    Ed. — Scroll down a couple of posts and you will see Dana’s tweet to Luke embedded.

    • Dick Tracy says:

      Doh – next time I’ll drink my morning coffee first before posting.

      After reading Dana’s response, he sure could have handled that more professionally. Seems like he doesn’t know how to handle criticism. Rather than becoming aware, he pushes issues to the side. Terrible trait for owner/management.

  3. Mike says:

    What’s the difference between UFC offering journalists Fight Pass for free and journalists / bloggers getting free DVD’s / Books for review purposes?

    • Zach Arnold says:

      In the past, whenever I have received any book for review… I have always disclosed such a transaction on the site and am very up front about it. What Kevin’s item noted is that he didn’t take the free Fight Pass deal but that other writers (who may be touting it) have but have not disclosed such a transaction. That’s what got Mommy Bloggers in trouble with the FTC when some of them got exposed.

      • Jonathan Snowden says:

        There’s pretty much zero chance of anyone getting into trouble with the FTC over this issue, particularly anyone like Iole who works for an established media outlet.

        From the Harvard Law Review on down, it’s considered a given that such a case would fail spectacularly on Constitutional grounds.

      • The Predictable Johnny Rodz says:

        No disclosure anywhere in Zach’s review of Brian D’Souza’s book about whether the book was a freebie. “top-class reading,” “a fantastic read,” on and on and on. Guess all it takes is a free book to buy Zach off.

        What’s your answer to example No. 4,002,301 of you throwing stones in your glass house, Zach? Other than just deleting this comment …

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    The UFC is a mess without a good strategy right now.

  5. Chris says:

    So Pierce’s argument is that outlawing legalized cheating will lead to more straight up cheating? A true statement, but not a valid argument for fighters to be using his “Anti-Aging” services. Just sounds like his very own Infomercial.

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    Glory just pulled in under 500k for their last show.

    Bellator did 650k for their second show of the season.

    WSOF has never gotten good ratings.

    And the UFC puts fighters like Alexander Gustafsson on Fight Pass.

    Yeah, combat sports are doing real well right now….

    • Jason says:

      Then watch a different sport. I swear all you and Zach do is bitch and whine.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I think you miss the point of my post. If things continue down this path, there will be much less of those fights to even watch.

        Those are some bad ratings.

        • Jason says:

          Understand your point about the ratings. But you have to understand, Dana and the Fertitta Brothers have built this thing from nothing to where it is today. They have access to ridiculous amount of data regarding ratings, demographics, trends, etc…My only point being I can guarantee you they are well aware of how all of their shows are doing. And what we don’t know is what are the Company’s long term strategic plans and how they intend to implement said plans. With that said, Dana is not without his faults and businesses do fail and sometimes people need to get punched in the mouth before they learn. Dana might be one of those people. Fans are allowed to have their opinions, that’s what fans do. What annoys the sh@# out of me are all these dorky mma writers (and sports writers in general) who act like they are experts at running multi-million dollar sports franchises and that they have all the answers.

      • edub says:

        Then read a different website, and don’t frequent the comments section.

        • Diaz's cashed bowl says:

          “Fertitta Brothers have built this thing from nothing”

          Oh man… is that the stupidest thing read today?

          Are you not aware that it was a worldwide show for over 7 years and over 30 events, prior to being purchased?

          so what these guys did… Gracie Shamrock f Shamrock Frye severn Oleg Kimo ortiz Tanner Rutten Rizzo Randleman penn kerr Rico Couture Liddell Horn etc etc… was/is nothing?

          You are saying the UFC was just an idea before the mobsters sons bought it using typical behind the scenes trickery?

          Stop saying such things or I will have to call you names.

  7. Diaz's cashed bowl says:

    Look, Iole paying for fight pass is doing the right thing because it helps frattatas to give away tickets to cancer victims, fight pass for all its detractors is basically giving kids with cancer a better life. As Sonnen says about his trt, for these kids ufc is a life enhancer.

  8. 45 Huddle says:

    There is a new App called FOX Sports GO.

    Right now it is only available on iphones and ipads, but it will be rolled out to android devices later.

    You have to have cable to watch use it, but once you put your cable information in, it allows you to watch most of what is being shown on FOX Sports 1 & 2, and I think some of the sports from the main FOX Channel.

    Good way to watch the UFC if you are not at home.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I should also add…. That apps like this or HBO Go are nice. It stinks that they are not available for people without cable… But the app is in place. So if at any time cord cutting gets enough traction, companies like FOX just have to turn a switch and let people pay them directly for the service.

  9. Manapua says:


    Why aren’t you calling out the Oklahoma Boxing Commission for approving that one night 8-man tournament when no other commission would?

    • Jason says:

      Doesn’t fit his agenda. Just like in the article above he makes a reference about steroids in baseball like it’s no big deal because people aren’t trying to ‘knock each other into a state of unconsciousness.’ Yet he doesn’t bring up the use of steroids in the NFL where they try to knock each other into a state of unconsciousness. Zach picks and chooses, which mostly consists of choosing to fault the UFC for every little thing he doesn’t like.

    • Diaz's cashed bowl says:

      The tournament fighter fights a total of 5 rounds 25 min max. Boxing is 30 min, sounds like the tournament fighter has an easier night than a boxer or MMA fighter since he gets a long rest after each of the first two rounds.

  10. Jason says:

    Call me names Diaz cashed bowl, who gives a sh@# what you think. Yes they did build it from nothing. It was pretty much bankrupt when Dana and the Fertitta’s made an offer of $2 million to buy the damn thing, and for what? a name and some contracts, there where no fixed assets even. To take a $2 million investment to a multi-million dollar sports entity to the level it is at today, it was basically from nothing because the UFC was going no where back in 2000 when they bought it. The UFC wasn’t even sanctioned when they bought it.

  11. Diaz's cashed bowl says:

    it was sanctioned prior to zuffa


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