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Trump card: In scorching critics, UFC management burns Gannett/USA Today & stokes Reebok dumpster fire

By Zach Arnold | July 24, 2015

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When you’re running the Rolls Royce of MMA operations but your behavior is as goofy as the XFL, it’s easy to see why you get called too cheap and too petty when you disown the people who helped make your company what it is today.

The UFC/Reebok six year, $70 million deal was a clunker in principle and has produced predictably disastrous results in execution. In and of itself, UFC making independent contractors wear uniforms while killing off their sponsorship money was ludicrous, greedy, and unnecessary — especially during a time when the company is dealing with an anti-trust lawsuit.

In the process, Reebok has drawn unprecedented level of scorn from fight fans for decisions that UFC management has made before and after the Reebok deal. The wrath of anger has been directed towards the wrong entity. However, Reebok is the sitting duck because they’re the business partner that decided to work with UFC. After the firing of Stitch Duran over his comments about cut men losing sponsorship revenue due to the Reebok uniforms, Reebok found itself on the defensive:

The anger online has been palpable – canceling Fight Pass subscriptions, threatening to boycott lower-level UFC PPVs, and direct fire aimed right at UFC’s designated lightning rod Dana White.

When you have a raging dumpster fire burning out of control, you don’t pour more lighter fluid on the dumpster fire. However, this is the only way Dana White knows how to conduct & defend business decisions in public.

Dana’s response to the Reebok & Stitch Duran criticism has been typically childish. USA Today, a content partner with MMA Junkie, took notice of Dana’s online behavior.

Dana White spent last night humiliating every UFC fan who dared to criticize him

Furious, White trashed his own business partner and outed their relationship:

“u know its a bad news day when USA Today does a story about my Twitter. About time they covered us without being paid @USATODAY”

It’s one thing to pick a fight with a fan online. It’s another thing to pick a fight with a major corporation and leave Reebok & Gannett to fend for themselves based on anger produced by your own bad behavior. The newspaper industry may be having a rough time financially but Gannett doesn’t need the UFC. UFC needs Gannett. There are reasons UFC is supposedly paying Gannett for coverage.

Ascribing motives to the behavior of UFC management about the way they treat their business partners is a dangerous idea. I can’t say with certainty what they are thinking in Vegas. Perhaps this was a warning shot from UFC against MMA Junkie/USA Today to try to cower them into silence with an unspoken threat of less money or future scoops. Perhaps it was simply a childish message board-style troll-job hit for a cheap score.

In responding to their critics, the Ringmaster wants you to follow his attack lead and go after his targets for deflection. It would be easy to trash media entities or writers allegedly accepting payoffs for media coverage. For nearly 20 years, I’ve been giving opinions and advice to anyone in public and in private about what the combat sports media landscape really looks like and where the money is or isn’t.

By the same token, it takes two to tango on a pay-to-play scheme. What does it say about UFC that they, in their own words, need to pay off media outlets in order to get mainstream sports coverage? What does that say about the health of their industry as a mainstream sport when UFC has to grease the palms of major media outlets in exchange for coverage?

Dana White isn’t the majority owner of UFC. The Fertitta family owns the majority of UFC. Dana’s destructive behavior is nothing new but the stakes have never been higher. I would assume that if the Fertittas told Dana to shut up, he would shut up. So far, he isn’t shutting up. It’s only getting worse. Reebok has gotten torched for their relationship with UFC. UFC is now torching one of their biggest media partners in Gannett. What kind of message is this sending to potential business partners who might want to work with UFC?

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 21 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

21 Responses to “Trump card: In scorching critics, UFC management burns Gannett/USA Today & stokes Reebok dumpster fire”

  1. Michael Lawrence says:

    That has to be a bad joke. If the UFC is paying for news coverage that seems like a scandal and certainly something you don’t brag about. If Dana and company are buying coverage, 95% of it being very good, and admitting it they have just destroyed the credibility of USA Today.

    • Mark says:

      I’m pretty sure he’s talking about 2004 when they were allegedly (I guess not anymore) offering payola to have people cover the Randy/Tito fight and Tito/Chuck fight.

  2. Jonathan says:


    I hear what you are saying, but it is the same thing we said in 07, 09, and forever.

    Dana White, and the UFC, are not going to change. Dana White is who he is, and if the Fertitta’s had a problem with him, they would have done something long before now.

    Nothing is going to change in MMA.

  3. JV says:

    The Fertittas don’t just tolerate him–they like, encourage & think that way themselves–they just don’t want to personally bear the burden of White’s comments and that is why Dana is their lightning rod. His job is to speak the mind of the majority owners and take all the hits (then Lorenzo can come out and play the proper, nicer, voice of reason).

    Plus it is apparently obvious that the guy enjoys being the frontman, he gets to pretend he is ‘the man’ and have his little outbursts, he has only been told to apologize ONCE (When he said the word Fa***t on that infamous Loretta Hunt video) he has probably been told to tone it down on several occasions, but if they can get away with it, they’ll let him run amok since that is who they are.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Exactly. They pay him millions a year to be their mouthpiece… he potential fall guy.

    • Nepal says:

      This is how the Fertitta’s think. Remember who their dad is. Frank Sr. took no bullshit and if somebody did something to negatively affect his business, his retaliation was, what I think most of us would consider, to be drastic.

      Frank Jr. and Lorenzo grew up with this mentality. You want to go to war with them, they are down with it. This isn’t going to change.

      I don’t even think they want Dana to be their fall guy, he’s the equivalent of, in their daddy’s terms “a made man”.

  4. rst says:

    “What does it say about UFC that they, in their own words, need to pay off media outlets in order to get mainstream sports coverage?”

    I think it goes without saying that the trad sport media (and trad media in general) doesn’t want to encourage or give coverage to upstart sports that they don’t already have well established conspiratorial business relationships with. The same way a 3rd political party doesn’t get coverage or invited to presidential debates.
    And THATS the reason that MMA doesn’t get into new york IMO.

    I think its more damning of the trad media that UFC CAN get coverage in the “news” media,
    as long as they pay for it.

  5. I don’t know if anyone has to trash media so much as the public must understand the biases of the outlets they are reading.

    Fightland should have been much more upfront about their partnership with the UFC, but for whatever reason, they chose not to openly disclose that information.

    I’m just glad that John S. Nash is doing the work he does.

  6. Chris says:

    Dana White admitting that they’re paying USA today to cover the UFC. Well I guess he showed them!

  7. Safari_Punch says:

    Paying for media coverage is nothing new.

    The UFC used to pay for their air time on MMA Connected (later to be branded UFC Connected) on the national sports channel Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I know this for a fact. I still have the e-mail from one of the a producers of the program from when I was inquiring for another promotion looking to set up an interview pre-UFC Connected. It was nothing but an infomercial. The executive I ran this by seemed somewhat surprised as PR is suppose to be free. Apparently not with Rogers it isn’t.

    • Mark says:

      Didn’t they also pay George Clooney to show up at UFC 47, thinking celebrities would think it was the cool place to be if they heard he was there? After him, you only got the regulars like Chuck Zito, Kevin James, Michael Clarke Duncan and Juliette Lewis until it took off in 2006.

  8. Safari_Punch says:

    Speaking of reputations and advertising…. it appears Sakikabara is going to get back on Fuji TV.


    • Mark says:

      That is really surprising to me, I assumed he was a pariah in Japan after PRIDE got sold and nothing else he did lasted because few wanted to be involved with him.

  9. dave says:

    It is July 26th in ten minutes and it appears nobody cares anymore about the UFC paying people to report things about them.

  10. dave says:

    It was interesting though that neither John Morgan or Kevin Iole asked the first and second questions at the press conference. Not even sure they were there.

  11. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    I’m starting to come around to the reebok womens kits…

    I think they might be ok.

  12. Jeff Montelongo says:

    I do not believe for a second Dana controls the company more than Lorenzo. I feel Dana knows how to get the company from point A to point B from an operational perspective (like fighter relations, booking venues, corporate relations, or whatever) and makes decisions based on that but I would say the Fertittas, specially Lorenzo, are the actual ones who ultimately decides who gets fired in regards in middle/upper-management, or whether a star pushed 100% in being the future and face of the company (Re: Rousey & McGregor) or even what is/isn’t said to the media with Dana as the mouthpiece. Call it good cop/bad cop, but I’m willing to bet there are a lot of things in past Dana have said which he was personally against saying in the first place and even regrets saying himself after the fact but knows it’s part of his role and job description. But with all that being said, Dana comes off as the biggest asshole in the world.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      It is an Italian mafia sort of way of doing things where the top guy is protected.

      As somebody who is mostly Italian myself… the Fertittas are the types of Italians that give the rest of us a bad name.

  13. DIAZ'S PACKED BOWL says:

    Hey Mazigatti you low life pos! bout time you retire before your ineptitude causes permanent injury to a fighter.

    Mr “known dirty f’n scumbag” palharis gouges jakes eyes at least 8 times, that fight should have been stopped right? but Mr scumbag pos ref didn’t even deduct a point?!?!?!?!

    And then Pal(would be in jail if not for mma)haris holds the kimura well after the ref tried to stop them, 2 seconds.
    And again here is mr stupid just slapping the back of the known dirty fighter instead of grabbing his arms, or his neck. Personally, and I have said this before, I would have a tazer ready to shut down mr scum if I was reffing his fights. In this case were the tazer unavailable,I would have been on the other side during the finish and would just jam my fingers into palharris’s eyes. Or if I was standing I would just soccer kick palharris in the face like a dog for refusing to let go.

    Looks like Khabib vs Diaz happened in wsof?!?!

  14. david m says:

    Ronda is so famous. Like, she is already the most famous fighter in MMA history. I didn’t realize just how famous she was until seeing so many famous people gushing about her. Conor has the “it” factor. Ronda has the “it” factor, and the novelty/women’s empowerment factor. Sports bars were apparently filled with women for this (horrific) show, just to watch her for 34 seconds. On an aside, while 189 was the best event I’ve ever seen, it wasn’t such a great idea to put all washed-up fighters on the undercard for Ronda, knowing that this would be a huge opportunity to find new viewers. Casual fans who watched that hog slop of a card are not going to order other UFC PPVs sans Ronda.

    • rst says:

      the rousy shtick isn’t any different then the Pride/vanderlei/fed deal.
      Or the tito shtick.

      The money is in the casual fan.
      A hardcore fan is too aware to pay for more then TECHNICALLY significant matches.
      No money in that.

      And thats the classic story of how Wrestling became pro-rasslin.
      (RIP Roddy.)

      The only thing we can hope for,
      is that it doesn’t become the casual deflated mockery that boxing has.

      Dana seems silly,
      and he is,
      but silly pop appeal is also a money maker/bottom line.


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