Trump card: In scorching critics, UFC management burns Gannett/USA Today & stokes Reebok dumpster fire
By Zach Arnold | July 24, 2015
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:
UFC fans: We have no input on decisions of UFC employment or fighter compensation. Our focus is providing the best gear for fighters & fans.
— Reebok (@Reebok) July 22, 2015
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.
Furious, White trashed his own business partner and outed their relationship:
— NavyekMMA (@NavyekMMA) July 24, 2015
“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?