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« | Home | »

UFC to Sherdog: Go away

By Zach Arnold | June 28, 2006

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By Zach Arnold

More information here. In short, Zuffa told Sherdog to leave their public fighter weigh-ins event. Note the word public.

If you are an MMA fan and not a pro-wrestling fan or historian, I strongly urge you to research just exactly what happened to the American pro-wrestling scene in 1985 when Vince McMahon became the super-power after WrestleMania 1 at MSG in New York. For long-time pro-wrestling fans, what we’re seeing with UFC comes as absolutely zero surprise.

UFC will do business the way they want to on their own terms, and nobody can stop them. Anyone who has delusions of grandeur that Sherdog or other MMA sites can alter the behavior of UFC needs to look at their brethren in the pro-wrestling world to see where the direction is headed.

No one wants to say it, but the current “powers-that-be” for the major MMA web sites need UFC much more than UFC will ever need them. UFC doesn’t financially need the MMA web sites for financial support. The MMA web sites are the ones that need UFC, PRIDE, etc. to support them financially via advertising, merchandising, and other forms of revenue. UFC moving more and more of their operations in-house via WWE is exactly what they should do be business-wise, and while I sympathize with those who value the argument that UFC should treat the MMA media with more respect, UFC has no motivation at this point to do so. As UFC continues to grow, they will need the MMA media less and less as they develop their own media operations (similar to what we have seen with major sports franchises such as the New York Yankees with the YES Network, the New York Knicks with the MSG Network, the NFL with their NFL Network, and the New York Mets with SportsNet NY).

Ivan Trembow comments on UFC telling Sherdog to go away (quote pulled from the MMA Weekly forum thread):

“This is not about the merits of Sherdog.com versus the merits of MMAWeekly, or any other web site. This is about independent MMA journalism. The fact is, MMAWeekly and Full Contact Fighter got their media credentials pulled the exact same way that Sherdog.com did. What’s different now is that while Zuffa has always had the plausible deniability in the past that the independent MMA media could still cover UFC events just the same, they have now prevented members of the independent MMA media from doing thier job at an event that was supposedly ‘open to the public.'”

For those who argue that what UFC is trying to do is control the flow of information to the media, here is what I have to say about it. Comparing the relationship that publications such as Wrestling Observer and The Torch have with WWE versus what Sherdog, FC Fighter, and MMA Weekly (maybe it is unfair to mention them in this paragraph) have with UFC is not an argument I necessarily buy. One example is to look at the financial model of Sherdog. Their financial model is based on the sales of advertising, merchandise, and other products derived from the actual leagues themselves. That’s how money is made, whereas in the case of Meltzer and Keller they make their money by subscriptions for people to pay for their writings. The relationships that the MMA media have with the leagues is different than their pro-wrestling counterparts.

There is the argument that UFC is trying to control the flow of information that gets to the public, not the media itself, and that the method in which they are doing this is questionable. Some media outlets alleged in the past that the UFC is willing to pull media credentials from reporters if they write anything critical about the company. If you are supportive of the MMA media in this story, then I should bring up a recent story about the Kansas City Royals taking away the press credentials of two radio reporters. This action caused Mike Greenberg of the Mike & Mike in the Morning radio show on ESPN Radio to call the action “cowardly.”

If the MMA media sites can eloquently prove that UFC has threatened their credentials due to negative coverage, then two things should happen.

  1. The case should be made in a written format with evidence (documentation).
  2. Lawsuits should be filed (by the media sites) if they can provide evidence that UFC’s actions have cost them financially due to not covering events specifically marketed for the general public to attend.

Writer Jason Gatties expresses his thoughts on the situation. Ivan Trembow has more thoughts.

Topics: All Topics, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 16 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

16 Responses to “UFC to Sherdog: Go away”

  1. I read this after I made my post about the subject on my website. You handled this alot more “professional” than I did, but the theme of our opinions are pretty much the same.

  2. Rohan says:

    I’m slightly confused about the point being made here.

    Yes the UFC looks in someways like the WWF in mid 80s. They have got syndicated television, they have celebrity buy in, and they provided a new and hugely popular product to the PPV market.

    However there is no read across to the way they want to control their media rights. The WWF is professional wrestling – it was already to a large extent a mockery in the mainstream media – there was no mainstream non-worked coverage of wrestling. Even in the regions where it was super hot they reported the results but they were never let behind the scenes to get the real news.

    The key presentational change during the mid 80s the change Vince tried to make was to try and market it as a television commodity (sports entertainment) rather than a very dubious sport. The regional territories were even more kayfabed in their fever to keep the real media at bay (Flair plane crash etc). The fact was that the best newsletter (the Observer) deveoped during the WWF era.

    The mainstream media in the 80s for the most part treated the WWF as an entertainment show. In the early 90s the WWF had a brief exposure to the light of the real mainstream news coverage.

    The UFC is subject to mainstream media interest (much of it ill informed and negative). This issue here is what you touched on is the control of image and media rights – this is different, although related, to the control of flow of information.

    UFC is doing what many sports leagues and teams are doing – they are tightly controlling their media rights so that they can sell them as commodities. This is coupled with an informed arrogence that they don’t need the MMA websites. Unfortunatly there is nothing you can do about it – even a so called ‘public’ event you can restrict access as long as it is held on private property. There is no loss of income argument.

    It sucks but I’d say that Sherdog doesn’t deserve any better after it managed to completely ignore the recent Pride story.

  3. Zach Arnold says:

    Rohan – Vince made WWF (and now WWE) synonymous with wrestling to the mainstream public, similar to how people always call tissues kleenex. The fact is that we are seeing the transformation of UFC becoming not just a brand, but literally synonymous with what MMA is in America.

    We’re also seeing smaller players (in this case, media outlets) having power struggles with the big league (UFC) and being forced to either play by the rules or fall by the wayside financially. Vince wiped out the competition in the territories, and I believe that in this situation we’ll see UFC attempt to wipe out the MMA media web sites if they don’t get bought out or absorbed into their business plans.

  4. Erin says:

    I’ll admit that I thought the net’s reaction to the original “media ban” was a bit overblown, yes some sites no longer got in for free or special treatment, but it’s not like they were Really Banned. Now, apparnetly they are. Way to go UFC, ban your fans. That makes a whole lotta sense.

    I gotta agree, UFC is starting to look way to much like WWE in terms of business planning, and that’s not good thing.

  5. Well I compaired it to this..If I were to throw up a very professional NFL news website this weekend, would that entitle me to waltz into any NFL locker room and conduct an interview? Would that entitle me to sit in the press box for the Super Bowl this year? Ofcourse not.

    The UFC isn’t banning fans. Fans are the people willing to pay $1000 to see a live event. Fans are willing to take off work an hour early to check out the free weigh ins. Fans aren’t the ones filming the weigh ins in order to beef up their own web traffic so they can sell more crappy “sherdog signature” mma gloves or ad space.

  6. Rohan says:

    Zach – I’d argue UFC is already synonymous with MMA in North America (and indeed here in the UK) – there has never been a hugely successful territory system in MMA with local television. The signs that one is developing is because UFC has made the breakthrough. This is the opposite of the hugely success territories involving the NWA, WWWF, World Class, Stampede, Crockett etc that paved the way for a WWF type product (which bought their talent and timeslots). It is not swamping developed businesses it is acting to protect it’s position as market leader – by proctecting I mean getting UFC rules and the cage approved by state commisions and by protecting their brand. They are absolutely not talent raiding – they are building their own by and large.

    The MMA websites are UFC’s competition in providing merchendise and video content – they are acting as portals mainly and not news sites. I still would prefer the sites to be given written media reporting access (no video coverage) but the fact they have the business model they do should be bourn in mind. The genuine competition is doing well and someone with a good brain for promoting will get an organisation on television as well as PPV.

    As I mentioned I’d have greater respect and sympathy for Sherdog etc if they broke proper news – surely their failiure to report the Pride situation smacks as much of vested interest and censorship as anything UFC has done?

  7. Stephan says:

    One thing I’ll add, is I hope the UFC is not trying to become like the WWF in the 80s, but hopefully more professional like say NFL or NHL. I mean that in the sense of totally controlling media.

    They have a right to not allow cameras at their own public events, or allow them to approved journalists. And thats what they should do to remain professional.

    There’s a fine line between keeping the events professional, and simply banning writers who disagree with them tho…

  8. FredEttish says:

    I had already posted comments on my blog (read here) about this before reading what you wrote Zach. I think the video of a drunk Dana White interview being posted didn’t help Sherdog’s case here. I’m not taking sides but I don’t think this is as much a “media” thing as it is a personal thing between Dana and Sherdog.

    I don’t think the comparisons to pro wresting apply here. Reporting on pro wrestling is the same as reporting on soap operas or TV dramas. The UFC is still trying to get acceptance as a major sport in this country whereas wrestling is established as scripted entertainment. A negative WWE article on Wrestling Observer is not likely to do much damage to their image.

  9. Zach Arnold says:

    Hi Rohan,

    [It is not swamping developed businesses it is acting to protect it’s position as market leader – by proctecting I mean getting UFC rules and the cage approved by state commisions and by protecting their brand. They are absolutely not talent raiding – they are building their own by and large.]

    Ah ha, you touch upon something interesting — which is the UFC and state athletic commissions.

    As we’ve seen in the past with McMahon and WWF/WWE, they managed to keep a strangehold over competition with the New York State Athletic commission. It was McMahon admitting that wrestling was fixed in 1989 to the New Jersey state athletic commission that helped him avoid paying a 5% tax at the gate for events.

    The theme of athletic commissions and which promoters have power over them will become something very similar to what we have seen in wrestling. With Marc Ratner as UFC VP and the Nevada State Athletic Commission very friendly with UFC, it will be interesting to see over the next few years if UFC can use its power to prevent upstarts from getting an upper hand by using their friendships with the athletic commissions.

    The second theme you note on is the cage. The fact is that the cage is more or less becoming the “standard” rather than the ring with many various state athletic commissions in America, and who owns a trademark for the Octagon cage? UFC. They are setting themselves up to be in a fabulous position of political power, and it is this aspect in which UFC reminds me so much of what WWF started to do after WrestleMania 1 in 1985.

  10. Brooks says:

    I don’t know a lot about what you guys are talking about between sherdog and UFC but I do know one thing. MMA fighters are way underpaid. I am an ex boxer who wants to try MMA but would make a lot less to do so. These promoters need to step up

  11. Andrew Garvey says:

    While I fully understand and generally agree with the point of this article I really can’t feel any sympathy for sherdog. I’m sick of them whining about Zuffa and how they don’t get credentials anymore.

    Plenty of sites cover shows without much or any official access and crying all the time because your barely literate editorial staff don’t get freebies anymore is pretty pathetic.

  12. I find it funny how nearly EVERYONE is now crying that SHerdog shouldn’t have been kicked out of a public event. Its like the old phone game when we were little kids. You tell a story, they tell someone, who tells someone…and when the shit gets back to you, the story is all fucked up!

    The sherdog guys were NOT asked to LEAVE the weigh ins. They were asked to TURN THE CAMERA OFF. Again to Dr.J, Erin & others who seem to be confused…THEY WERE NOT ASKED TO LEAVE THE PUBLIC FREE WEIGH INS, but WERE asked to TURN THE CAMERA OFF.

    I didn’t really mean to call Erin and J out because I respect the hell out of them, I just don’t see how being asked to stop filming=being asked to leave.

  13. Chris says:

    It’s funny that UFC is keeping away MMA media when websites like mma.tv, Sherdog, and various others helped keep some semblance of interest in the UFC during the “lean” years. That alone should warrant credentials for eternity.

    I would have never been as much of a UFC fan as I am now without an internet forum to talk about it.

  14. Jeremy says:

    If all that happened was they were asked to turn off their cameras, I don’t see this as a big deal.
    Most athletic events or concerts will control who can, and can’t, film.

  15. The weigh-in is supposed to be a state athletic commission event, not run by the promoter. Of course, we know all about Zuffa and the NSAC, once one of the best commissions, quickly going to hell.

  16. Erin says:

    I totally jumped to conculsions with the way that Sherdog titled their article describing the incident as “weigh-ins for Sherdog ended early”. I took that to mean they got kicked out, however upon rereading, they did only get asked to turn off the camera. The fact that they are bitching about that is so amazingly stupid, especially since I have no desire to watch a recording of the weigh-ins in the first place. Unless its a mostly nekkid Joe Riggs screaming and kicking things in frustration cause he can’t loose the last pound. That is comedy.

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