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Why the sports media are turning their fire on UFC

By Zach Arnold | January 26, 2012

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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.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 19 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

19 Responses to “Why the sports media are turning their fire on UFC”

  1. fd2 says:

    “The sport media, in general, is beginning to launch a series of attacks on Dana White on big platforms and are ready to launch a public case against him in similar fashion to a prosecutor laying out a criminal case.”

    My theory is an even simpler one – if you have a theory that requires “the sports media”, a splintered group of media properties owned by several different competing corporations, to be acting as a coordinated and monolithic whole, it is probably not a very good theory.

    Ed. — And you would be wrong as far as sports writers not hanging out online in certain circles coming up with certain ideas. E-mail me if you care.

    • fd2 says:

      I don’t doubt that sportswriters talk to each other; I talk to a lot of people in my industry. That doesn’t mean that me and a bunch of the people I talk to in different competing companies are going to roll out similar technology initiatives at the same time, and I doubt it means that “sports media” is going to coordinate “a series of attacks on the UFC”, either.

      Ed. — Many sports writers are similar to political writers (or wish they were covering politics) in behavior, hence why I suspect UFC’s overreaction to ESPN has got many sports writers looking to make a name for themselves and go after Dana here.

  2. King Famous says:

    This site is awesome and I’m glad to have followed it since its grand opening. As soon as Dana spoke up against the “hackers” he knew what he was going to get. Once you get to the level of attack went under, the fbi steps in to investigate. And maybe they should.
    Dana may not have known that anyone that was vocal against these sorts of attacks in recent past would get nailed in some way.
    Sopa and Pipa lost big recently, but new bills are being constructed and will be tried to be passed in the coming months.
    As for the mma media – they are a very tight group and I would argue have done just as much for keeping mma alive as the ufc or any other promotion has for that matter. Even if there are some suck ups and scare-di cats, there are always good reporters to listen to out there.
    I find there is more than enough to listen to, then form your own opinion of just what MMA is.
    Looking forward to this weekends fights – I’ll be watching them – any way I want.

  3. CAINtheBULL says:

    I think Dana’s problem is simpler… he doesn’t have anyone other Lorenzo who can sit him down and tell him to stop talking. His PR team is either afraid of him or ‘yes’ men. UFC doesn’t have a political PR person that could tell them how to pivot away from SOPA but still be for anti-piracy legislation.

    As far as the media…. Some are doing legit stories on the UFC. Others are doing the same thing Ronda R. is doing with her GSP attacks. Just trash “pay attention to me” journalism. The Media is generally liberal and and liberals hate the UFC, for the most part.

    SOPA sucks but the current laws haven’t stopped people from streaming or downloading fights.

    Dana/Zuffa needs to fight this like Jon Jones. Instead, He’s fighting it like Wanderlei Silva…. head down and swinging like crazy.

  4. Erin says:

    I’ve said it before and I still say that the attack against UFC is all propoganda. As far as these hackers go, they made their point regarding the bill. It’s really screwed up what they did and I think it’s very wrong and unethical. Anyway, MMA IS what’s up, it’s now in the mainstream and every other sports network and reporters are trying to cash in in anyway they can using Dana White and UFC as their cash cow. UFC is huge, growing and very exciting. It’s become a household name so with popularity there is also jealousy. Every media outlet wants to be in the lime light and have the edgiest stories. What’s fkd up is since their sucking up hasn’t gotten them noticed they decide to start controversy and go on an all out attack for attention and ratings. Well that is just the way it is.

    Funny thing is that the people attacking UFC aren’t “into” MMa so in order to get attention to their networks and get their name out there they write about something they really don’t know wtf they are talking about. Most of what they say or do is speculation and throwing out anything to see what gets them noticed.

    For those of us who have followed UFC from the beginning we already have our reliable sources to get inside info. A sports writer who knows virtually nothing about MMA who has received credentials and decides to write about it is not who I would trust to get credible unsensationalized info on MMA. I’ve been lucky enough to photograph, from cage side, a variety of MMA events to include, Showtime, Bellator and UFC and I personally can say that I’ve been treated with respect and the execs and personnel have welcomed me. The fighters have been super cool and didn’t act like I was lucky to be in their presence. Actually it was the opposite, they acted like gentelmen and were happy to answer questions and be engaged in conversation. My experience may be unique because I’m a crazy lady with a camera and sport a shit eating grin the whole time.

    I say if you treat the promoters and fighters with respect and don’t act like they are lucky to be interviewed by such and such networks they might have a different experience. Remember all media gods: you better remember this…the fighters and promoters are the talent if it wasn’t for them there would be no show. Attacking them will sooner or later cost u your credentials and someone like me will be sitting in your spot just as enthusiastic and excited as the ppl in the stands doing what you used to be doing before u fkd up and pissed everyone off. It’s one thing to question, discuss and even vent about what’s on your mind but your not going to stop fighters from fighting and promoters from promoting. It’s just the way it is. Get on board or go write about the hacky sack game on a college campus nearby.

    Dana White doesn’t owe anyone one a damn thing except to keep bringing us the best fights he can. It’s none of anyone’s business who gets paid what unless u want to reveal your salary which is also not anyone’s business. Write about the fighters, the fights, the camps and the back stories. That’s what people want to know anyway.

    Sorry, but I had to get that off my chest, my pov may be simplistic but I choose not to over analyze every freaking detail and just enjoy being able to watch my favorite sport. Dana kicks ass and a lot of people probably wishe they could accomplish 1/10th of what he’s done in his life. Ok I’m done now.

    • The Gaijin says:


      Glad to see we get the ring rats posting here now too! I’m sure you’re a “photographer” with a “shit eating grin”…what an illiterate piece of trash post. This is like jumping on to the Fox News message board after the “liberal media attack on Newt”!!!

      LMFAO. Unreal. Whoever pulled this troll job off is like Chael x 10000000 – be careful EJ will probably start writing you fan mail and sending you pictures.

      • EJ says:

        And right on cue is The Gaijin putting my name in his mouth like the stan that he’s become. Seriously I know you can’t help yourself but it’s becoming scary how often you keep bringing me up when i’m not even involved in the convo. Seems to me like your the only one here that people need to worry about being a fan and you really need to step back with that.

    • Sal says:

      Erin says:

      “Remember all media gods: you better remember this…the fighters and promoters are the talent if it wasn’t for them there would be no show. “

      The promoters are the talent???? Hahaha.. WRONG! If it wasnt for the FIGHTERS there would be no show.. There doesnt need to be a Dana White..if it wasnt him it would be someone else. He was just lucky enough to have an ultra-rich friend. Ironically, youre illustrating exactly why people like you dont think there is payment issue in the UFC. You think Dana White deserves his huge piece of the pie… Because YOU think he’s the talent. You seem to be a bigger fan of him than of any fighter. Without fighters there would be no UFC…without the UFC there would still be fighters..AND money to be made..for the REAL TALENT.

  5. […] – Why sports media are turning their fire on UFC (Fight Opinion) […]

  6. Light23 says:

    I read large chunks of the SOPA bill and to me, I didn’t notice anything horrible. Could it be better written, yeah, but I didn’t get the impression it was going to lead to the downfall of the internet and our freeeeeedoms.

    What’s more worrying than SOPA, is the fake moral bullshit of people who use differing political opinions as a justification for attack.

    Also, Dana – copyright infringement is not stealing. If it was stealing, they wouldn’t have different legislation for it. If I’m gathering this correctly, minor infringement isn’t even a criminal issue.

    • Blawa says:

      The important part of SOPA is that the burden of proof is on the offending party and not on the accusing party. That is completly backwards from how the system works.

  7. Beau Dure says:

    Looking at simpler motivations —

    I think the purchase of Strikeforce does indeed raise a few questions that haven’t really been adequately explored. I’d say that accounts for the Outside the Lines piece.

    Now when Zuffa responds to that piece by shooting the messenger, particularly with the dubious Friday Night Fights-to-UFC comparison, of course people are going to respond.

    Perhaps these issues have been discussed in the MMA blogosphere for a while, but I think they’re evolving. UFC bought Strikeforce and is now on Fox. The landscape has changed.

    And I don’t think Doyel’s piece had anything to do with a CBS/Viacom/Bellator conspiracy. Doyel mentions Bellator only to point out that the UFC is still at a completely different level. I’ll have to disagree with Larry on that point.

    So I don’t think this is some sort of coordinated effort. I think they’re just hot stories.

    Forgot to mention a pet peeve of mine — it should be “media ARE,” not “media is.” “Media” is a plural word. The creeping use of the singular in our language feeds into the notion of some vast conspiracy. The reality is that most of us hate each other. (I like YOU, though, even if I’m disagreeing here.)

    Ed. — Point taken!

  8. Blawa says:

    I don’t think it is coordinated effort, it is simply increase in exposure and the increased possibility of reader/viewer-ship because of the said exposure. The reality is that the FOX deal is a big and the UFC has been advertised during every FOX NFL playoff games so far, that is a lot of eyes and ears getting more familiar with the brand.

  9. Dana White and the UFC need to be careful not to bite the hand that feeds them. MMA fans, some who turned MMA writers, photographers and MMA sport promoters are the reason the UFC became popular. The UFC’s popularity can go away as fast as it came.

  10. […] Is Sports Media Going After the UFC? ( […]

  11. Lucas Loring says:

    Zach! Well put and great read man! Awesome! Sometimes you just let the journalism flow dude. This is some of your best work in my opinion and I have been on this site for years. Before your old radio shows started. give yourself a raise bro.

  12. Zack says:

    Doyle comes off terrible.

  13. […] Why the sports media is turning their fire on UFC. Interesting analysis. Fitness […]

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