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The only media talking point UFC has no discipline on is about steroids

By Zach Arnold | January 28, 2014

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Dana White pulled a page out of the Bob Arum playbook and did the media rounds in Los Angeles on Monday despite not having a local fight to promote.

Amazingly, the questions/talking points with all those who had access to Dana were very similar… almost in sync with each other. Funny how that works. Everyone made sure to ask Dana for his thoughts about Roy Nelson applying for the Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director job.

(Didn’t NSAC members claim they would keep the status of applicants silent until the interviewing process?)

Everyone asked Dana about his new boxing reality TV show. Everyone asked Dana about why boxing is so greedy but he’s not because he’s giving away “big fights” like Ben Henderson vs. Josh Thomson away on free TV, as Sportsnation allowed him to say. Max Kellerman even admitted on television that he had been in private negotiations to work for Zuffa. Charissa Thompson on Fox Sports continued the lapdog press tour.

Which makes the UFC’s media strategy on the testosterone (anabolic steroids) scam in combat sports all the more confounding. They are flailing away horribly and cannot keep a straight answer on the matter. They care about the subject enough to address it but don’t care enough to actually have a cohesive answer to address the problem at hand. It’s the worst of both worlds, really, and it’s very uncharacteristic for Zuffa (which maintains a monolithic media-treating strategy).

Just this past week alone, the answers about testosterone usage amongst UFC fighters went something like this:

Basically, the UFC’s media strategy on the anabolic steroid crisis in MMA (named Sherdog’s 2013 Story of the Year) can be opined & portrayed as part-trolling and part-throw-everything-at-the-press so that people just throw up their hands and give up. That’s a recipe for long-term disaster. This organization is months away from a possible scenario where Vitor Belfort becomes the next UFC Middleweight champion and they still don’t have a coherent strategy on how to handle the steroid crisis that they’ve helped manifest into the industry monster that it is today.

This is why the go-along, get-along media strategy Fox Sports has employed on UFC’s drug problem is going to turn out to be a detriment to UFC because the company simply is not prepared to handle the situation when it eventually blows up in their face — and it will.

Which brings us to this gem of an interview by Fox/UFC cheerleader Karyn Bryant with Dana White about Dan Henderson and testosterone usage amongst UFC fighters. Starting at 4:45 time mark:

KARYN BRYANT: There’s been some more talk about [testosterone]. You’ve been very vocal about saying you would like to just get rid of TRT use exemptions. Yes?

DANA WHITE: Yeah, absolutely. I think that… you know, the best way to look at TRT is if you need TRT, you’re probably too old to be fighting. You should probably retire.

KARYN BRYANT: So, should Dan Henderson have retired then?

DANA WHITE: Yeah, I mean. Yeah.

KARYN BRYANT: You just signed him, though.

DANA WHITE: If you have to be on TRT, then yeah you probably, you know, if you have to be on some sort of drug that can keep you around to still compete, then the answer is yes. And from what I’m hearing, the doctors, you know, as far as the commission goes they’re all pretty much on board for getting rid of TRT which would be great for the sport.”

Vitor Belfort, an unabashed testosterone user, earned a UFC Middleweight title shot last November in Brazil by defeating another testosterone user in Dan Henderson.

Chael Sonnen, who Dana was busy pushing yesterday in the press for Ultimate Fighter Brazil with Wanderlei Silva, claims he needs to use testosterone or he’ll die.

The duplicitous & insidious spin from UFC on this issue is going to backfire badly on them. Erik Magraken has previously addressed the liability issues on Fight Opinion. We know how much power & influence the UFC has on the major state athletic commissions. It’s a historical fact that the UFC has been the major influential force when it comes to supporting & booking their top fighters who use testosterone. It wasn’t Bob Arum or Golden Boy or any other fight promoter that opened pandora’s box here. The UFC has not punished fighters for getting permission slips to use testosterone and they have given out such permission slips on shows they have self-regulated. They can’t have their cake and eat it, too, as much as they are trying.

The UFC is fortunate that Fox Sports, ESPN, and other media outlets are willing to go along with their media talking points. UFC has convinced the major sports networks that, outside of the NBA, they are the most appealing sport to the 18-to-34 year old male demographic. That’s what the sports networks covet. It’s why ESPN let Dana White “take over” their Sportscenter Twitter feed for UFC 168. Eventually, UFC will encounter a media entity that isn’t as interested in their sales pitch and will back them into a corner on anabolic steroid usage. And given the UFC’s incoherent public relations strategy so far on the subject, they’re not ready for prime time when the real investigative scrutiny begins.

Update (1/29/2014): Mike Fish, a heavy hitter from ESPN, is now covering the Vitor Belfort testosterone issue. Fish, along with TJ Quinn, are big time writers when it comes the issue of drug usage in sports. Fish reports that Tim Trainor, Keith Kizer’s right hand man at the Nevada State Athletic Commission, doesn’t believe Belfort should be given a permission slip to use testosterone.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

7 Responses to “The only media talking point UFC has no discipline on is about steroids”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Should the president of the company really be publicly commenting on a potential applicant for the head of the NSAC?

    DFW & Fertitta are starting to come across as amateurs in the sporting world. A lot of luck got the UFC popular a few years ago. It is obvious that they do not have the skills to continue that. They might be able to “maximize” profits worldwide, but they have no clue how to sell it to the masses.

    And this TRT is just another example of their inept abilities.

  2. Diaz's cashed bowl says:

    The bigger the spotlight gets the dirtier they look.

    Personally if my boss called me a @$#%^& moron, publicly denigrating me for wanting to #1 make the boss money, #2 make sure I’m not unnecessarily injured while doing it, I would quit.
    Because while the boss may not like me personally, what I’m attempting to do is something that the boss should publicly support 100% rather than spin the entire notion as crazy.

    It just shows how UN-interested the powers that be in zuffa world are in having an actual honest person without political ties or beholden to the casino money mobs in charge of fighter safety.

  3. cutch says:

    Big Foot Silva has a very real reason to be on TRT though, he obviously has acromegaly, he then had a life saving benign tumor removed that was producing far too much growth hormone.

    So it’s not exactly hard to believe that after having said surgery, he would then need testosterone replacement for the rest of his life.

    Do I think any of the rest need TRT? no and if they do then they probably did it to themselves by roiding earlier in their career and shouldn\’t get a pass but I would say Big Foot would be the only one that actually needs it.

  4. The Predictable Johnny Rodz says:

    It takes about five seconds of googling to figure out that the reporters there in LA did in fact ask White about TRT and steroids yesterday. But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of your rant.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      It takes about five seconds of googling to figure out that the reporters there in LA did in fact ask White about TRT and steroids yesterday. But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of your rant.

      It would also help if you actually made an accurate claim as opposed to an inaccurate one… because I never stated that the press didn’t ask him about the topic. What I said is that the press has not challenged him aggressively on the past inconsistencies and has largely acted as a conduit to carry out the muddled message.

      Which is why I included the Karyn Bryant snippet… which was an interview that took place in Los Angeles. And also why I noted Dana’s flip-flop over the last 72 hours on whether or not Vitor should get the permission slip, since his comments to the AP (from LA) on Monday were a bit different than what he was quoted as saying over the weekend.

  5. Zach Arnold says:

    Commission chairman Francisco Aguilar cautioned, however, that a prior failed drug test is not an immediate disqualifier and that any request from Belfort would be heard and decided upon by the full five-member commission, with input from Trainor. As of Tuesday, Belfort (24-10 MMA, 13-6 UFC) had not filed for a license or TUE exemption for his tentative fight with reigning champion Weidman, though Nevada officials anticipate he’ll soon do so.

    Aguilar said he would rely on information provided by the commission’s medical doctor, but that he would enter any discussions with an open mind and also cognizant of the title fight’s importance to Nevada and the reluctance to lose the potential payday to another state. “The economic development impact to the state could be huge,” he said.


    • 45 Huddle says:

      Money before safety…. Honesty but insanity.

      The is the type of stuff that will come up in a lawsuit in coming years.


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