It’s no exaggeration to say that Dana White was upset by Matt Mitrione’s appearance on “The MMA Hour” this Monday. I’m not just writing about, you know, his rant against transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox. I’m writing about Matt Mitrione simply agreeing to be on the show.
While addressing reporters at yesterday’s UFC on FOX 7 media conference call, Dana White discussed his stance on Mitrione’s controversial statements. And while he was obviously upset with Mitrione for referring to Fox as “a lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak,” he seemed to be more annoyed over the fact that “Meathead” was giving what he deemed to be an unnecessary interview. Via MMAmania:
It’s one of those things, it’s just a pain in the ass. You know what I mean? First of all, he didn’t even need to be doing an interview. And I’m going to talk to these guys. The only time these guys need to be doing interviews is leading up to fights. It ended up being a nightmare for him.
What was the point of that interview? There’s no point in it. Now it’s causing him a bunch of headaches and problems for no reason whatsoever. He just fought and he wouldn’t fight again for another few months. And he is still over there enjoying himself in Sweden. What was the point of doing that interview? What was the upside to that interview? There was none. No upside.
White’s comments create an interesting conundrum for his fighters: Title shots are being given to the most popular fighters – regardless of where they stand in the division – yet fighters are also expected to limit their opportunities to talk to the media. The number of fights you win doesn’t matter nearly as much as the number of tickets you can sell (ask Johny Hendricks), but if you’re coming off of an impressive victory – like Matt was – you’re supposed to decline these “pointless” opportunities to gain new fans. Also, if you’re a relatively unknown prospect who just scored an impressive victory on the preliminary card, you’ll probably be passing up the only opportunities you’ll have to talk to the major media outlets. Deal with it.
The joke of it all is that some of the UFC’s most popular fighters have given some pretty “pointless” interviews in order to build their own fan-bases. Did the world need to read about how Rampage Jackson felt about video games? Or did we need to hear Dan Hardy explain his tattoos to appreciate him as a fighter? Or was Chuck Liddell debating who would win a fight between a gladiator and an Apache warrior really that important? Maybe not in a direct sense, but the freedom that fighters have had to be themselves while talking to the media has been part of the appeal of being an MMA fan for me. I doubt I’m in the minority here.
This isn’t to say that Dana White had no reason to be upset with Matt Mitrione for his over-the-top comments, but rather, that blaming the timing of the interview is not the right solution. Restricting when fighters can give interviews simply because one fighter said something really stupid is no different than the knee-jerk “Let’s create a law to regulate _______” discussions you’ll hear after a tragic news story. Hopefully the UFC does not crack down on when and where fighters can give interviews.
And if they do, well, we haven’t pissed off Bjorn Rebney yet.