(“Attn journalists: Instead of writing that Fedor ‘lost’ we’d appreciate it if you would use the phrase Fedor ‘almost won.’ Thank you, that is all.” Pic: All Elbows)
Since we figure our readers don’t spend a ton of time poking around the “fine print” section at the bottom of UFC.com, we assume very few of you noticed recently when Zuffa, LLC quietly began imposing its “Professional Journalism Policies” on Strikeforce. All told, the policies (which you can read right here, if you really want) are almost 1,500 words of dense legalese that spell out what it takes to be deemed worthy of a Zuffa (or in this case “Forza, LLC,”) press credential and the rules writers and photogs will abide by in order to stay in the company’s good graces. Basically, it’s two full pages that boil down to one big “Or else!” for MMA journalists. While this may be Business As Usual at UFC events, it charts a bold new direction for how Strikeforce will deal with the media moving forward.
We won’t bore you with many of the details, because it’s all pretty standard: No shooting video of the fights, no cheering on press row, etc., etc.. The policies themselves aren’t much different from the ones imposed on journalists by other major sporting events. The difference here is that the people making the rules have historically been fairly heavy-handed in their dealings with the media. The UFC certainly hasn’t been afraid to hand out indefinite bans to some of MMA’s best known and most “professional” journalists, many times for seemingly very petty reasons. This latest development also means that a few major MMA outlets that were formerly credentialed by Strikeforce (including some of the sport’s most veteran journalists) likely won’t be welcome anymore. Any way you slice it, that’s scary news.
One of those guys is longtime MMA reporter Eddie Goldman of NHB News. Goldman’s been covering combat sports for a number of media outlets for so long the name of his company predates the term “MMA,” yet he claims he was one of the first people dropped from the preferred journalists list when the UFC absorbed Strikeforce. He also came off kind of pissed about it when he sounded off recently on an online message board:
“I was the first one Zuffa fucked around on credentials. Since Zuffa bought Strikeforce, they took me off the Strikeforce media list …,” Goldman wrote. “Now they only want shills, zombies, fools, tools, morons, slaves, stenographers, hacks, and flacks to cover their shows. This is worse than it is even in boxing.”
You see the problem here, of course. As Zuffa continues to tighten its grip on the MMA world, it’s power and influence over the media also grows. In banning some of our best known and most respected journalists, Zuffa has effectively tried to marginalize their voices. At the same time, the company has created an environment where the reporters who do have credentials know full well they better play by the “rules” (and abide by the notoriously erratic whims of the UFC brass), lest they join the ever-growing throng of people unwelcome at the most important events in MMA.
Look, we kind of understand why the promotion doesn’t want us around, but trying to pretend the difference between credentialed and un-credentialed media at UFC events has anything at all to do with “professionalism” is pretty obviously a farce. On the contrary, it has everything to do with who the UFC keeps on its personal “enemies” list. Knowing that list grows in number and importance each day is – if you don’t mind us saying – a little spooky.