By Elias Cepeda
(The rant in question. Props: YouTube.com/UFC)
You might have read one of the many stories recently on the ratings of the UFC on Fox event that took place Cinco de Mayo weekend. Dave Meltzer probably penned the most significant analysis, given that he’s been providing great business coverage of the sport since 1993. He also had some of the harshest words to describe UFC on Fox 3′s downward-trending numbers.
The overall viewership numbers were down nearly 50% from the previous UFC on FOX broadcast — and significantly lower than other network television MMA broadcasts in the past — and UFC President Dana White didn’t appreciate Meltzer saying so, making his feelings clear in a new video that you can watch above. White argued that his “doom and gloom” report failed to mention the many demographic ratings successes the UFC earned that night.
According to Bloody Elbow’s summary of Meltzer’s piece, published through his subscription-based newsletter, the Wrestling Observer, the writer pulled no punches in characterizing UFC on Fox 3 as a ratings failure:
Meltzer called it “a genuine XFL caliber ratings disaster,” comparing the UFC on FOX to Vince McMahon’s cursed football league from 2001. Meltzer also wrote that “FOX didn’t pay the money it did for the ratings it’s getting,” and brought up the possibility that the UFC has overexposed itself. “If the issue is that UFC has burned out its audience with too much product, and this is just an example of this, along with the TUF ratings, then it’s disastrous. The reason is, overexposure is a killer that it takes a long time to recover from,” Meltzer wrote.
Dana White is nothing if not passionate, and he tends to take criticism of himself or anything related to him very personally. That is understandable, to a point. White has spent the last decade fighting against the current to get his product – and, by extension, the entire sport of MMA – out in the mainstream. To say that the UFC is his baby and that White has a vested interest in its success is a huge understatement.
I happen to think that White’s accessibility and candor trickles down to fighters and how open they are to fans, and, collectively, that is what makes covering this sport for a living so much fun. So I’m personally glad that when White is upset about something he talks about it, instead of hiding behind prepared statements like the heads of other professional sports organizations/leagues.
So it isn’t surprising or necessarily bad that White decided to respond directly to Meltzer, but the way White did it was all vitrol and with no sense of proportion. In the short tirade that White recorded and had initially and inconceivably planned to originally have aired on FUEL’s UFC Tonight show — it makes very little sense to give a paid subscription newsletter that amount of exposure if you don’t agree with it — the Prez brings up good points that the media has wrongly painted the UFC on Fox 3 card as a ratings loser.
White pointed out that the card was the number one program of the night among many key male demographics and that during the last quarter hour they were the number one program among all adult and male demographics. No doubt, these are the demographics that Fox hoped to hit by buying UFC programming.
Shows that performed better that night at times had a much higher median age, while the UFC on Fox did better with younger adults – a coveted demo. White also said that the UFC on Fox beat the Spurs playoff game when they went head to head.
Problem is, White sandwiched those and other important ratings facts with personal attacks directed at Meltzer. White literally begins and ends his lil’ speech by making fun of Meltzer. “First of all, Dave,” Dana says in the video. “You know I like you, you know I respect you, but you just lost your job at Yahoo! And you want to give us business advice? I’m actually writing a story…of all the things I think you could have done to keep your job at Yahoo!”
Yeah, Dana took things there. Without making the same mistake as White and talking about people’s situations that I had no direct involvement in, it’s worth mentioning that the recent layoffs at Yahoo! Sports’ boxing and MMA pages had nothing to do with performance. Meltzer and his colleagues at Yahoo! Sports had been kicking everyone’s asses in traffic for years, and still were, when Yahoo! Management decided to change their level of investment in covering combat sports. So, that’s that.
Any way you cut it, it’s a jerk move from White to say something like that just because he doesn’t like a single article of Meltzer’s. But Dave Meltzer is a big boy and fended just fine for himself in responding to White.
Here’s the plain truth – Dana White has a legitimate argument for the UFC on Fox partnership being a success thus far. He is also right that the media has not, on the whole, been giving their readers a well-rounded account of the ratings story (though Meltzer did a better job than anyone else).
But White completely obscures his valid points by surrounding them with childish insults. He’s done this before.
In 2009 Loretta Hunt wrote a pretty poor story on the UFC’s credentialing policies concerning managers, which infuriated White. He could have poked holes in the story and brought up near limitless context and background talking about the history between Hunt, and the UFC on the topic of credentialing specifically, in order to make a case that she might have had an agenda against him. Instead, he vomited out a bunch of ugly misogynistic and homophobic slurs directed at her and others on camera. Guess how many people remembered his points about that story being inaccurate after that? Not many.
BLAF, we love you (and any writer that says they don’t love a quote-factory like Dana White is lying) but chill out. Meltzer had sharp words that obviously hit close to home for you but he didn’t personally insult anyone. He was giving his analysis on a business situation involving the UFC, which is his job.
Of course you disagree with his analysis and are pissed off, so go ahead and make a counter argument, as you did. Just leave the trash out. People might just see things your way more often if you do that.