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Tag: MMA Journalism

Shill ‘Em All, Part 5: Good Night and Good Luck


(Sixty years ago, we had Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly. Now, we’ve got these guys.)

To read previous installments of the award-winning “Shill ‘Em All” series, look here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

By Brian J. D’Souza

The class action lawsuit filed against the UFC by Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch has dramatically polarized the MMA sphere. Instead of debating the merits of the case, many are debating whether the lawsuit has a right to exist.

Chael Sonnen has characterized the lawsuit as a “shakedown”; others say that the plaintiffs are just bitter ex-fighters who have an axe to grind. It’s bizarre that so many are acting as if these events suddenly crept up quietly to ambush the UFC—and it’s also a symptom of the poor job done by the MMA media in reporting business concepts in a way fans can understand them.

A “USEFUL IDIOT”

Last month, Chael Sonnen sounded off on Ariel Helwani on his podcast, saying “You’re not a journalist, you’re a parrot.” The message wasn’t coming from a warm, fuzzy place inside Sonnen’s heart—the Oregonian wrestler was irate at Helwani’s handling of the steroid scandal Sonnen had been embroiled in, which lead to Sonnen’s exit from MMA competition.

FrontRowBrian—a Twitter personality who has the ability to scoop news stories and rumors that the mainstream media either doesn’t know about or is too scared to touch—added his own insight into the Helwani-UFC relationship, which hit a snag when Helwani was reported to be on the outs at UFC partner FoxSports in January 2014.

With his typically cheerful ginger candor, FrontRowBrian tweeted (then later, deleted) that Helwani was a “useful idiot,” and said that the UFC had temporarily fired him because they “just wanted to show him who is the boss and how they can end a career.”

Ariel Helwani is an extreme case of someone with overt dependence on the UFC. Like many media members, he knows what the key issues are between MMA promoters and the fighters, but he makes a conscious effort to restrain himself from fully developing very specific ideas in his reporting.

For example, when Nate Diaz’s complaints about pay made headlines in April, Helwani wrote a very detailed article for MMAFighting.com outlining Diaz’s points, as well as a succinct reply from Dana White. Carefully omitted from the article is any analysis of the revenue Nate Diaz generates for the UFC versus what he’s paid.

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Shill ‘Em All, Part 4: Hustlers, Marks, And the Long Con of Selling Media Coverage


(Look closely, and you can actually see suckers being born every minute. / Photo via Getty / For previous installments of Shill Em’ All, click here.)

By Brian J. D’Souza

Everyone has a vague idea of how three-card Monte works: a street hustler places three cards face-down. A mark is enticed into finding the money card. Using misdirection, subterfuge and distraction, the hustler dupes the mark into picking the wrong card over and over. Sometimes a “shill” aids the hustler by playing the game and making it appear winnable.

The fight game is a similar hustle where many MMA journalists often play the role of the shill. Rather than being independent, certain MMA outlets and journalists are working in concert with the promoter to achieve a specific aim. Often, the promoter is buying publicity for their product, which is fair game considering that running an MMA promotion is a brutal marketplace where only the fittest survive.

Speaking in direct reference to a then-SiriusXM radio personality Scott Ferrall being paid a talent fee to attend UFC shows, UFC president Dana White said, “Believe me, in building this business, we had to do some things.

It’s critical for an event promoter to spend money on the front end — including giving incentives to journalists — so that they can make money on the back end. Sports leagues require massive amounts of capital, as well as leaders capable of executing a clear vision; save for the spectacular Japanese league PRIDE FC that was backed by the yakuza and their dirty money, no one has done a better job of running an MMA promotion than casino magnates Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, the majority owners of the UFC.

If the mark happens to be the casual fan being steered into buying an MMA card, so be it. Colonel Tom Parker might have paid girls to scream at Elvis’s early shows, but his product held up to scrutiny over time. No one is holding a gun to anyone’s head and forcing them to buy watered down PPV’s or watch lackluster cards.

On the other end, when the mark happens to be the fighters, it’s a much more serious issue. Successful promotions earn tremendous amounts of revenue from pay-per-view buys, television licensing, live gate, merchandise, and other streams. MMA fighters who don’t know or understand their value will continue to be taken for a ride.

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It’s Not Me, It’s You: A Breakup Letter To MMA


(“You had to give it to him: he had a plan. And it started to make sense, in a Tyler sort of way. No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.” – Narrator)

By: Jason Moles

Dear Mixed Martial Arts,

They say breaking up is hard to do…but they’re wrong. Please, don’t speak. Let me talk for once.

For the better part of eight years, I’ve lived and breathed you. At first, it was just a little crush, but a couple years later it matured into something more. I was truly, madly, deeply in love with you. Three years ago, I finally worked up the nerve to ask you out, and to my surprise, you said yes. In the beginning, you were all I could think about. You dominated my conversations with coworkers in the break room and were the reason for countless missed BBQs with my family. But not anymore. It’s the end of the road, ergo, time for me to fly.

Let me be real clear. It must’ve been love, but it’s over now.

It’s funny; life never goes the way we plan, never turns out how we expect. Never did I anticipate us falling apart like this. It’s almost as if the cosmos are playing games with our heart, letting us think but for a brief moment that we’re on the brink of reaching true happiness before we trip over the monkey wrench thrown our way. Speaking of heart, CagePotato Ban notwithstanding, (and rightfully so, I might add) one needs a lot of it if they’re to enjoy successful relationships in this life. One only need look as far as Jenna Jameson and Tito Ortiz (or Rampage and his diet) to realize the consequences of pursuing a relationship with anything less.

Every rose has its thorn (some more than others) and I’m tired of holding on.

This whole year has been an agonizing internal struggle for me. You’re driving me crazy and I hate it! I hate that I used to care so passionately about you, that I would pass up trips to the lake with family or a night out with friends because I wanted to spend time with you. And now? You’re irritating me to no end. You’re so dang needy. You didn’t know it, but I’ve been going behind your back trying to find friends to help move or neighbors who needed help painting so I’d conveniently not be available on Saturday nights. I need space; I can’t do this anymore.

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Vitor Belfort Issues Apology for Suggesting That John Morgan Should Be Beaten for Asking Him About TRT


(John Morgan is an award-winning MMA journalist with a rack of those trophies on his mantle. Everything else is virtually identical.)

As we all know, Testosterone Replacement Therapy — or “legalized steroids,” if you want to be an asshole about it — is a private matter that’s best kept between you and Jesus. But for some reason, MMA media members can’t stop wondering about the ethics of Vitor Belfort‘s hormone treatments, and how much TRT should be credited for the Brazilian slugger’s recent career-resurgence.

So, during the UFC on FX 8 post-fight press conference on Saturday night, just moments after Belfort spinning heel-kicked Luke Rockhold into BolivianMMAJunkie’s John Morgan asked Belfort the following question: “How frustrating is it that every time you do something good people just want to ask you about testosterone, and how much that’s playing in your life and can you just address that?” (Let’s give a brief round of applause for the brilliantly underhanded nature of that question. Instead of asking Belfort “what’s up with the testosterone, bro?” Morgan asks how frustrating it is that people — like John Morgan, for example — keep asking about it. Kudos, sir.)

Belfort’s response was quick and to the point: “Can somebody beat him up for me please? Can somebody beat him up? You’re boring, get out of here,” responded Belfort. Belfort then said he didn’t want to answer any more questions from Morgan. “Talk to my hand.” (Let’s give a brief round of applause for Belfort’s use of a slang phrase that has been out of circulation since around the time of Belfort’s UFC debut in 1997.)

Now, suggesting that a reporter should be beaten up during a press conference seems like an innocent joke on paper, but you have to keep in mind that the room was packed with Brazilian media members, most of whom were likely carrying shock pens. Luckily, Morgan made it out unscathed, and after a few days of reflection, Belfort released a statement on twitter today expressing how badly he feels about the incident:

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Shill ‘Em All: Why Ethical MMA Journalism Is So Hard to Come By


(Dana White spends some quality time with his fans. / Photo via Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

By Brian J. D’Souza

There are many contentious subjects in mixed martial arts, from the use of performance enhancing drugs to the corruption and ineptitude of various athletic commissions. Before the issues come into focus, they are often filtered by the entity that draws an epic amount of criticism within the sport itself — the so-called “MMA media.”

Yet far from being a homogonous group of “bloggers,” “hacks,” or “shills,” the public would be surprised to learn that there are actually different individuals that comprise the MMA media. Some were drawn to MMA because they love the sport, others were assigned to cover the UFC by their editors, but whether they’re writing as a hobby or as part of the special entourage of writers who get the best seats at shows and special events, the MMA media operates under circumstances that directly impedes their ability to report accurate and truthful stories.

Corruption and controversy have always been at the heart of mixed martial arts since the sport’s modern inception in the 1990s. Then again, maybe Mark Coleman (Olympian, UFC heavyweight champion and PRIDE open weight GP champion) didn’t throw his fight against professional wrestler/PRIDE founder Nobuhiko Takada (career record: 3-6-2) at PRIDE 5? And all the fighters who’ve tested positive for performance enhancers were maliciously framed by athletic commissions, or were taking legal (but tainted) supplements, or had the drugs administered by their doctor without their knowledge?

The media matters because they can bring attention and scrutiny to the dark corners of the sport. Greasing by an athlete? Suspicious judges’ decision? Rival promoter extorted at gunpoint for the rights of their fighter? There have to be news stories that shed light on the truth, especially when you consider that accurate information isn’t always volunteered by the fight promotions or state athletic commissions.

The current mixed martial arts landscape is dominated by the UFC. The question over the hold the UFC has over the media needs to be examined so fans understand the constraints that the MMA media works under.

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In Case You Missed It: Homeless Bum Dana White Helps Rob Riggle Make Week 13 NFL Picks


Skip to the 1:45 mark for Dana’s appearance. Props to reader Alan K for the video.

While the rest of you were watching football today (the American version, aka the one worth watching *chugs beer, initiates U-S-A! chant*), you may have noticed a familiar face in this week’s edition of Riggle’s Picks. No, it wasn’t one of us. It was UFC President Dana White, satirizing “Exclusive Access” sports websites alongside Rob Riggle.

Riggle hits all the standard punchlines about these types: Improbable rumors, Rex Ryan is a fat mess, that these sites are only in it for the money, Richard Simmons, the webmasters live with their mothers, Jewish guilt- you know the drill by now. But Dana White steals the show with his masterful performance as a homeless drunk, who serves as an incarnation of “Guy who can’t possibly have inside information spreading outlandish rumors that only internet trolls are dumb enough to believe.”

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