One of the negative by-products of MMA becoming a part of the mainstream consciousness in this UFC on Fox era is the sheer amount of stupidity coming from some pundits and journalists who find themselves having to cover a sport they don’t understand…and don’t try to.
The aftermath of the shocking UFC 162 main event has been covered by everyone from Sports Illustrated to ESPN’s First Take to even the exulted TMZ.
Conspiracy theories are abound. Did Anderson Silva throw the fight? Was he paid to throw the fight? And so on, and so on. And while Steven A. Smith and Skip Bayless were excellent on their First Take interview with new UFC Middleweight Champ Chris Weidman, the folks over at #SINow were so misinformed that I’m amazed the segment was ever posted on the Internet for posterity.
Right off the bat, the host mispronounced Weidman as “Weedman,” and then had the audacity to say, “No one saw this coming.”
Really? Because I’ve never seen so many UFC fighters pick against a UFC Champion in a title defense in my coverage of the sport over the last 12 years. Now, if you are like me, you probably clicked out of the S.I. video as soon as the host opened the segment with such disdain about “these UFC events.” However, if you went back to see more (I admit, I did), you would next see how two out of the three “expert” pundits all but admit they didn’t watch the fight, but that fight fixing “wouldn’t surprise me in this case.”
“My first thought when I read the results on Sunday morning,” says Pundit #2, “it made me nervous.”
Pundit #2 goes on to say, “UFC is even less regulated than boxing,” but he did qualify that ignorant statement with “correct me if I’m wrong.”
The problem was, no one did.
The UFC is, in fact, as regulated as boxing, and in most states, it is regulated even more.
“When appearing in New Jersey, the UFC, or any other professional mixed martial arts event, is held to the exact same licensing, medical, and drug testing standards as a professional boxing show held in this State,” says Nick Lembo, counsel for the New Jersey Athletic Control Board. “With particular reference to the UFC, however, they typically exceed required standards by demanding additional medical tests, such as MRI and MRA brain scans and conducting additional drug testing.”
Did I mention Pundit #1 is on the boxing beat? Surely he has Nick Lembo in his Rolodex.
Finally, Pundit #3 starts off by stating that “most people tune out because of the violence, and if they’re gonna follow boxing or MMA, they’re going to follow boxing because…they’ve dealt with these problems and gotten past them.”
Where do we begin with that statement?
Aside from one or two boxing super-fights every year, the UFC’s PPV numbers have consistently been among the biggest yearly buys among all PPV events (boxing and WWE), and the notion that boxing has gotten past fight fixing is ludicrous at best.
Finally, the dire warning from Pundit #1. “You will detonate your fan base, and if you lose the public’s trust, you will go into sports oblivion.”
Sports oblivion? Is there such a place, really? Is that where Major League Soccer and cricket live? Rugby? Olympic wrestling? The Tour de France? Just which sports have been relegated to that purgatory? WNBA perhaps? Women’s soccer? Figure skating? Gymnastics? Boxing? MMA?
Heaven knows that those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and if you’re reading my column, you know I’ve said some dumb shit in my time as an MMA broadcast journalist. I even once did the “mainstream” equivalent of the MMA journalist being choked out by a female fighter…I even got tasered on national television (youtube that for a good laugh).
Nobody has worked harder to enhance the image and promote the sport of mixed martial arts as the beat reporters, Zuffa, Bellator, OneFC, Strikeforce, WSOF, and so many more, from clothing companies that pour their marketing dollars into it, to the fighters who sacrifice so much for glory and entertainment.
Watching otherwise responsible journalists who work for one of the most prestigious sports journalism brands in the world make such blanket and ignorant analysis on a sport they don’t quite care about is not only irresponsible, it’s embarrassing.
Now excuse me while I go smoke some Weedman.
Mike Straka is a TV host, producer, and author. He has hosted MMA shows on Fox, HDNet, SiriusXM, and Spike TV.