UFC Media Coverage Rules- Dana’s World

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By Chad Wuttke

The growth of MMA has brought the sport ever closer to the mainstream, and at this critical time, the relationship between MMA promotions and the media is increasingly important.  Exposure through the internet has taken a back seat to more traditional forms of media thanks to some procedural, and sometimes political, changes. Recent moves by UFC President Dana White appear to have catered to the print media, or what he calls, “real media”.  As a result, the internet is often left with only table scraps.  The question is, when will Dana warm up to the internet?

A recent article titled “Dana White vs. Internet Media” (see: WatchKalibRun.com) urges Dana White to allow more internet media coverage and also let internet reporters be credentialed at UFC events.  The problem lies with that fact that the article is the same type of self-serving content that Dana White is talking about.  There are literally dozens and possibly hundreds of goofy-titled websites dedicated to MMA.  Is everyone entitled to a piece of the UFC pie?

First, a general question:  How do you become a “member of the media?”  Can anyone start a website to air their thoughts on MMA and call themselves “media?”  We’re now talking about potentially thousands of bloggers out there who claim to be media and feel entitled to access that the general public isn’t given.

Sure, consumers need content, and the masses will go to reliable and credible content before they go to biased providers.  White has stated before that he reads the forums and realizes there are some intelligent things being written, and some things that are utterly insane.  Point is, those are fans being fans, not fans being reporters.

Dana White isn’t stupid.  The UFC was bought for 2 million dollars in 2001 and is now worth over a billion.  He has a track record of being one step ahead of everyone else in the MMA realm.  Let’s not forget, he is the CEO of a business.  He’s got the UFC’s best interests in mind and will do whatever it takes to protect its image and its future.  We’ve all learned that when you burn a bridge with Dana White, you don’t build it back.  The website Sherdog.com knows that all too well and an episode not so long ago may be the best demonstration of why White is skittish when it comes to the internet.

Dana White has long maintained a Chris Brown/Rihanna style relationship with the internet media; particularly with Sherdog.  White says it’s because of numerous backstabbing moments by Sherdog, including one time in which they outright threatened to cover more Pride than UFC.

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The issue hit its peak when Dana White unleashed a tirade against Loretta Hunt and Sherdog after Hunt wrote an article depicting Dana White driving a wedge between fighters and their managers and/or agents.  The controversial rant included 42 f-bombs and a certain gay slur that Dana White was forced to apologize for.  The video went viral and it led to hundreds of “Is Dana White bad for the UFC?” write-ups in both print and online.  Soon after, UFC 100 broke every MMA pay-per-view record there was, proving Dana’s antics left no lasting impression.

So, when will Dana White warm up to the internet?  Bottom line:  He doesn’t have to.
Dana White owns the younger demographic.  With aspirations of being the biggest sport in the world, Dana White needs to appeal to the older audience.  What better way to do that than by pandering to sportswriters.  The UFC hasn’t crossed into mainstream media like the NFL or MLB have.  It isn’t a day-to-day topic of conversation on Sportscenter.  Highly regarded sportswriters like Woody Paige, Bob Ryan and Rick Reilly probably don’t even know what MMA stands for, let alone have a roundtable discussion about who the best heavyweight fighter in the world is.  Clearly, the UFC still has many hills to climb, but some sports TV and radio staples like Jim Rome and Jay Glazer are already welcoming MMA as an equal among more traditional sports.  danawhite_boxing

Changes are happening everyday in regards to how we receive our news.  Local TV stations, radio outlets and newspapers are all seeing their profits dwindle as more and more people get their information from the net.  These days everyone seems to have a blog or website.  It’s an issue that will continue to be bounced around the blogs for years.  Dana White has to remember where his bread is buttered and everyone knows the internet is eventually going to be king.  So, by ignoring the internet audience now, he may be risking a serious backlash later.  But for now, it’s Dana’s world, and we’re all just going to have to live in it.