After Greg Hardy's first UFC fight booking set to a tricky situation for the promotion and the media that cover, what did we learn? Retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss in this week's Trading Shots.
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Downes: Ben, the UFC's move to ESPN is only a few weeks away. Live from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Henry Cejudo and T.J. Dillashaw will fight in what may prove to be the death knell for the men's flyweight division.
That's not why the event has been getting so much coverage lately, though. Greg Hardy's debut. Any time Greg Hardy fights, it makes news, but this one was especially inflammatory because he was booked on the same card as Rachael Ostovich, a recent survivor of an alleged domestic violence incident.
I do not want to discuss the original booking. That's been done plenty already. Rather, I'd like to examine the reaction to the booking.
You have UFC President Dana White acting indignant about the whole situation. Hardy is on the roster and we will never speak of it again, "you can be sensitive about anything."
Then you have UFC staff reportedly telling journalists that they were basically not allowed to ask questions about it at the UFC 231 pre-fight press conference. This lead to the Mixed Martial Arts Journalists Association (of which you are president) releasing a statement, which … uh … asked for clarification?
Confusion seems to abound. Hardy will be a controversial figure for the rest of his career. What's the right way to cover him? Other than shaking her head in disappointment, what place does the MMAJA have in the discussion?
Fowlkes: The reason for the MMAJA was received as a result of a request from UFC PR. That's just not how press conferences work. You can not answer the question or not, but you have to step up to a microphone.
And it would have been fair to ask. It was his first public appearance since the news, and from Deadspin to The Washington Post. The fact that a UFC was also interested in the topic coming up while the company was trying to promote its pay-per-view.
You mock the MMAJA's response, but it actually helped us move in a positive direction. We are a member of the UK team, and we are working on a discussion on the issue with White on Friday. People did not stop asking about it. Because some things never change.
The hardy thing is a story for a reason, and will continue to be. "After the end of the day," he said, "You have not come back from," from Ostovich, who understandably does not want to be linked with Hardy or the UFC's about him, but who is not only
The ability to push back as a collective group when a promoter tries to brush past necessary questions like this, that's one reason we formed the MMAJA. I can not be unhappy about how it works in this instance.
Downes: Well, I assumes you are a major influence in the response, but I do not expect you to be unhappy with the response, but that's neither here nor there. I do not know if I'd characterize my tone as mocking (although I understand coming to that conclusion). Rather, I wonder about the effectiveness any collective action can have.
To me, "opening a dialogue" has the same results as "raising awareness." As you note, the UFC called it all to miscommunication and then White stonewalled any further discussion.
UFC's own doing, it's not just the same. ESPN spent a lot of money to lock up the UFC for five years. It wants to return on that investment. Look at the headline on ESPN.com: "Former NFL player Greg Hardy to debut with UFC on Jan. 19 in Brooklyn."
They're leading with hardy because they know how to get new eyeballs to the sport and (hopefully) more subscribers to ESPN +.
Clay Travis did a great job pointing out the apparent hypocrisy from ESPN. As ESPN devoted time on the Monday Night Football telecast to chastise the Washington Redskins for signing Reuben Foster, they're trying to profit from Greg Hardy.
It's one thing to be critical of the UFC, but how do you keep ESPN honest? Especially when (I presume) there are ESPN employees in the MMAJA. The network has received a lot of criticism for how to cover the NFL (another lucrative partner), and there is no reason to think so.
With anything in life, there's a temptation to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I'm not saying that the MMAJA should be put on the barricades, but what do you say to those who think the MMAJA will go the way of the MMAFA? When you think about it, there's not much difference between the obstacles facing fighters and journalists collectivizing.
Fowlkes: That's where you're wrong. There are major differences in the obstacles. Unlike the fighters, the journalists have no The UFC has been polite and professional with us. Other promoters have been downright encouraging. So have most of our employers. Our struggles, such as they are, are pretty much entirely internal and structural.
But it does not mean that we can not do it, but it does not mean that we can not do it.
You're right that ESPN's role is all about scrutiny. A relationship with the biggest player in the space. ESPN's MMA reporters, both those who are MMAJA members and those who are not, they are not holding back on their criticism.
Still, that's one reason why I think it's important for the MMAJA to be made up of people from all kinds of media outlets. Some of us have more public profiles than others, but everyone gets the same chance to voice an opinion and convinces others of their position, and then we all get one vote to cast.
But you're important journalists in this sport and you lose something if you keep them out of the conversation.
You might think opening the dialogue is not important, but it is. Even if everyone in that dialogue continues to just be themselves. For the media, the important thing is not getting a certain type of answer. It's the ability to ask the questions that need to be asked.
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Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY's MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.