If you've ever listened to a UFC conference call, reporters from major newspapers or large media outlets greet White & Co. like they are pubescent teenage girls waiting for their invitation to the hottest sweet sixteen party in the land. Add to that their general incompetence or "on the job" learning about MMA and you have a crowd that often tries to play buddy with the UFC while buying their narratives without much discussion or debate. In the wake of the revelation that Scott Ferrall was paid to attend and cover UFC events by the UFC, Robert Joyner has more on the highly disappointing MMA media's coverage:
This area is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to the media and how it relates to the UFC. Through various deals with media outlets, or the tying of access to coverage, what we have arrived at is a MMA media corps that lacks any adversarial role in its coverage of the UFC. And with a fanbase that is generally conditioned to support the organization over the fighters or the sport itself, you are left with readership that doesn’t care if the tough questions are asked. One of the best pieces of radio I have heard in the past few years was the infamous Dan Patrick interview of NBA head David Stern, with Patrick raking Stern over the coals for his suspension of players for a playoff game. Would that kind of scenario even be possible in MMA?
No, probably not. And this is partly why blogs will never get credentialed: anyone that covers the UFC outside of the UFC's narratives or organizational expectations is persona non grata.
I would say, however, that Ferrall is in radio and not straight reporting. My experience in radio is limited, but from what I am able to tell a guy like Ferrall and his job is far more entertainment than information. I am not up in arms as much as others about Ferrall although I do acknowledge there is a certain mendacity to it all. It's literally purchased commentary.
Whatever the case, if you're expecting hard hitting analysis that is smart, draws upon a deep understanding of MMA history, represents viewpoints fairly and isn't drenched with UFC talking points, you'd be wise (generally speaking) to skip the MSM. They're mostly too busy giving Dana White high fives and telling knock-knock jokes.
UPDATE: Let me amend this slightly. There are some members of the sports reporting community who do call it mostly as they see it. Steve Cofield of ESPN Las Vegas seems to be quite fair and is known for offering appropriate criticism of White or the UFC. But there are two problems here.
First, the Cofields of this world are few and far between. Second, there is a culture of acceptance among the press that covers the UFC. I don't think its unfair to suggest the UFC would exercise retribution or exclusion for knowledgable and influential criticism from reporters or journalists in the MSM. Press credentials in the UFC are handed out very carefully and strong demands are made on reporters covering the UFC relative to the NBA, NFL, MLB, etc.
Whoever's fault it is - be it the reporters themselves or the UFC or both - there is an unsettling closeness between the two groups that is inhibiting more penetrating or honest commentary.