ESPN 980 is one of the two sports talk radio stations in the DC area. In the last year or so upstart 106.7 the Fan, which features Luke Thomas's Radio Show, MMA Nation, has given 980 a run for their money however. In general one of the points of distinction between these two stations has been the younger edgier tinge of 106.7. 106.7 features the Sports Junkies, Chad Dukes, and Lavar Arrington while 980 features Steve Zaban and Tony Kornheiser.
Along with the younger bent of 106.7, has been a willingness to cover the UFC, both on Luke's all MMA radio show and on other programs particularly the Arrington and Duke's afternoon drive show. Because of the history of MMA coverage of these two networks I was surprised at 10am when I hear MMA talk and look down and its 980AM on my radio dial.Al Goldy was in fact talking MMA! He did a full segment on the Anderson Silva Chael Sonnen match up tonight. Obviously Goldy wasn't able to break down the fight, but he did speak quite a bit about the epic trash talk that Sonnen has been using. He also intelligently pointed out that Sonnen's trash talk was reminiscent of Pro-wrestling build up and that Sonnen had turned himself from a middle of the road fighter to a major draw by well trash talking.
Goldy admitted that he probably wouldn't even be talking about MMA without Sonnen's trash talk. Goldy of course mentioned Sonnen's accusations that Lance Armstrong's cancer was caused by PEDs, but rather than go on a classic old sports writer rant he used it as another example of Sonnen's brilliant tounge and cheek promotion. Goldy also intelligently noted that Dana White would probably be happy to see the non-English speaking Silva lose his title belt.
I also give Goldy some credit for digging up a few quotes from Yahoo MMA writers to add a little depth to his analysis. Some excerpts below.
Note: I obviously wasn't taking notes as I drove in my car. Al Goldy definitely quoted both these articles and I included them in an attempt to add color to the fan post and give people a feel for the segment. I may not be taking the exact bits he quoted so if someone else listened to the broadcast or a podcast becomes available I'll edit it to reflect the segment exactly.
From From Iole
He’s [Sonnen] been acerbic, he’s been profane, he’s been witty, he’s been blunt and, frequently, he’s been accurate. In a very short period of time, he’s transformed himself from a middle-of-the-card guy few paid attention to into a must-watch championship contender largely on the strength of his razor sharp and extraordinarily quick wit and, yeah, some great wrestling and a vicious ground-and-pound assault....
Still, he’s made himself relevant not only in the MMA world but also in the general sports world with the nonstop verbal thrashing he’s delivered through interviews, fan question-and-answer sessions and deft use of social media.
And, frankly, it was often hard not to shake one’s head in agreement with him as he was lambasting Silva on a media conference call last month for disrespecting the reporters on the telephone and failing to help promote the fight.
Sonnen’s big talk leading up to the fight has made him a star. But he will have to deal with a fighter so elusive that in his last three title defenses, opponents on average have only been able to land an average of one strike per minute...
Sonnen has done a magnificent job of hyping the fight while denying exactly that. About Silva, ranked as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter by Yahoo! Sports, “If he wins, it doesn’t show that he’s that good, it shows that I’m that bad.”
He refutes that his zingers to reporters’ questions are planned, even as the native of West Linn, Ore. lifted one of his lines directly from the catch phrases of an 1980s Oregon wrestling villain, Lynn “The Grappler” Denton.
Sonnen privately admitted to speaking with legendary wrestling talker “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, who also lives in Oregon and whose son, Colt Toombs, is an MMA fighter that Sonnen has worked with. But he says Piper didn’t help him in promoting the fight...
While some are outraged, it’s clear Sonnen’s tongue is firmly planted in his cheek. The strategy, no different from what has made Brock Lesnar and Floyd Mayweather Jr. such big pay-per-view draws, is to entertain. And if they are outraged to the point where they want to see you shut up, well, that’s good. The question is, will the crowd cheer his smack talk or jeer because they took him seriously?
Overall I draw 3 conclusions from Al Goldy talking MMA.
1. Chael's epic trash talk is forcing people to pay attention and building the fight. We might not like him or his wrestling antics, but he is showing that talk, and disrespectful talk, can sell a fight even to the Mainstream media.
2. I wonder if this marks a shift in the local DC market towards 980 covering some MMA. Being an MMA fan I'd love to see more MMA coverage although it was a nice "competitive advantage" for 106.7 to have.
3. I wonder if this is part of a macro shift on ESPN's part towards covering more MMA? With MMA Live going to ESPN2 and Jon Jones getting an interview on Sportscenter I wonder if ESPN is pushing MMA talk more heavily? Even if ESPN is just sending out notes on Silva Sonnen to its radio hosts that could make a big difference in exposure. Has anyone else seen increased MMA coverage from ESPN affiliates in their area?