Zuffa and Media Manipulation at UFC 118

BOSTON - AUGUST 28: Shaquille O'Neal of the Boston Celtics poses ringside during UFC 118 at the TD Garden on August 28 2010 in Boston Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The UFC doesn't limit its media manipulation to dedicated MMA websites and outlets. Snarky sports blog Deadspin sent out Luke O'Brien to cover UFC 118 in Boston. I don't think O'Brien would describe Zuffa's PR wing as laissez-faire:

As I settled into press row, I couldn't help but reflect upon my recent dealings with the UFC public relations machine, which seems to grow by the day, an indication both of the UFC's unruly expansion and — for a company trafficking in sanctioned brutality — its incredibly thin skin. Things had not gone well. The flacks disapproved of my scribbling and, at one point, suggested I focus more on the action in the cage and less on celebrities tugging pud at urinals. It was apparently deemed gratuitous. I was told I'd made rookie mistakes. I was told, in other words, to get in line. As a pre-condition for granting credentials, an infinitely more accommodating flack nevertheless asked what I "hope[d] to accomplish at UFC 118."


And we close with following observation. In the information packet given to each reporter before the fights, there was a glossy reproduction of a recent paean to White in the Boston Globe magazine. We've all read this same story so many times, and in every one White seems to grow exponentially richer. The UFC president now has two Ferraris gathering dust from disuse. He thinks nothing of losing $500,000 in an hour at a blackjack table. He pays $2,500 a month in nuisance fees to maintain a huge water slide in his backyard for his kids. On and on go the details of White's happy excess. I dunno. Seems gratuitous.

There's two things to touch on here.

1) Deadspin is a very large sports site. They know their audience. Readers aren't visiting Deadspin for vanilla event reports. They want humor. They want peripherals. They want to be entertained.

Sometimes the sporting event itself isn't the story. One of the most famous pieces about the Kentucky Derby has little to do with equine and equestrians. I'm not suggesting Zuffa allow drug-filled zanies to run around the arenas at the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay, but the ideal media shouldn't operate as a willing mouthpiece for its subjects either. If Zuffa only wants a narrow brand of coverage, they might be better served banning all independent media and only providing official press releases to various outlets.

2) I'm cautious to touch on the Boston Globe puff piece being handed out at press row. It feels like a cartoonish exaggeration of Dana White's ever growing ego. Surely, it must be satire?


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