An interesting little quarrel over the weekend between former UFC Welterweight Champion and current Strikeforce commentator Pat Miletich and writer Michael David Smith sparked up over the weekend. Smith wrote an article following Friday's Strikeforce Challengers card entitled "Pat Miletich Should Tone Down the Shilling on Showtime" in which he criticized Miletich for some of the comments he made during the broadcast.
Not to get into specifics of his complaints (you can read it at your own leisure), but the gist of them were that Miletich embellished and played up opinions of fighters. Mind you, the card was full of Strikeforce's prospects like Daniel Cormier, Ovince Saint Preux and Tyron Woodley who are, by and large, unknown to the general public. He also criticized Miletich for "resorting to cliches" during his call of the fight.
Now, I am not an etymologist, but I know that Strikeforce is a promotion. The base word of that is "promote". This means Strikeforce is in the business of promoting. With that business comes exaggeration and hyperbole, even in commentating. Showtime is in a business relationship with Strikeforce to PROMOTE their brand of MMA. You can't compare MMA to other sports and I'll tell you why. Two reasons. The first is that MMA is not an established sport and has various companies trying to grab a piece of the market place. Commentators don't need to spice up the skills of the NFL players because it's understood that they are the best in the world. Strikeforce (and other MMA orgs in general) are competing to establish their brand in the greater mainstream of the US.
The second is that if you ever watch a hometown feed of a basketball game or a football game where the commentators are quite biased. Just because Miletich and the rest are hired by Showtime, that doesn't mean that they aren't going to pump up the product. Showtime has a vested interest in building the Strikeforce brand and as long as he isn't hurting the credibility of the product, there's nothing wrong with some fluffing. To be quite honest, the complaints Smith had were pedestrian and nitpicking as the things Miletich said were not that outlandish. Saying that Woodley is rising to be one of the best fighters, is that truly that big of an embellishment?
"The baddest man on the planet". We heard that ad nauseum in regards to former Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar. So I searched Mr. Smith's archives to find his articles chiding Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan for their outlandish exaggerations and cliches. If I see another Black fighter called "explosive" and a "pure athlete", I'm going to be sick. And then I thought about how many fighters had "K-1 Level striking" or the many other cliches I've heard during UFC broadcasts. I did not find that article. And it made me think.
It's a pattern across all types of MMA media in which Strikeforce (the UFC's closest competitor) is criticized to a point where it seems as if they can do no right and yet when these same issues pop up in the UFC, you can barely hear a word. I hate to pick on Mr. Smith, but since I was perusing his articles, I read an article called "With Matchmaking, UFC Plays Chess While Others Play Checkers" in which he roundly criticizes Strikeforce for its poor matchmaking abilities and the inability to have forethought in their planning while at the same time praising the UFC for thinking two or three moves ahead. Now, 2010 was a bad year for Strikeforce in a few ways, so some of his criticisms are valid. However, using the UFC's title shot-making model is silly at best. Not to make this article a referendum on Joe Silva, but even a cursory glance at, well, every UFC title in the past couple years can see title shots promised, earned, taken away, number one contenders being held up for months or near a year for the fight, lackluster performances leading to title shots, "instant" rematches, interim titles, etc. Not necessarily chess being played their either. More like a game of Operation.
So, when Strikeforce announced their Heavyweight Tournament which basically laid out Strikeforce's booking plans for the next 3 title shots and the better part of 2011, one would've thought Mr. Smith would applaud them for their efforts. Yet, his article about the tournament was filled with conjecture and speculation basically doubting if said tournament would take place. Not to pick on Mr. Smith as he was not alone. He was joined by pretty much everyone in the media who basically derided the tournament and offered the opinion that it wouldn't take place. It was rare to see someone write about the tournament as something positive and potentially exciting to see. I mean, it has 4 of the top ten fighters in the world on 1 side and 4 of the top 25 heavyweights on the other side. We are, at the very least, guaranteed Fedor vs Silva and Werdum vs Overeem. It's rare, actually unseen before in recent MMA history, to see the next three title shots of a major promotions lined out.
I've read more editorial articles skeptically and critically written about the tournament written n the past week than I have seen in the past month in regards to Chael Sonnen's failed test, appearance in front of the CSAC, guilty plea for money laundering and suspension from the UFC by "major" MMA media. The media who basically ignored the Shane Carwin steroid story which Ariel Helwani called the most underreported MMA story of the year can find it in their hearts to criticize the smaller promotion. I wrote about that Strikeforce card on December 4th that went head up with a UFC live card and smoked it with exciting fights and the feeling that fans (and some media) were seemingly upset that Strikeforce has the better card.
Now, I'm not going to use Mr. Smith's words and call anyone in the media a "shill" or suggest in this article that there are writers with a financial incentive to gloss over negative Zuffa stories and attack other promotions. All I am doing is saying that I've noticed that big MMA media tends to nitpick at some promotions while not doing in kind with the others. If you look at what the media chooses (and chooses not) to cover, you might recognize the same patterns. This is not to say that Strikeforce (or Bellator or MFC, etc) are not to be criticized. In fact, I have criticized those promotions myself. However, it is a case of "what's good for the goose is good for the gander". If you're going to run through some with a fine-toothed comb, then run through all.