If you're an MMA fan, you've no doubt heard about ESPN's "Outside the Lines" piece that examines UFC fighter pay. UFC President Dana White has done his best to rally the MMA community against the thirty-minute special, calling it a "hack job", attacking it multiple times over Twitter, and even releasing the UFC's own counter-video. But is it really as bad as everyone thinks it is? Now that I've gotten the chance to actually watch the special that everybody is talking about, here's my reaction to ESPN's "Outside the Lines" report.
For quite some time I debated with myself over how I would start this article. In the end, I decided to be as blunt as blunt can be: this is one of the most agenda-fueled pieces of so-called journalism I've ever seen.
Let me be frank: some of the things the UFC has done over the years can be construed as monopolistic. But here's the thing: this is an issue that's so open to interpretation that I don't think any of the die-hards on either side of this argument will ever be satisfied. There are too many examples of the UFC surviving and even thriving while other companies failed that the conspiracy theorists and the anti-UFC zealots will always claim that the UFC is a monopoly. As a die-hard MMA and UFC fan, even I can admit that if you had an agenda and wanted to approach this topic with an unflinching opinion that no facts or figures could ever have an impact on... yeah, you'll find plenty of reasons to claim that the UFC is a monopoly.
That is what sickens me so much about ESPN's piece: it's not fair and balanced. Any potential shortcomings, any potential holes in their argument, are quickly glossed over, barely mentioned, or even completely ignored.
Two examples stand out so clearly in this regard.
First off, it's quickly swept under the rug and even disregarded that ESPN is also a billion-dollar company and pays its low-level boxers in the hundreds of dollars, while the average incoming UFC fighter can expect to make $6,000 to show and $6,000 to win.
Secondly, the piece devotes a large amount of time to the words of Ken Shamrock. The fact that Ken Shamrock currently owes the UFC $175,000 after losing a bitter legal battle to the company was mentioned only in the briefest of passing moments, to the point where it was obvious that all involved were trying to sweep that little fact under the rug. The fact that Ken Shamrock is notoriously known for his frequent use of illegal steroids (a rightful challenge to Ken Shamrock's character) was never mentioned.
Even though my feelings on this subject closely mirror many in the MMA community, I can say this proudly: I gave this thing a fair chance. I cleared my head before watching it and entered this piece as a blank slate, as the blankest slate possible. I watched it all the way through, from start to finish. And I can sum up ESPN's "Outside the Lines" piece in three simple words.
Not like this.
This is not how you explore the issue of UFC fighter pay. This is not how you get some real discussion going and hopefully get some real progress made. This is one company that came in with the express intention to attack another company, and then they ask the viewer to accept it as fact because it's presented under the guise of honest journalism. But it's not honest journalism, and as a self-professed journalist, it's that fact that sickens me the most.
Oliver Saenz, also known as PdW2kX, is a freelance journalist, opinion columnist, hardcore MMA fan, and lifelong video game nerd. For more news, views, previews, and reviews on all things Mixed Martial Arts as well as video games, be sure to visit FightGamesBlog.net.