This'll be my first post, kids. Be gentle.
I love MMA news shows. Something about the format seems to bestow legitimacy upon my favorite, and oft neglected sport. It just makes me happy to see guys in suits behind a desk talking exclusively about MMA.
Or should I say i love the IDEA of MMA news shows, because all of the current offerings leave much to be desired. Let's look at the current landscape.
MMA Uncensored Live: This show seemed to get a lot of flack around these parts, mostly because Craig Carton rubs folks the wrong way. The man doesn't bother me, but I can easily see how some people would register his douche-level as off the charts. Be that as it may, I thought this show was somewhat promising in the beginning and offered several PROS. The format seemed loose and fun (which makes a certain kind of sense for MMA), but it was still informative. The LIVE aspect is also great given that the internet is the lifeblood of MMA news, so any delay in taping can very quickly make an episode seem out of date. And of course, the trump card was the addition of Luke "beard of steel" Thomas as a co-host. We all love Luke around here, and it's easy to see why he is one of the most liked analysts in the game. However one major CON has reared it's ugly head recently, and it has all but renders this program garbage for me. Ever since the announcement of Bellator moving to Spike, this show has become an infomercial for the brand. It started slowly enough, but my tipping point was last night's episode where the majority of it was spent dissecting all things Bellator (including tonight's card, which is a pretty big snooze, and a title fight that doesn't take place until next year). In discussing tonight's Bellator card, Carton even admitted to having no idea how to pronounce several of the fighter's names. High profile, indeed. This is taking place, of course, with the backdrop of the top 2 lightweights in the world fighting Saturday night at the top of arguably the most stacked card to ever hit network TV. You would have thought that mentioning this massive MMA event carried the threat of herpes last night. This transparent schilling basically delegitimized the program for me.
Next up is UFC Tonight: This show has the same problem that Uncensored now has - it's purely a UFC infomercial. Now, this is somewhat more excusable given that the UFC is in fact 90% of what is relevant in the MMA world at any given time. A pass may also be warranted on this front given the title of the show - while the optics say "news show", the title is at least an up front admission of the content - exclusively UFC. Be that as it may, I need a balanced show where the current MMA landscape is covered, and different organizations are covered proportionally to their level of import at any given time. Even more importantly - and this is 100% personal - I freaking hate Todd Harris. Don't like his style, his attitude, his delivery, his look, nothing. He doesn't come off as a guy that knows anything about the sport. This may be along the same lines as the irrational hate that Carton receives, but there it is. I think the biggest reason I find Harris to be so lacking, is that he is NOT this man...
Jon Anik: This is a bit of an aside, but its important because it addresses what, to me, was the high point of MMA news shows thus far - ESPN MMA Live. I compare this show with UFC Tonight, because it ended right around the time that UFC Tonight started, and they have similar formats - the difference being that Jon Anik was one hell of a host. Totally informed, knew how to keep things moving, knew how to reign in "analysts" who aren't necessarily ready for prime time yet (Melendez, Cruz, Torres, etc), and just generally came off as likable and super well-informed. I truly believe that this hosting gig spotlighted his strong suit, and the fact that he's not hosting UFC Tonight is a gross mismanagement of his talents by the UFC (which is not to say he doesn't call a decent fight on the lesser cards that he and Florian helm). I also felt that MMA Live often got their coverage proportions just right between UFC, Strikeforce, Bellator, and whatever else was happening at a given time. I was sad to see it go.
Lastly we have Inside MMA: Admittedly, I do not get the ridiculously obscure station that this show airs on (AXS, previously HDNet), but I've seen enough clips online to make the informed judgement that this show comes off as being low-budget and just plain wonky. Of course there is Bas, who I think we can all agree is one wacky character. Whatever you think of him, he's not the kind of person who has enough seriousness to helm a "news" program in my ideal world. I also get the sense that the proportions on this show are off as well, generally highlighting more fringe MMA content over more relevant UFC content.
So at any rate, I find my current options in televised MMA news to be severely lacking. Maybe there is hope that as MMA becomes more mainstream with the Fox deal, ESPN will be forced to cover it again in the balanced way that MMA Live did, but without a heavyweight host like Anik or Thomas, that's still only half of the equation.