Promoters will always be promoters. Just look at Don King, a man who keeps smiling, spiking his crazy hair and waving mini-American flags regardless of what he's pushing. No matter what, he always focuses on the positive, regardless of what the naysayers are trying to counter with. And with boxing these days, that can be a lot.
UFC president Dana White is a different breed of promoter. He isn't afraid to taunt or fire back at anyone on any subject, something that endeared himself to many as the UFC rose through the sports muck to prominence over the past seven years.
Sometimes he has been right on the money and other times, he has been horrendously off base. When forced to, he's apologized for the really bad stuff, but has never apologized for being open and honest. To say the least, he is the 'anti Roger Goodell' -- a sentiment against a perceived PR-friendly figurehead as opposed to someone shooting from the hip.
But White's video tirade this week against Wrestling Observer founder/MMA journalist Dave Meltzer crossed the line -- not just because it came across as childish and petulant but because it was simply mean spirited in a direction that it never should have gone in.
In the interest of full disclosure, I do some work with the Observer, both writing, editing and appearing on podcasts. I consider Meltzer a colleague and someone that I respect immensely in the business. He is one of the most relentless workers in all of sports journalism and while it's easy to dismiss pro wrestling coverage, Dave has also covered UFC from its inception and is well-versed in everything combat sports. I'm certainly not alone in my feelings and I'm sure White would say the same.
If you're late to the party, Meltzer did some writing on the recent UFC on Fox 3 ratings, numbers that were the lowest of what they've done so far on the big network. He outlined some of the the potential issues that could have affected the rating but also didn't pull any punches in saying what many thought: it wasn't a great number and that the August show is a very important one for the future of the relationship.
White was furious with the analysis, unleashing with a diatribe like we haven't seen in a while. He said the UFC was No. 1 in the key male demos and the last quarter hour of the show was No. 1 among all adult and male demos. He laid out some of the same arguments for the low rating that Meltzer did (without acknowledging that) and tried to make an NBA playoffs analogy that didn't make any sense.
I have no issue with White defending his company amidst the perceived negatives from their latest network TV outing. Whether or not the Fox brass agrees is another story, but as long as they are giving the UFC primetime slots on Saturday nights four times a year, that's a positive thing. I'm somewhat glad White did go behind the curtain a bit because it slightly drives me nuts when he says, "What people don't understand..." Helping people understand his point of view is important, even if it's not impartial.
My issue is the vitriol in which White decided to attack Meltzer. He doesn't have a history on unfounded attack pieces on the UFC, so why would this suddenly elicit this type of reaction? White did tell Meltzer about what was coming and Meltzer didn't do what many weaker than him would have done: issue some sort of apology or do a make-good column to ease any conflict. He has a job to do and I would trust his accuracy over that of a promoter, regardless of who it is.
If I had a gun to my head and had to answer anything about TV ratings or the pay-per-view industry to save my life, Dave Meltzer would be my first call. He's got too much cache, industry relationships and history not to trust him.
The worst and most inaccurate part of White's comments were about Meltzer "being fired" from Yahoo and that he shouldn't be giving business advice. Anyone that has a clue about what is going on at Yahoo knows they released nearly their entire MMA staff amid company-wide cuts and that the company has been in trouble for a long time. White made it sound like Meltzer was released due to bad work which is about as unprofessional as it gets.
I know it's fun for people to compare and contrast White to other major sports heads in that he is completely anti-establishment. However, that isn't always a good thing and this is one of those cases. Had he simply made his case with the numbers and moved on, that's one thing. To portray Meltzer as some sort of dimestore writer that got fired for incompetency is another. NFL commissioner Goodell may never swear in front of cameras, but he also wouldn't release a video blog ripping apart Sports Illustrated's Peter King.
The MMA media is in complete disarray these days and the last thing it needs is the sport's most important figure doing video blogs attacking one of its most well known and respected figures for doing their job. There are way more important things to do to ensure the sport's future than to rip on someone analyzing its present.