Photo via HDNet.
In MMA, we often see a changing of the guard, whether it be with fighters, promoters or even the media. Recently, there was a change on Spike TV's MMA Uncensored Live. Luke Thomas, a well respected journalist, has replaced Mike Straka as one of the hosts of the show. While Straka is an equally competent journalist, as well as a very nice guy, the relationship between him and the show unraveled during his six month tenure. In a recent TapouT Radio interview, Mike discussed his exit from the show, and made it crystal clear that the split from Spike was an amicable one, with no hard feelings.
Stephie Daniels: Can you share your side of why you were let go?
Mike Straka: The parting couldn't have been more friendly. The guy who hired me is the guy who fired me. He called me into his office and said, 'Mike, it's bad news. We've got to go in a different direction, and you're the direction that's going to go differently. No hard feelings. We're going to pay out your contract. Good luck, and if you need any help getting another job, we'll be glad to help.
We didn't have a bad parting at all. I was a little shocked, and I was a little surprised how it happened, because I didn't really see it coming. It is what it is, and that's television. What are you going to do?
Stephie Daniels: You posted something in the Underground forum that said you were uncomfortable with the direction they wanted to go, in regards to the UFC. Can you elaborate on that?
Mike Straka: Well, Spike never told me to go out and deliberately trash the UFC, but I think booking some guests, and trying to extract a certain comment from them was a bit deliberate. I think that it's important for Spike to really help along there MMA priorities, and at the moment, that's not the UFC. You can't cover MMA without covering the UFC. I'm not saying they don't, but I don't want to be in a situation where Dana White and Lorenzo say, 'You know what Mike? Nice knowing you, but we're not going to give you credentials anymore because we didn't like what you said last week.'
It's one thing if I piss people off because I believe it, but it's another thing if I piss people off if I say something just for the sake of doing it. That I won't do, and I don't agree with it. Again, nobody told me to do or say anything, but I think my reticence to do that didn't help the situation.
Stephie Daniels: When you talk about them wanting to elicit a certain response from the guests, were there guidelines or directives for this? Did they say, 'Hey, I want you to push this agenda or that one'?
Mike Straka: I don't think there were any guidelines that came down from any executives at Spike. I think certain people on the show wanted to elicit some kind of controversy so people would talk about the show, which is all great for ratings, and it might work on a different platform and format of media, but it's not necessarily the best place to do it on television, especially when you only have 22 minutes and lots of commercials with three guys talking and one guest, or sometimes two guests. Let's just put it this way, I wasn't comfortable in my position in my role on the show. I think Luke is going to be great at it. I think Luke is a great journalist. I'm more of a host. I'm more of a guy that drives the train and keeps everything on track. .
Stephie Daniels: Fan reception to Craig Carton has been lukewarm at best. Were you a little surprised that you were let go before he was?
Mike Straka: No, not at all. Craig Carton is the star of that show.
Stephie Daniels: How much input does Craig Carton have on that show?
Mike Straka: I would say he has more input than anybody that even works on that show. That's television. It's all about brand recognition, and Craig Carton has extremely high brand recognition in the New York market, and in television, that's the most important market. In New York, he's a big deal in sports radio.
I have nothing against Craig Carton. I think he's one of the nicest guys I've ever met. He's generous, and he's sweet. Whether he got me fired or not, I couldn't care less. If he did, I thank him, because he did me a favor. He's certainly not an MMA expert, but he's a great guy. Nate is one of the greatest guys, too. He could maybe use a little more seasoning but he's still an awesome guy, and Luke is going to be fantastic on the show. He's a nice guy and is very credible. He knows his stuff, he's a great writer and I'm very happy for him.
Stephie Daniels: You said this took you by surprise. Did they give you any kind of warnings before dismissing you or even a chance to tighten up your game?
Mike Straka: No, not really. I got an email saying, 'Hey, are you around tomorrow? We want to meet with you.' It really came out of nowhere, but I'm over it. It's been like six weeks since they fired me.
Stephie Daniels: How come it's just now coming out?
Mike Straka: Well, the show was on hiatus for two weeks, and when they came back, Luke was on, and nobody really suspected. They figured maybe I was just out. It wasn't until they tweeted a picture of the hosts doing a promo shoot, and it was Luke, and not me.
The irony of that was that same day, the producer sent me the email for the rundown, which I thought was funny. The same week, The woman in charge of talent for Spike, sent me an email saying, 'Hey, can you come to the promo shoot on Thursday?' I had to respond to her, 'I don't think they want me going to the shoot, they fired me.' She didn't even know. I wrote back to her and said, 'I'm glad I wasn't the only one who didn't see it coming.'
I know I'm sounding bitter here, but I'm not bitter at all. I had a great time on the show. It was a great opportunity, and I could say anything here. I could say I was only on for six months and that was going to be it. I could say that I knew it from the beginning. I could make up any story I want, but it's not about that. I had a good time on the show and I enjoyed the people at Spike. It really was a dream job. It's gone now, so I'll just move on to the next dream job.
I'm not hiding the fact that I got fired. Spike didn't come out and say anything. They've been very classy about this. I just hope I can remain as classy as them.
Stephie Daniels: Do you feel that the show was a cohesive unit, or was it as disjointed as it sounds?
Mike Straka: I think that there are a lot of masters in the show. I think the producers have to run everything by the Spike people. The back and forth between the producers and the executives, a lot of times caused some delays in production. Honestly, every time I've worked in television, I've worked with in-house production. Spike typically buys content, so when they get a show like this, they hire a producer, yet they still have so much input. In my opinion, not that I'm there anymore, but I think Spike would be so much better off if they brought the production in-house.
For me, it was difficult to work in that environment. I like to be able to go into a room, do a piece, and then put it to air, as opposed to going into an edit room, getting five different notes, come back, re-edit it, get two more different notes, come back and re-edit it, and then finally get it on the air, with nothing that looks like what you started with. I'm not saying that's the case. I'm just saying that's what that environment and work flow is like. It was a little disjointed and disconnected, but that's not to say it's a bad show. I think the production value is the best thing about it.
Stephie Daniels: Do you feel like they restricted your enthusiasm?
Mike Straka: Well, yeah. Somebody wrote that I got yelled at for the Jim Miller thing, and I did. Jim Miller laughed, and we had beer after the show that he actually brought for us that he made. Mike Constantino laughed. I mean, these guys are my friends. The fact that people think there's an issue between me and Jim Miller is so ludicrous. People are so misinformed on these forums. I read that Guy Mezger and I had a beef about the Lorenzo Fertitta interview. I never spoke to Guy Mezger once while I worked at HDNet. Not once in a year and a half.
That being said, I did find that my enthusiasm was curbed, only because I didn't want to offend anybody. I didn't want to offend Nate. Nate actually thought that I was interrupting him because I was worried about my own airtime. I just thought that was the most ridiculous thing anybody could say to me. I've been in this business for so long, and the airtime was not what it was about. I was just being who I am.
What the show was supposed to be when we started out, in my opinion, was three guys sitting in a basement arguing about fights. God forbid my argument about the fight infringe on someone's ability to get their point out, whether I agree with their point or not. Again, I'm not saying anything bad about Nate or Craig, but my enthusiasm was certainly hindered.
Stephie Daniels: Have you been approached by other outlets to do your one on one interviews?
Mike Straka: I've been working with Fight Now TV, which is a cable digital tier network. I've been working with them throughout the whole Spike run. Now that I'm off the Spike show, they plan on having me do a one on one show. As a matter of fact, we did about 12 interviews from the last Vegas fight card, which was Sonnen vs. Silva. I even got an interview with Rampage Jackson and King Mo together. Everybody was like, 'How the Hell did that happen?' It happened pretty easily.
Stephie Daniels: You mentioned that getting fired was actually a favor to you, even though it was your dream job. What did you mean by that?
Mike Straka: Yes, I felt like they did me a favor. I've been covering MMA for a very long time. I've been covering the UFC for a very long time, and this past weekend, I felt more love from the UFC and the fighters and my fellow media peers than ever. People were so supportive of me, and it made me feel great. These people were genuinely nice to me, and it just felt so good that I thought, maybe this is a blessing in disguise.
You can follow Mike via his Twitter, @MikeStraka