Journo To Journo: Michael Stets discusses UFC ratings, TRT & MMA media

Image courtesy of Michael Stets

MMA Mania writer, Michael Stets is the subject of this segment of my journo to journo series. We discuss TRT, UFC numbers and media gripes.

In this week's segment of journo to journo, MMA Mania writer and host of the popular Darce Side Radio podcast, Michael Stets drops by to shoot the breeze about all things MMA. From TRT to media gripes and coverage, several topics were discussed. Special thanks to my MMA Sentinel co-host, Iain Kidd for the transcript help.Here's what Stets had to say:

MMA Sentinel: What did you think of last weekend's card, Vitor, the young lion, the old dinosaur, Dan Henderson and that knock out?

Stets: The first thing I think of is what an amazing haircut, nevermind the TRT and being the first guy to knock out Henderson. I'm just uncontrollably drawn to staring at his hair in bewilderment. He's kinda like Brian Bosworth, if you know who he is, from the late 80's NFL Seahawks. I think he's trying to go with the retro look, with a bit of a tail/mullet on the back.

MMA Sentinel: Let's talk about what you think about the whole TRT situation surrounding Vitor in particular.

Stets: Well my take is... I'm pretty much apathetic at this point. I'm really sick of talking about it, and I'm really sick of fellow media members getting on their soapbox and getting righteous and pious about it. He's allowed, within the confines of the commissions, to get an exemption. He's playing by the rules, and whether you like it or not, it's just your opinion, it's not a fact that it shouldn't be done. It's allowed in the sport and he's not doing anything illegal. I know there's much buzz because he's fought in Brazil the last three times and apparently everyone thinks they don't run a tight ship down there, and that it would be more stringent and more difficult to get an exemption in the states. That being said, the committee has people put in place down there, it's supposed to be modelled after Nevada. A lot of people think it's a joke of a commission, if you will, but my thing is this; if he's tests at an illegal level above what is allowed, then we can have a discussion. Otherwise we should really be talking about how he head kicked Luke Rockhold, Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson into oblivion in his last three fights, and there's no way that can't have him fight for the title now.

MMA Sentinel: It seems like there's more willingness within both the MMA media, and the mainstream media, to cover negative topics, like the recent things we've seen about fighter pay and the Star-Ledger piece on concussions. Do you think that's something that will help the sport in the long run, or do you think the sport is still too young to be under that kind of microscope of criticism?

Stets: I think there's always going to be criticism, and no matter what sport you're in there is going to be both positive and negative writing. With people getting injured and knocked out, I don't know how much they can spin that. We're far removed from the no-holds barred days. I live in New York and you still hear a lot of that getting brought up in the argument against the sport being legalized here. They still talk about the NHB days and how there were no rules and all of those things. The sport is so heavily evolved now that you only have to do a little bit of research to know that the commissions are behind it, and all the things we know about from covering the sport, everything is done to protect the fighter like referees stopping fights, medical suspensions, the commissions regulating everything. It's a legit sport.

The people who really go against it and try to bash it with edgy headlines are the people that are ignorant to a lot of the facts that all of us know are true about the sport.

MMA Sentinel: There is a bit of concern about the UFC's ratings recently. I think Ultimate Fight Night 30 done something like 125,000 viewers, which is a pretty crazy low number. Do you think the UFC might be struggling to build new stars, or is this just part of the growing pains of putting on so much more content?

Stets: I think it's a little bit of there's a lot of content going on right now, but it's also a new network and the events are depending on star power too. When you look at the card on Saturday night, outside of Belfort and Henderson, to the average layman, they're not getting roused up about Ryan LaFlare against Santiago Ponzinnibio. They're not going to go crazy for that. There was also a card on Wednesday, so we're dealing with a lot of content and a lot of cards.

We, the people who cover this sport, I think get a little too fixated on numbers. It's still a new network, they're still building something. They have PPV in place, so the UFC is not going anywhere any time soon, regardless of if there's 100 viewers one night or 500,000. Me personally? I don't think it's a big deal. Yes, the ratings have to be talked about; it's part of covering the sport, there's an obligation there, but I don't think it's a big deal if they don't have high ratings. If they do terrible numbers for UFC 167 with GSP headlining, then we have something to legitimately talk about.

MMA Sentinel: For me, it seems like every event has one or two guys who have slipped my completely. They will maybe have had one UFC bout before and I will just be unable to put a face to the name. Do you think that's something the UFC need to be worried about? That they're not building the same familiarity between fighters and fans as when they had less shows?

Stets: Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. It's hard. There are so many fighters and so many fights and it's impossible to see them all. If you're a hardcore fan, maybe if you're like super, super MMA geek guy, and you live in your mom's basement and you don't have a job and all you do is watch fights till the sun comes up, you know the hobbies of each fighter and their next door neighbor and who their first girlfriend was, but the reality is that there is a ton of people, and it's very difficult to know a lot about each guy.

Even as we all have to study the sport and know it inside and out and make it our lives, it's difficult for us to know all about the fighters. There's a lot of guys who come on that you need to familiarize yourself with that you haven't seen a lot of. Let's face it, there's plenty of fights on these prelims and stuff, and I'll be honest, I wish I could fast forward live play. I'm like, "oh my god, I can't sit through this." I hope I'm not alone, I don't think I am, but I'm going on record saying that. Those Ultimate Fighter Brazil shows were like summer reading in the summer between tenth and eleventh grade for me. Those were hard to sit through. There's worse things than sitting through a card, but a lot of times there's not exciting fights, but when the fights are exciting is when you're reminded that you love what you do, and you love to cover this sport.

There'll be some guys that will stand out on a card like the one on Saturday night and will become stars soon. A perfect example is Brandon Thatch. To me, he's going to be a stud in the welterweight division in not too long. He's 2-0 in the UFC and looks like he's going to be an absolute killer. So you can look back at that and say, "hey, it was worth watching this fight because we got to see the maturation process start of a fighter like that."

MMA Sentinel: Give me your biggest pet peeve with the MMA media as a whole, then give me the thing you credit as the best part of the MMA media.

Stets: I'd say the best is that it's kind of like a brotherhood, and a sisterhood, since you're a woman. Everyone is kind of together. There's that togetherness where you are proud to be part of the MMA media and everyone kind of has their thing. It's really cool when there's a fight on and everyone's on twitter and interacting. It's a really special thing to me, I really, really enjoy that aspect of it.

I think the pet peeve for me, is twitter scoring of fights and rounds. Everyone's an expert and I really wish that the media would take a referee and a judging course, to further understand exactly how the rules are implemented and how rounds are assessed. It's so eye opening when you do it. I was able to do it under ref and judge Rob Hinds. I did it two summers ago. Everyone always talks about, "Oh the unified rules say this, and that was a 10-8 round." You need to do due diligence and educate yourself further, that's why I took this course. I wanted to understand exactly why a round is scored this way, and how the criteria is actually implemented.

It's not just Rob Hinds, Herb Dean puts on courses and John McCarthy puts on courses. But Rob Hinds was very affordable for me, as we know none of us are millionaires covering this sport [laughs] that might be understatement of the year. But I learned so much about referee procedure, inspector procedure, what's supposed to happen, what should happen and how the rules are implemented, what exactly a 10-8 round is, why there isn't supposed to be a 10-10 round, how someone is supposed to have a definitive edge in a round at all times. A 10-10 round is actually considered a unicorn, it should be rarely seen, or never seen.

A lot of people kind of pooh-pooh it and turn their nose up, and are like, "Ah whatever, I know the sport, I've been watching forever." I can't stress enough how eye opening it is. You have to go. It was like a weekend thing, two full days.

They put you in a chair, and there's three spots for judges. They actually had the Invicta cage, this was in Kansas. They had demos going on, and the two fighters are across the cage, and I'm in a judges seat, but I can't see what's going on from my angle, yet I'm a judge. A lot of the time we have a perfect view at home on TV and we're like, "What the hell was that judge seeing?" Well, when you take these courses you see what the judges are seeing, how their view is restricted and how they have to go by what they can see from their vantage point. I think us, as the media, to get a further understanding really need to go through a full judge and a full ref course to fully understand the sport. I think that would really help us cover it better, and understand it better.

You can follow Michael via his Twitter account, @Michael_Stets

Full audio for this segment can be heard here

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