In this week's journo to journo, we talk to Bloody Elbow legend, Matt Roth, about his Bloody Elbow career, UFC Fight Night 35, bowel movements, GSP, Fight Pass and more with Bloody Elbow legend, Matt Roth.
Roth is no doubt familiar to most of you; he has written for Bleacher Report, Bloody Elbow and Head Kick Legend, podcasted for Fight Fans Radio, and is currently writing for MMA Mania. He's genuinely one of the funniest guys in the industry and the audio of this interview reflects that by being hilarious. You can listen to it here.
For those of you who prefer to read, here's a transcript covering most of the salient points. Special thanks to my long-suffering MMA Sentinel co-host, Steph Daniels, for the interview help.
MMA Sentinel: Lets jump straight in with the single most important story recently; Yoel Romero's... incident. What's your take on it?
Matt Roth: Oh, he totally pooped himself. Like, legit, that man pooped himself in the middle of the cage. It's probably my favorite MMA pooping since Tim Sylvia against Assuerio Silva. Pound for pound, it's at least the number two best s**tting in the middle of a fight moment.
MMA Sentinel: I think he deserves a special amount of credit, because there aren't too many people who have punched a man so hard they s**t their own pants.
Matt Roth: In my younger, wilder years, I got jumped by a couple of people and I got soccer kicked right to the body, and I pooped myself. I have no problem admitting that. I literally got the shit kicked out of me. I didn't get the shit kicked out of me in the sense that I went home black and blue, no, I pooped my pants. They kicked the shit out of me. It was wild.
MMA Sentinel: Awesome! [Laughs] Wait, not awesome. I shouldn't say that. You know we love you really Matt Roth.
Matt Roth: [Laughs] story-time with Matthew Roth!
MMA Sentinel: In all seriousness, the big story is Georges St. Pierre coming out and basically putting the UFC on blast, saying they don't do anywhere near enough to stop PED abuse. Do you think someone with the name recognition of GSP coming out and saying this is going to be a big problem?
Matt Roth: I think this is a weird situation for them, because everybody says things like, ‘Oh if they wanted it to change, they could do it.' The reality is that the ABC meet every single year, they just met in San Antonio this past year. Marc Ratner was there, I believe the UFC's lawyer was there as well, and they were in all of the meetings. If things were going to be changed as far as drug tested, it's not going to be because the UFC pressures anybody. I think it's going to happen naturally.
Obviously the big thing is TRT and synthetic testosterone. That's not something the UFC can just go to the ABC and say, ‘No, we don't want TRT being a thing anymore.' You can't do that. Last week Keith Kizer stepped down from the NSAC, and for all of his faults, Kizer's one big strength is that he really was pushing for additional testing in combat sports in Nevada. People bring up things like, ‘Oh why is he not supporting VADA or USADA,' or any of these other acronyms, well his biggest thing is he wants more money or his state, so why is he going to say, ‘hey, you should go get additional testing through VADA.'? His responsibility is raising money for the state.
If there is going to be additional drug testing, it needs to come from the ABC level, it can't come from the UFC.
MMA Sentinel: Do you feel like TRT should be a thing in MMA at all?
Matt Roth: Here's where the issue is. TRT is given because you have low testosterone, or your body is not producing as much testosterone as it should. Whether you took steroids in the past or not, if your body is not producing a certain level, you should be allowed to use TRT. That being said, I'm not really a fan of it, because I think it gives excuses to everybody else. The guys who lose to Vitor Belfort can say, ‘Oh, he only beat me because he's on TRT. I would beat Vitor Belfort if he wasn't on TRT.' That's my biggest issue with it. If you're using TRT and you win, there's always going to be an asterisk next to your name. It's the same thing as with Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa; did they really hit all those home runs, or was it because of steroids?
On the flip-side, until somebody can show me literature that says that TRT has a long term negative effect on the human body, I don't think that it should be outlawed at all. If you used steroids in the past, that's whatever; the past is the past, you obviously need TRT now. But again, on the flip-side, a guy like Todd Duffee who is my age, he doesn't need TRT, you know? There's no way that somebody that looks like a superhero needs TRT, and yet he's on it. It's one of those situations where I don't think that there's a good answer.
MMA Sentinel: Do you think that Vitor is going to get a TUE now that Kizer is out the door, and what do you think the reaction will be from the casual MMA fan and the hardcore fan/MMA media?
Matt Roth: I expect him to get it. Look at the Alistair Overeem thing; after he ran away from a drug test, then tested positive, what happened with his hearing? The actual commission was like, ‘You're an amazing human being and we would love to have you fight.' Like, what!? The man ran away from one of your drug tests and you're praising him as this incredible human!
Honestly? I think that Vitor is going to get a side job being the TRT analyst for the NSAC. [Laughs] I mean really, you're congratulating somebody for running away from a drug test, and you're saying, ‘No, you're incredible.' Vitor Belfort, you're probably going to be the next executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. That's probably what's going to happen.
MMA Sentinel: [Laughs] Lets circle back to UFN 35. I enjoyed it. I thought for what it was; a Fight Night card that looked disappointing on paper, it performed really well.
Matt Roth: I think it performed really well. I think the biggest takeaway for me, is Luke Rockhold is going to be a star, or he should be a star if the UFC puts their entire marketing and promotion behind him. He's a legitimately handsome dude. I am 100% hetero, but that man is handsome. I have a man crush on Luke Rockhold because he is handsome.
That man has charisma, he has star potential and even his post-fight interview with Jon Anik; that was the most charismatic post-fight interview. It was natural. It didn't come off rehearsed like a lot of Chael's stuff does; it sounded like, ‘hey, this is me, I'm going to be talking, and I'm going to be talking with a whole bunch of swagger.' You can't teach that. I believe in Luke Rockhold. I think that man is going to be a star for the UFC, and I'm really interested in the middleweight division now that Anderson Silva is on the sideline and Rockhold is getting his feet under him. Jacare is coming up to, and you have a lot of interesting fights.
MMA Sentinel: The prelims for UFN 35 were on the new Fight Pass service, how did you find that experience?
Matt Roth: I'm kind of liking Fight Pass. I'm not really sure how I feel about it. On one hand, I feel like it could be a really good service, but at the same time I was used to watching the prelims on YouTube, and I haven't noticed an increase in their production values on Fight Pass. It's the same thing for me; it's just the YouTube or Facebook prelims called something else.
I think the big thing for me with Fight Pass is the European cards. Not the Asian cards where I'm waking up at four in the morning. Give me one of the European cards where I'm going to be watching a noon and let me see how it's going to be working with bandwidth and everything then.
MMA Sentinel: I think Fight Pass was rushed out of the door to try to compete with the WWE Network, and I think they rushed it out in such a way that they're going to damage their brand, because the user interface isn't great, it's hard to find the fights you want to find, and as you say there hasn't been a significant uptick in production to justify it. Do you think the UFC made a mistake by releasing it when they did?
Matt Roth: I think that they needed to release it when they did, because they had the Singapore card. I imagine that they went to FOX first saying, ‘hey, we want to air this,' and fox weren't interested, which forced them to rush it out of the door. As far as the WWE's CES presentation goes, they came into the UFC's home town and just s**t on them. Completely.
Fight Pass could develop into something, but as you said, they might have turned a lot of people off. They promised was Netflix for the fight fan, but right now we have an Alpha/Beta build that they released too early, so why would I stick around when there are so many problems now? I've heard from people in the UFC, ‘You need to see the final product, it's incredible, it's going to be amazing.' I need to see that now. Give me a reason to want to pay for it.
MMA Sentinel: I really enjoy your ‘So about last night' pieces for MMA Mania, but I want to know what is your favorite thing you've written for MMA Mania.
Matt Roth: For MMA Mania, it would probably be the stuff I did with Tim Kennedy. In general, the best thing I wrote in 2013, and probably ever, was my ‘Remembering Jeff Blatnick' story that I wrote with Nick Lembo. I have a very good relationship with the NJSACB, and with Nick Lembo in general. Whenever I'm home, we grab dinner and a couple of beers and shoot the shit. I got to talk to him about his best friend who passed away, and tell his story. Just based on the reaction I got from readers, other writers and Nick Lembo himself, that's probably the best thing I've ever done.
Also, the open letter I wrote to Kim Couture on Bloody Elbow. That was a great moment, because it was my first or second story I ever wrote for Bloody Elbow, and people were already kind of pissed. They were like, ‘Why is he writing on this site?' Then I came in with that, and it was like what!? That was a mean story, it was a mean open letter, and people went ballistic. Meanwhile it was the top story on SBNation the entire day. I don't care if people are going to hate on stuff, if you're going to click on it, thanks for the pageview. That was a real highlight, it was really funny just because of how pissed everybody got.
MMA Sentinel: That was actually one of the very first things I ever commented on, and my comment was something like, ‘Really? This is what we're doing now?' [Laughs]
Matt Roth: Yeah! You were one of them! You were one of the people who was really pissed. Everybody was, people were legitimately annoyed that I came with that kind of fire and that kind of hate for a woman who doesn't matter. People were not happy.
MMA Sentinel: Give us some more stories from your time at Bloody Elbow, because that wasn't the only time you rocked the boat.
Matt Roth: I had a stretch of time at Bloody Elbow, where I would do pre-fight stories and just nail it. People ended up losing and I was just like, ‘hahaha, I was right all along.' One that comes to mind is the Fedor story I wrong, the fall of the last emperor, right before the grand prix where he lost to Bigfoot Silva. It was just one of those moments where I got to blow raspberries at people. To me, that was really fun, because at Bloody Elbow people wanted to hear controversy, people ate up negative on Bloody Elbow, at least at that time.
At MMA Mania, people don't want to read about negatives. Every single comment I get is, ‘This isn't news, why are you writing it?' I mean, really? Sometimes you can have an opinion on things, guys. Bloody Elbow, for me, was when I got to cut my teeth at showing my opinion on stuff. MMA Mania is mostly news desk stuff. When you asked before what I'm really proud of at MMA Mania? That stuff is few and far between, because I'm required to do news desk hourly updates, and it kind of keeps you from doing things that you can really be proud of.
The thing I'm proud of doing this year for SBNation is the thing I done with Brent Brookhouse on GSP and the NSAC. I think that we hit a home run with that, and I think that when GSP was injured, when he blew out his knee, I was at Bloody Elbow and we crushed that coverage. I believe that was the time when SBNation was just buying MMA Fighting and Bloody Elbow just crushed it. Everybody was doing stories, reactions and news updates, and the traffic was just insane. There's a lot of stuff I was really proud of at Bloody Elbow.
Another highlight for me was covering the Overeem vs. Lesnar card, then two hours later was the Japanese NYE card, so I did a full day for Bloody Elbow, and then two hours later I started doing play-by-play for DREAM, and I started losing it. I was just falling asleep and my brain was shutting off, and I woke up to an IM from Brent Brookhouse saying, ‘I posted the Ishii vs. Fedor highlights. I tried to using your play-by-play, but I watched the fight and nothing that you wrote actually happened.'
That kind of stuff is fun. That's why I miss Japanese MMA, because you just end up hallucinating. Like, nothing I wrote about the final hour of that show actually happened.
MMA Sentinel: What was your fondest Bloody Elbow memory, and your least fond memory?
Matt Roth: My fondest memory was probably getting brought onto staff. Despite all of our differences, I really do need to thank Kid Nate, Jon Snowden and also Dave Walsh who used to run Head Kick Legend. I used to get wasted and write fanposts on Bloody Elbow, and people like to talk to a drunk Matt Roth, but getting the call up to actually start working at Bloody Elbow was a pretty big highlight for me, just because, at least in my opinion, it's one of the best sites on the internet for MMA coverage. Everything from the technical stuff like the Judo Chops, to the news coverage; everything that Brent does is incredible. Plus it has a really, really good brand with fans and really smart commenters.
As far as the low point goes, it would probably be how I left. Nate and I had a falling out towards the end. I gave my notice to go and join Bleacher Report. I still worked in music, so I told him, ‘I need to take off for SXSW.' So in my mind, I was going to work the first week of the month and then the last week of the month, but he thought I was just going to work two back to back weeks. How it ended would be the low point, because I enjoy talking to Nate. When I burn bridges, I do go down in flames. I burned those bridges pretty bad at SBNation. I have nothing bad to say about the site, and honestly I think Bloody Elbow is needed in MMA. It has some amazing writers.
One final thing from me. The Fighters Only magazine awards are the biggest load of horses**t in MMA. Journalist of the Year? Where was Steve Marrocco? Where was Brent Brookhouse? Gareth Davies gets a nomination, but not those guys? That's complete horses**t. The real journalist of the year is Brent Brookhouse.
You can follow Matt Roth on twitter @MattRoth512.