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Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Mixed Martial Arts--- Important Questions Raised about UFC Paying Media Outlets to Cover UFC Events
Editorial Commentary by Ivan Trembow

It didn't get anywhere near as much media attention as it should have (other than an excellent article by Zach Arnold of FightOpinion.com), but UFC president Dana White made a startling admission last week in a video blog prior to UFC 90. He openly admitted and talked about Zuffa paying radio personality Scott Ferrall to cover UFC events. As Arnold wrote, "I find it fascinating that UFC has no problems publicly admitting that they buy and pay off the media."

Here is a transcription of what White had to say about Ferrall (video available here):

"So something else happens today. I get off the plane and I get a call from a one of my buddies in California who says that Ferrall is talking a bunch of s--t now. Let me explain to you guys how this stuff works. Ferrall, if you know who he is... you know, he is a DJ comedian who is on Sirius Satellite, and for a while there, we were paying Ferrall to come to the shows and cover the shows... you know, the UFC fights. He would talk about them the week before and then cover it. Then he a came back to us and was... I don't know, I don't know how to really explain it but basically saying he wanted more money that other companies like ProElite and the T-shirt guys were offering him more money to come cover their shows than what we were. This was the guy that we brought in and, you know, he was so pumped when we first you know gave him the gig to come and check out the shows, and the way that he handled it... I didn't like the way that he handled it, so we stopped using him. Fair enough. So now I guess today he had the T-Shirt guys on there talking crazy s--t about, you know, me and the UFC and Lorenzo... and then Ferrall starts saying that he's done with MMA 'I'm done with MMA, and you know I don't even like it, it's not exciting, it's boring.' Ferrall, you f--king clown, you know what? You know, just because you're not getting a f--king paycheck anymore, now you don't like MMA. The only reason why you liked MMA was because we were paying you to like it... f--king goofy crackhead-looking mother f--ker. Give me a break. It's just if you guys knew now much goofy s--t we have to deal with on a daily basis, it's f--king ridiculous."

Given how casually Dana White spoke about paying Ferrall, as if it was nothing out of the ordinary, it would be naive to think that Ferrall is the only person to have been paid by UFC parent company Zuffa to cover UFC events.

So, this raises many obvious questions, including but not limited to:

1. Other than Scott Ferrall, which other media outlets been paid by Zuffa to cover UFC events?

2. When media outlets are paid by Zuffa to cover UFC events, are they being paid to provide positive coverage of UFC events, or to provide coverage of UFC events regardless of whether it's critical of any aspects of the event?

3. If a media outlet is obstensibly being paid simply to "cover UFC events" and not for "positive coverage of UFC events," would that media outlet tend to criticize the UFC less than they would if they weren't getting paid to cover UFC events?

4. If a media outlet is obstensibly being paid simply to "cover UFC events," what happens if that media outlet does criticize the UFC, its events, its matchmaking, its business practices, its public statements, or any other aspect of the UFC? Would that media outlet still continue to be paid by Zuffa to cover UFC events? Would that media outlet get a reduced fee for covering UFC events in the future? Or would Zuffa continue to pay the media outlet, at the exact same rate, regardless of that media outlet's criticism of the UFC?

5. If a media outlet is being paid to cover UFC events, what normally happens if that media outlet requests an increase in the fee that it's being paid by Zuffa to cover UFC events? Are these requests for raises sometimes granted, or are they always turned down? If media outlets do sometimes get increases in pay from Zuffa upon request, how does Zuffa determine which media outlets are worthy of getting a raise and which media outlets are not worthy of getting a raise? Does positive coverage of UFC events play any role in those decisions?

These are important questions. We didn't know that Scott Ferrall was being paid by Zuffa to cover UFC events until Dana White disclosed it while criticizing Ferrall for demanding a pay increase.

So, without full disclosure from any media outlet that is being paid by Zuffa to cover UFC events, this runs the risk of tainting the water for everyone who covers MMA because consumers have no way of knowing which media outlets are being paid by Zuffa to cover UFC events and which ones aren't. Without full disclosure from these media outlets, there's no way to distinguish between media outlets who praise the UFC for genuine reasons and media outlets who praise the UFC because they're "being paid to like it."

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