As 2020 came to an end, UFC President Dana White released an incendiary video aimed at journalists who criticized his decision to hold fights during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
The video, which has since been mysteriously removed by the UFC, was little more than a propaganda masterpiece: a montage of journalists’ faces with the word “INCORRECT” stamped on them, headlines and quotes out of context, as well as snippets of White. saying things like “I don’t give a damn” while the orchestral music played in the background. Rather than celebrate the promotion’s profitable year, White posted an attack video for the sole purpose of discrediting journalists and making them targets of hatred and ridicule.
“I’m not afraid of the media,” White said during the video. Why should anyone listen to the media? Who are these people? What makes them experts? What have they ever achieved? ”
I was one of the journalists mentioned in the video for an article I wrote for The Guardian in March titled “The UFC’s Challenge to the Coronavirus Outbreak is Reckless and Irresponsible.” The article was written in the same week that saw more than 100 countries institute a full or partial lockdown in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus. However, while sports leagues like MLS, NHL and NBA suspended their respective seasons, the UFC went ahead with an event in Brazil, where the fighters were not screened for Covid-19.
While the UFC’s decision to include my article in the anti-media video was false and a misrepresentation of my reports, it came as a small surprise to an organization that has long had an antagonistic relationship with the media.
In 2008, White uploaded a now infamous video in which he called MMA reporter (and Guardian contributor) Loretta Hunt is a “damn dumb bitch” and her sources “fagots” in response to an article about the UFC’s attempts to bypass managers and agents when it comes to fighters. White was eventually forced to apologize to the LGBTQ + community for using homophobic slurs in his spiel, though he never apologized to Hunt. Instead, he still can’t cover UFC events in person.
The UFC has long used access as a tool to maintain control over reporters. By threatening to withdraw press credentials, the promotion can take advantage of favorable information that serves as an extension of its public relations output. When journalists step outside the bounds of what the UFC considers acceptable reporting, they are bullied into submission or banished from the UFC media circus altogether. To date, there are a handful of reporters who remain on the promotion’s blacklist, including Hunt, Sherdog editor (and Guardian contributor) Josh Gross, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Snowden, and myself. At one point, the list also included ESPN reporter Ariel Helwani, who was banned from receiving press credentials after he reported on two big fights without contacting the promotion beforehand.
While the UFC eventually gave in to pressure from the media and fans to restore access to the press for Helwani, the ESPN reporter recently found himself at the center of the controversy after White referred to him as a “jerk.” for no other reason than to humiliate the reporter.
Last week, the UFC president was asked about Gina Carano, the former MMA fighter-turned-actress who was fired from the hit Disney series The Mandalorian for a series of obnoxious social media posts ranging from blatant anti-Semitism to the spread of misinformation and dangerous conspiracy theories. , including the far-right QAnon. Carano’s most recent controversial post, and probably the last straw, compared Republican voters to Jews in Nazi Germany.
Not only did White come out in defense of Carano, telling reporters at the UFC 258 scrum to “leave her alone” and that “we all make mistakes,” she did so while attacking Helwani, who was not even present, simply to express Your opinion. on social media.
“I love how Ariel Helwani did everything about him,” White said. “What an idiot.”
The decision to call Helwani, a self-centered Jewish journalist for trying to share his perspective on Carano’s anti-Semitic comments perfectly sums up White’s disdain for the media. Such a disdain that the UFC president is willing to ensnare his company in unnecessary controversy simply for the opportunity to attack a journalist.
White’s comments drew the ire of people like former ESPN host Dan Le Batard, who referred to White as a “bully” for targeting Helwani. He also raised concerns about the UFC’s relationship with ESPN, which is a broadcast rights partner of the UFC. After three days of silence, despite the fact that one of her reporters was verbally abused by the president of a sports organization with which she is associated, ESPN finally released a tepid statement saying that “Ariel is a valued colleague and an exceptional MMA reporter. His record speaks for itself. ”
White’s constant conflict with the media is reminiscent of Donald Trump, a friend of White who sowed mistrust in the media as part of his political strategy while calling reporters the “enemy of the people.” So it’s no surprise that White, who campaigned for Trump in 2016 and 2020, is mimicking the former president while helping his conservative colleague Carano.
The UFC’s heavy-handed approach to public relations, which includes White’s abusive outbursts against members of the media, is part of the promotion’s strategy to control journalists and, by extension, the narratives surrounding an event. in particular. Due to the constant fear that their press credentials will be expunged, the attending beat reporters are discouraged from asking tough questions that would reflect poorly on the UFC. These include issues like unionization, fighter’s salary, the ongoing class action lawsuit against the UFC, or the UFC’s affiliation with various authoritarian regimes around the world.
There are countless other examples of the UFC’s exploitative approach to managing the media.
On at least one occasion during the Covid-19 pandemic, the promotion tried to silence journalists making them sign a waiver that greatly limited his ability to critically report on UFC health and safety measures. It almost guaranteed that the UFC would not be responsible for any missteps on their part.
Yet beyond the UFC’s systematic erosion of press freedoms, the promo also relies on White to manipulate journalists with his unique combination of ravings and belligerent speeches. And when all else fails, White resorts to his favorite tactic: blaming the media for generating controversy.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism