Last week was certainly an interesting one in the world of MMA journalism. Fighthype.com reported UFC and Pride veteran Kevin Randleman signed with Strikeforce. The report started the wheels of the MMA news machine. One site after another published the article and it cascaded across the web as if the story was like the marble setting off all the traps in the mousetrap board game – or at least how it works in the commercial. Soon the story was as ubiquitous as the embedded video of ESPN’s MMA Live on a late Thursday afternoon.
Later that day, Strikeforce honcho Scott Coker revealed that while his promotion was in talks with Randleman, the fighter remained unsigned. Only this time the dominoes didn’t fall and only a few sites published retractions or updated articles.
This little tale, equipped with a poor simile, is just one example of the lack of responsibility taken by MMA journalists. Many times a site will run a story, fully trusting the website where they found the information, without ever attempting to verify it for themselves. That is risky, but not posting a retraction is down right irresponsible.
Also just last week, several sites posted the ratings of DREAM’s most recent card. The articles had an air of “this company is so done. They were in trouble before, but this is ten times worse. Fans of Japanese MMA should start panicking and running as if Godzilla was coming down the street.”
Yes, the 2.4 rating was bad, but that does not tell the whole story. It was a midnight show and the ratings were not expected to be much better. If you do not know the entire story, once again, it is irresponsible to publish the article. Period. It is even worse to provide further commentary when you do not even understand what little information you have.
MMA has always been tied to the Internet – much tighter than any other sport. Back during the sport’s dark ages fans would trade videos on newsgroups just to watch the fights. Newspapers or mainstream sports sites would not even touch the sport, so the Sherdogs and MMAweeklys took the lead and did a great job of bringing the news to what few fans there were.
Now the sport has blown up, but MMA websites are still the leaders when it comes to media coverage. It is not just MMAweekly and Sherdog anymore, but the Internet is still the number one place to go. This only makes the burden of responsible coverage even larger. Therefore, MMA websites should hold themselves to the same standards as mainstream media outlets, which means presenting the entire scope of an article and posting retractions.
Much of the blame for the shortcomings of MMA media has been placed on these new-fangled things called blogs. Despite the attacks directed at them, blogs do have a place in the sport. A blog, which is short for web log, is usually a site that allows an individual or group of people to express their views on the happenings of the world. Often times they quote or link to other articles in order to respond or comment.
Normally a blog acts as a forum for a blogger to give their opinion or insight on a particular subject. For example, rapper Lil Wayne has his own blog on ESPN.com and has published entries like “A-Rod is in trouble,” “UNC is gonna win it all,” and “The Cowboys Suck.”
Problems occur when blogs stray from their intended purpose. If there is limited commentary it appears as if the quoted articles are simply being aped to run up the number of hits for the site, which is where the “cut and paste” criticism comes from. Blogs like Steve Coefield’s Cagewriter continually do a good job of providing salient criticisms and responses and despite the fact they sometimes reference other articles or videos they are never associated with so-called “cut and paste” sites.
As the sport continues to grow, MMA websites will continue to play a role. The size of the role will depend on each site’s ability to properly and responsibly cover the sport. With more mainstream attention, more critical eyes will be watching MMA media. Much like the fighters of the sport, those covering it must also evolve with the continually changing times.
By: Richard Mann