One question I seemed to get asked a lot from people in and around MMA is “When is mainstream media going to start paying attention to us?” It’s a question you hear from anybody that is not the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, or Dallas Cowboys. I think for the most part mainstream media has been good to MMA. The UFC gets regular coverage in USA Today, the LA Times, and other major papers. I live in San Diego, home of one of the worst sports sections in America, yet they still print results from major UFC fights. Trust me that is pretty good. I thought it was hysterical when Dana White complained about ESPN running results from an overseas card prior to its airing on Spike TV. Talk about shooting the Golden Goose! In hindsight, it didn’t affect anything as ESPN still gives MMA coverage that was unheard of 5 years ago. Highlights are shown on Sportscenter and MMA live airs in prime time, and ESPN magazine has written about the sport for years.
There is still a lack of coverage on the local news and in established magazines like Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, and forget about any decent coverage on your local sports talk radio show. If there is a reason in these cases, I think it’s pretty simple to explain. The source of the coverage doesn’t understand the sport, and doesn’t want to look stupid. I watch a lot of fights and while I know what moves set up a rear naked choke, I still don’t see a kimura being set up like a Joe Rogan or Stephen Quadros.
There is also a lack of interest in learning the sport. Why waste my time learning the ins and outs of MMA, when I can take the easy way out and talk about sports I have been around my whole life.
I would like to see somebody in Strikeforce become a strong media personality, because right now Dana White has a stranglehold on the coverage that’s out there. Let’s look at the last two Friday editions of the USA Today. Two weeks ago, prior to the UFC Super Bowl weekend card, USA Toda published a special 4 page section breaking down the fights which also included a full-color ad on the back promoting the fights. My guess is the UFC pays for that. I could be wrong, but I bet they pay for it with the agreement it will be treated as news. If that is the deal, it’s another brilliant move by White. If they DON’T pay for the space, it’s even more amazing.
Now fast forward 7 days. A nice, but much smaller 3 paragraph preview of the opening round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament. There is no way anyone from Strikeforce would say something publicly about any coverage they get, especially from a nationwide outlet like USA Today.
Still, 4 pages for my competition (that probably doesn’t need any hype) to 3 paragraphs is a pretty big swing in coverage. If ABC got a pullout section for their new fall lineup, and FOX get 3 paragraphs, I’m guessing something would be said.
So who does Strikeforce look at to increase their media presence? If I had that answer I would share it with Scott Coker ASAP. I like both promotions, and I think the sport needs two healthy promotions. The UFC has guys like White, Joe Rogan, and Mike Goldberg who are excellent at getting the message across.
Strikeforce has Mauro Ranallo who is great, but right now doesn’t have the same household name as White or Rogan. Ok, so let’s go to the promoter. Scott Coker is a great guy, but very soft-spoken, completely the opposite of his counterpart White. So, our announcer and our promoter are not the guy, let’s go to the fighters. What do Dan Henderson, Fedor, and Gina Carano have in common with Scott Coker? All three are soft-spoken fighters that let their fists do their talking for them. Cool, dig the John Wayne like attitudes, but doesn’t help Strikeforce break through to those people who would love your product if they only they knew it was out there.
The bottom line is, there has been a tremendous amount of increased coverage and maybe Scott Coker thinks it’s ok to walk before you run. He is the owner so it’s his call, but if he wants to see those 3 paragraphs change to a pull-out section of his own, he is going to need some help.