White claims ESPN hates the UFC

August 20, 2011

In response to a tweet, Dana White wrote that ESPN has always hated the UFC. He clarified this tweet with another one stating that Jim Rome was the only good thing about ESPN.

It appears that the reaction is due to ESPN cancelling White’s interview promoting UFC 134.

Via MMA Mania:

Sounds like an awfully strong reaction over a cancelled interview and perceived lack of coverage. Perhaps there is more to the story that we don’t know? After all, ESPN airs “MMA Live” each week, which features stories revolving mostly around the UFC.

This is even more odd when one considers how much coverage ESPN dedicates to sports that routinely air on FOX networks, such as football, both college and pro, baseball and auto racing. And if White wanted more coverage for the UFC, wouldn’t it be a bad idea to make disparaging remarks about “Worldwide Leader in Sports?”

Payout Perspective:

Typical response by White? MMA Mania is correct in writing that the reaction is over the top considering how much ESPN has covered the UFC. Not to mention Stephan Bonnar and Rashad Evans are mainstays with MMA Live and the networks has provided coverage of many UFC PPVs. It is also included it in ESPY nominations too. Also, the MMA page on ESPN.com is predominantly UFC-Strikeforce news. And, of course, the appearances by White and UFC fighters on Rome is Burning.

Perhaps its the glee of the Fox deal, but White’s comments seem blown out of proportion. Could ESPN be blowing off White as a passive aggressive way to get back at the UFC for the Fox deal? Maybe. This seems a little like when Spike played the premiere of UFC 132’s Countdown midday. But here’s an example of the ills of the social media. Think before tweeting. Telling ESPN off doesn’t help keep a relationship with Rome is Burning. After all, Rome is on ESPN.

On a broader scale, the Fox deal will be interesting to see if the UFC will need to reign in some of its language. In addition, what will the UFC do if a homophobic or sexist slur is made during a broadcast? Will it be “business as usual” or will there be a need to address the situation?

10 Responses to “White claims ESPN hates the UFC”

  1. Jack Frost on August 21st, 2011 1:25 AM

    ESPN2 airing MMA Live at 2AM (if the spelling bee or some other crap doesn’t run past its scheduled time, of course) is not legit coverage.

  2. Bill Hardiek on August 21st, 2011 10:39 AM

    Dana has put his foot in mouth before, however, I think he is on par. To say anyone on ESPN not named Jim Rome or Kenny Florian cares about the UFC is missing the point. Yes, ESPN has given expanded coverage for special events like UFC 100. But overall, I agree ESPN doesn’t put MMA in the spotlight very often. The only time PTI or Around the Horn talk about MMA is if it is bad. Colin Cowherd shows a little love from time to time.

  3. Machiel Van on August 21st, 2011 11:47 AM

    ESPN thinks that covering the UFC is not worth a large allocation of their resource, and in my opinion they have been right up to this time. I don’t feel that ESPN’s audience goes to any of its properties searching for MMA coverage; hardcore MMA fans go to places like BloodyElbow, MMAJunkie, etc. for pertinent news about the sport. Their casual coverage is sufficient to satisfy the casual interest that most of their audience has in MMA. The Fox deal could change that for ESPN, if a large portion of their audience (NFL fans, NASCAR fans, etc.) become UFC fans after being exposed to the programming and promotional materials. That is when ESPN will ramp up their coverage. To just EXPECT them to increase coverage of the UFC because MMA’s profile has increased is a bit naive in my opinion. ESPN is smart, in touch with developments in the mainstream sports market, and will react accordingly. Honestly if I were at ESPN, I would just ignore White’s comments in this instance and continue to observe MMA’s development on Fox, giving whatever coverage I deemed appropriate on MY NETWORK. White just comes off as somewhat of a whiny kid who feels entitled to things without understanding the big picture, but ESPN would look more professional to let this one go.

  4. BrainSmasher on August 21st, 2011 6:51 PM

    You cant really fault Dana here. ESPN was the best fit for the UFC and the UFC wanted it. ESPN didnt want to have anything to do with the UFC. They pay billions for other sports content and Fox gets the UFC for 100 mill. Now the UFC is off the market for 7 years because ESPN doesnt care about the sport. MMA Live is on because ESPN wants viewers without any commitment to the sport. They throw a UFC KO on Sportscenter to get a couple hundred thousand fight fans to sit through 2 hours of Sportscenter which i do each sunday to see if they cover the previous nights PPV. Which almost never happens.

    The problem with ESPN is they are filled with old ass sports journalist in their 50’s and 60’s like Bob Ryan, Kornhisier, Wilbon, etc who still remember boxing in the 60’s and 70’s and refuse to accept anything else while they talk sports to viewers in their 20’s and 30’s. ESPN used to be the cool hip sports station and they havent been that for over a decade. The days of Stuart Scott and the gang with their cool catch phrases are gone and they have not tried to keep their youthfulness it once had. Nothing new will be accepted by them if he threatens something they already like.

    If Dana’s interview was pulled because he signed with FOX then again he had every right. Dana has got away with being himself for a long time and i see no reason he should bite his tongue or pull punches now. Dana will be in his mid to late 40’s when this contract is over. ESPN might have a complete new front office. ESPN does nothing meaningful for the sport. So if Dana wants to tell them to “F” off i see no problem with it.

  5. Jose Mendoza on August 21st, 2011 11:46 PM

    I know many are saying that ESPN doesn’t do enough for MMA, but realistically, they cover the sport well considering they don’t televise ANY MMA themselves. Outside of HDNet and ESPN, there are no TV outlets that cover the sport well if at all.

    The other point here is that covering the UFC now means that you will be promoting a sport which will be fully controlled by FOX now, one of ESPN’s biggest competitor.

    If anything, in terms of covering MMA, ESPN and MMA Live have been very favorable to the UFC. Strikeforce, DREAM, Bellator never really get coverage. Guests and fighters are usually UFC fighters (Florian, Evans, Sonnen, etc). Jim Rome is a huge supporter of MMA and Lesnar, Penn, GSP typically get pretty good coverage.

    The UFC is now involved in a new level of competition, where they now have to worry about network ratings, competitors, and what comes with being affiliated exclusively with one media group.

    At worse case scenario, I agree with Machiel Van, ESPN will react accordingly if the demand is there.

    Back in 2009, UFC and ESPN/ABC were in talks for a TV deal and it was pretty much a lock until it fell through while trying to finalize the deal. They even had a name for a weekly show (if you recall that was when the UFC went on and on about doing weekly MMA shows and when they credentialed Sherdog to get in ESPN’s good graces). In fact, UFC invited and hosted a bunch of ESPN executives to UFC 100 when those discussions were taking place.

    Since then, their relationship has been rocky. Remember when Dana White told all his Twitter followers to complain to ESPN for providing live results? ESPN UK is also their current TV partner and I hear that they are not too happy as the UFC keeps raising their TV fees. Now that they are signed to FOX, it is believed that they will go with Sky when the contract is up with ESPN UK. We will see how this all unfolds.

  6. Diego on August 22nd, 2011 9:07 AM

    Saying ESPN hates the UFC when ESPN’s coverage of the sport is almost entirely UFC focused is extreme. Telling ESPN to “F-off” is not good business. It does nothing to help the UFC and may hurt future exposure. I wish ESPN had more MMA (not just UFC) exposure, but the head of the largest promotion in the sport making these kinds of comments doesn’t help get that done.

  7. Albert on August 22nd, 2011 10:26 AM

    Brian Smasher is spot on with his take. The high level executives at ESPN are not educated in regards to the sport of MMA thus the lack of coverage. They would rather put on little league baseball and men’s lacrosse than cover MMA. Unfortunate. That being said, there is a better way for Dana to vent his frustration.

  8. BrainSmasher on August 22nd, 2011 6:55 PM


    ESPN does have more content than others who dont show events. But it isnt like there is 100 other sports news shows. So they cover it more than CNN. Not a big deal. ESPN doesnt show UFC events because they choose not to. That is the point. They didnt want a commitment to the UFC or MMA and they pulled Dana’s interview because Fox was willing to make that commitment. What did they want? UFC and MMA to wither and die waiting for them to have a change of heart on the sport? They showed just enough MMA to try to keep their claim as the “leader in sports”. They are only the leader in sports they can make a ton of money on. They drug their feet and it bit them in the ass. Actually pulling the interview just shows they know how big the UFC signing is and the shot it in the arm it give Fox and how much they lost.


    ESPN shows what attracts fans. “Other” MMA doesnt have any demand. ESPN doesnt show MMA for the sports benefit. They show it for their own benefit. So you need name fighters in a name Org. That said things in other promotions do get shown when he is meaningful. Strikeforce before the Zuffa take over got on ESPN. Some Highlights of KO’s from WEC were shown and Bellator. However there will never be a MMA show that can ingore the well known Org and its fighters and show no name guys in no name Orgs and stay on the Air. If you started a show on TV called MMA Today and you didnt make the UFC 75% + of your coverage then no one would watch it.

  9. Jose Mendoza on August 22nd, 2011 10:50 PM


    I doubt ANY high level exec at any top network is educated with MMA. Most grew up loving boxing only, which is the case for the FOX guys.

    Just 3 yeas ago Fox’s Hill said this about MMA: “What’s totally abhorrent about it is that one guy will be down and the other one can keep hitting him.”

    Fox Sports President Ed Goren said this about airing MMA in 2008: “We don’t need money that badly.”

    Quote from 2009: “ESPN execs were special guests of White at UFC 100 & a TV deal in the U.S. is also expected to be announced. ”

    It all comes down to what the UFC programming can do for the FOX properties, and if you guys listen to the press conference closely, FOX only spoke about acquiring TUF and how great it was going to be. That was the key acquisition in this deal.

    For all we know, the interview was delayed, not canceled, and everything will be fine 🙂

  10. juan on August 23rd, 2011 8:34 PM

    As UFC become more mainstream they will run into several PR problems.

    1) Joe Rogan. Great mma commentary guy. Also a 9-11 Truther and an out-spoken advocate of recreational drug use. Any NFL on Fox announcer who was either would be immediately fired.

    2) Racist tattoos, like the “Brown Pride” of the HW champ Velasquez. Higher profile means more people are gonna see crap like that. UFC seriously needs to have a blanket ban on all these stupid racist tattoos. Bronx Pride, good. Brown Pride, bad. Be proud of where you are from, not your skin color.

    3) Dana White’s mouth. It’s a great part of Dana. It got them to dominate the PPV industry. But network TV is different than PPV.

    4) The inevitable gay slurs. This will happen. It happens when two dudes fight each other in real life, it will happen before, after, or during a Fox fight. What will UFC do? Will it kowtow to GLAAD and make the fighters undergo sensitivity training? It’s a lose-lose. Either lots PR heat for letting fly some gay slurs. Or make your fighters look like wusses and kiss GLAAD’s ass.

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