Media were requested not to ask about Greg Hardy during media day

December 5, 2018

The UFC held media day for UFC 231 this Saturday in Toronto.  But one of the hot topics on everyone’s mind was the announcement that former NFL player Greg Hardy would make his debut on UFC’s first ESPN card in January.  This is the same card that Rachael Ostovich would be on.

For those not knowing, Hardy is a domestic abuser having been found guilty of heinous acts against his ex-girlfriend.  However, he was not sentenced to prison due to his ex-girlfriend not appearing to testify against him.  Ostovich had her orbital bone fractured in November by her boyfriend.  It was questionable if she would be able to fight Paige VanZant on the card but it appears she will make it.

The two on the same card presents a cruel irony and one has to wonder if the UFC knew of this as promoters and whether ESPN had an inkling this was happening as the new media partner.

With this information fresh in everyone’s mind, today’s media day seemed like a good time to get answers to these questions.

Except, it appears that the questions were limited.

Controlling the media is not a new thing, nor is this isolated to the UFC.   Other sports have had restrictions on the type of questions you may ask.  Teams are concerned about they types of things that are asked of their players.  They fear players may go off-topic and steer outside of the message.  Moreover, it could inadvertently get them in trouble.

Anecdotally, I’ve covered a couple NFL and NBA games in my time, and the media relations for the teams seem somewhat lax as they know most professionals and have built relationships.  Notably, in the NBA, access is pretty open especially after games.  That is, if players want to talk, they’ll talk.  If not, you are ushered away.

Other instances, media relations will want to control the message more with restrictions like the one offered by the UFC today.

This is due in part for the UFC to come up with a plan on how to address the issue.  Once determined, they will feed it to their network partner.  Thus, we can look forward for an exclusive with ESPN.

One might be able to understand the reasoning for today’s scale back of questions.  The UFC is trying to sell a PPV this Saturday.  If the media day is hijacked with Hardy questions, its hard for the company to get their message out.  Also, it is unfair to the four fighters that were up there taking questions.  They are cutting weight and have other concerns on their mind – namely Saturday’s opponent.

Is this right?  Should the dog wag the tail?  The UFC was in a bad position.  Certainly not announcing the Hardy bout until next week would have been the most prudent thing to do.  Logistically, this may not have been possible.  Despite the controversy, the UFC wanted to control this story and will spin in a way to make it sound reasonable.

This can’t be a good start to the ESPN relationship.  While fans should be excited for fights to be on ESPN, this controversy could have been abated with Hardy starting at a later date.

But, the UFC seems to do things for a reason, we suspect.  Recall that the UFC is the company that used footage of Conor McGregor throwing a dolly at a bus to spur UFC 229.  The event featured Khabib Nurmogomedov jumping into the crowd and McGregor throwing a punch at one of Khabib’s team in a post-fight melee.  But the UFC defended its marketing of the event stating it was part of the story and the brawl was not ignited due to a couple commercials.

It is a little awkward for the journalist.  Their job is based on retaining media credentials and building relationships.  They can’t have them pulled because their organization would lose out on access.  Moreover, a relationship is needed with the UFC in order to get fighter interviews, information on upcoming fights, etc.  But, you have to be wise with decisions. I was once told by a PR person for an MMA organization that if we pulled an article, we would be the first to have access to an upcoming story.  We never got that breaking story.

Here we have a more sensitive controversy: domestic violence.  Hardy was exiled from football for hitting a woman.  He turned to MMA and his name recognition and ability has helped him ascend quickly.  He has asked for forgiveness for his past problems and there is the old adage that everyone is deserved a second chance.

The UFC is doing just that.  He has won the fights put in front of him and now will be featured on ESPN.  The question is why do this on such a big event for the company and its new partner.  And, why do it on the same card that a domestic violence victim is on?

If only media could ask the question.

One Response to “Media were requested not to ask about Greg Hardy during media day”

  1. Jesse on December 9th, 2018 9:55 PM

    mma journalists are not a real journalists. just cheerleaders for the brand.

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