October 13, 2016
Dave Sholler, the UFC’s Vice President of Public Relations, Athlete Marketing and Development, is leaving the UFC to take on a role with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.
Dana White first broke the news on UFC Tonight and Sholler confirmed his departure on twitter.
Sholler worked in PR with the WEC and came over to the Zuffa-owned UFC brand upon the merger in 2009. Sholler is best remembered for his attempt to stop a face of altercation between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones in August 2014.
Sholler’s last event with the UFC will be the November 5th for UFC’s debut in New York.
Back when Sholler was with the WEC he pitched a story for a local Seattle outlet that I wrote for about an up and coming WEC fighter that was originally from Federal Way. The fighter was Benson Henderson. Through the years he has helped get access to Henderson and a couple others for the local Seattle outlet. Overall, he’s been very fair and from what most say is an overall good guy.
August 18, 2016
The water bottle flinging episode which ended the UFC 202 press conference on Wednesday provided some buzz for an event that lacks previous big fights. But, will Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor be punished for their actions.
If you have not seen the press conference, McGregor showed up about 30 minutes late to the press conference. Diaz, Anthony Johnson and Glover Texiera were present and on time. Shortly after McGregor made his appearance, Diaz left with his team. Shouting and finger gestures were exchanged and that’s when the throwing of objects began.
Things just got real between Diaz and McGregor at the UFC 202 press conference. pic.twitter.com/cxD8yYBl4W
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) August 17, 2016
According to the NAC 467.885(5), the Nevada Athletic Commission “may suspend or revoke the license of, otherwise discipline or take any combination of such actions against a licensee who has, in the judgment of the Commission:
- Conducted himself or herself at any time or place in a manner which is deemed by the Commission to reflect discredit to unarmed combat;
The UFC Code of Conduct states that the company can impose discipline for “Conduct that imposes inherent danger to the safety or well-being of another person.” In addition “[c]onduct that undermines or puts at risk the organization or promotion of a UFC event, including without limitation, failure to deliver, engage in or otherwise execute any and all promotional responsibilities…” Also, “Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the UFC.”
You can say that McGregor and Diaz’s actions yesterday were violations of all of the above. While it may have been an indirect way to promote the fight Saturday, it put at risk those that were nearby.
The news conference ends crazily with Diaz leaving room and his camp throwing things, including a tape roll that hit Conor’s girlfriend arm
— Lance Pugmire (@latimespugmire) August 17, 2016
Short plug, I was on with Josh Nason of The Wrestling Observer and we talked about the press conference in depth as well as the UFC 202 card.
I don’t expect the revocation of a license but a fine will likely occur. What will be interesting the commission hearing which will likely happen as a result. Obviously, there’s a part of MMA fandom that likes to see this intensity. But, when does it become sideshow, not sport. I understand that this is a part of the promotion but the throwing of objects can carry liability if a bystander were to be hit or injured.
July 11, 2016
MMA Junkie reports that UFC contracted fighters have received a letter about the sale of the company.
The letter addressed to “Athletes” from “The Zuffa executive team” states that “the athletes, have always been the central focus of the promotion. That will not change.”
The letter goes on to say that the new owners, WME | IMG would focus “on the continued global expansion of mixed martial arts and committed to further promoting you [the athlete] on the global stage.”
— Joe Lauzon (@JoeLauzon) July 11, 2016
The letter comes just a couple weeks after Zuffa sent an internal memo to its employees that the UFC had not been sold. As we know, it was just semantics as Zuffa did not finalize the sale until this past weekend. The likely plan was to make the announcement after Saturday’s UFC 200. The letter is assurance that the new owners will take care of them in the future. Of course, Zuffa does not know if that will be the case.
July 10, 2016
Maybe International Fight Week should have ended yesterday for Donald Cerrone. Instead, Cerrone apologized for a homophobic slur made during a Q&A at the UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas.
Cerrone criticized Daniel Cormier’s fighting style last night against Anderson Silva.
Cerrone took to Instagram and Twitter to issue his apology. In it he is wearing the “We Are All Fighters” t-shirt. Notably, the t-shirts were introduced this week by the UFC to support the LGBTQ Community.
It’s not clear if Cerrone’s comments will trigger a UFC Code of Conduct violation.
A day after the UFC crowns its first openly gay champion in Amanda Nunes, Donald Cerrone makes this comment. The problem may not be Cerrone being homophobic (that’s not the issue) but the society and culture most of us have grown up in that has allowed these types of slights to be acceptable and common. Some of you may know the pickup game for football players where you give the guy a ball and everyone tackles him. If you don’t pay attention to the meaning and intent of the words, you never understand the gravity of what the words actually mean. The good news, is that Cerrone’s apology seems genuine.
But, Cerrone’s comments remind us that the UFC needs to continue the education of its contracted fighters. It was just a couple years ago that Matt Mitrione made comments about Fallon Fox and Michael Bisping just made a similar comment at the UFC 199 post-fight press conference.
June 5, 2016
MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani was escorted out of UFC 199 prior to its conclusion according to multiple reports including the host of the MMA Hour. In addition, Esther Lin and Casey Leydon of MMA Fighting were required to leave the event.
MMA Fighting has issued a statement:
MMA Fighting and SB Nation fully support Ariel, Casey, Esther and the entire MMA Fighting staff. And we appreciate the support we have received from the MMA Fighting audience and community.
The UFC has not been in contact with us since revoking the credentials of Ariel, Esther and Casey. But we will keep you, our audience, informed of the situation.
Ariel will address what occurred at UFC 199 on tomorrow’s MMA Hour. The show begins at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT
Essentially the statement amounts to an advertisement for the MMA Hour.
Helwani indicated that he was told that he was banned for life from the UFC.
I was escorted out of the building by Zuffa staff before the main event. Credential taken away, too. Didn’t see Bisping realize his dream.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 5, 2016
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 5, 2016
I love this sport & this job with all my heart. Did nothing unethical. I reported fight news. That’s it. & then told we’re banned for life.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 5, 2016
The move by the UFC amounts to a PR issue with dealing with the media. Helwani has scooped the UFC of its breaking news of fight announcements on its FS1 show, UFC Tonight, since leaving the show. The reason for his dismissal on Saturday night was the reporting of Brock Lesnar’s return prior to the UFC’s announcement. Jumping on the news appeared to be the last straw for the UFC.
But the question is why Helwani was the scapegoat for the news leak. Shouldn’t the UFC be irate over the sources that fed Helwani the news? Likely, Helwani was the easiest target. Moreover, he has become a popular media figure in MMA. Perhaps a little too big. Helwani still has the contacts within the industry to obtain stories and unless the UFC can control his contacts, then he will still be a major MMA media figure.
Frankly, whether you notice it or not, the control of the news by an organization is not uncommon. The tenuous relationship between public relations and journalism was exemplified by this episode. While we may believe the UFC doesn’t need the media, it actually does. If you watched the PPV on Saturday, the UFC 200 promo for Jones-Cormier included interviews with 3 reporters (Kevin Iole, Case Keefer and John Morgan). The inclusion reflects the fact the UFC needs the media to legitimize fights.
Will the UFC suffer for what it has done? Of course not. If you look at bigger leagues and companies, the muting of news occurs all of the time. Helwani was not the chosen person to break the Lesnar story and the UFC decided to make an example out of him. It does appear that more bigger name, mainstream journalists are picking up on this issue. Will the UFC do anything to address the matter or will they just let it air out? The Stitch Duran situation was prickly but the UFC got through it fine. We shall see.
March 29, 2016
TMZ Sports reports that Jon Jones was taken into custody by police in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a violation of his probation. Jones was cited for drag racing last week and a judge had issued a warrant for his arrest as a result.
TMZ reports that Jones turned himself in to the Abuquerque police department on Tuesday morning. The terms of Jones’ probation last month required
EAG Sports, the management company representing Jones issued a statement per TMZ:
“Jon and his team are taking this very seriously and we will let the legal process play out.”
“We are confident he will be released once he has an opportunity to explain to the judge the facts in this case.”
There are reasons why professional teams, and even in college, there is a “security detail” for some players. It’s the ability to protect your investment and ensure that the player does not get into trouble. Perhaps the UFC attempted to help Jones and he denied their request. But, it’s clear that Jones was out late and got into trouble. Whether or not it was his fault, whether or not he will be vindicated in court does not matter. The legal ramifications might impact next month’s showdown with Daniel Cormier. Then again, it may not (see Adrien Broner, although his case has a different set of circumstances). What it does do is bring into question Jones’ decision making and those that help him and manage his career. With Jones on probation and an imminent return to the UFC, there needed to be someone to ensure that Jones did not run afoul of the law. Not only is Jones’ career in question, but a big business PPV next month. We will see how this plays out.
March 28, 2016
TMZ first reported that Jon Jones was cited for drag racing and 4 other moving violations on March 24th according to Albuquerque police. TMZ obtained the video of Jones being stopped by the police. It was quite clear from the video that Jones was agitated by the police questioning.
Jones appeared on The MMA Hour to give his side of the story. He became mad with the traffic stop after he learned he was being cited for drag racing. Jones adamantly denied the accusation. In the video, he called the police officer a “pig.”
This is just the latest in a series of moving violations involving Jones.
One has to wonder why the UFC has not paid (or maybe they did) for a car service up until Jones’ fight. As the facts come out, perhaps we may discover that the police officer was overzealous in stopping Jones. Or, it could be Jones making another poor decision. Whatever it may be, it’s another PR issue that the Jones team and the UFC must address. The traffic stop and subsequent violations do not appear to be nothing more than that but I would assume that the UFC is keeping an eye on Jones until April 23rd.
March 12, 2016
Conor McGregor appeared on Conan to promote the upcoming release of EA UFC 2 in the semi-regular segment of the show, “Clueless Gamer.”
McGregor and Conan Obrien talked and gave a little preview of the video game playing each other as each other (EA created a version of Conan for the game).
For those not familiar with the “Clueless Gamer” segment I refer you back to last year with the best example of how the show promotes a video game with the latest version of Street Fighter was Marshawn Lynch and Rob Gronkowski.
Despite the loss, it’s clear that McGregor is a great asset for the company as he is comfortable in front of the camera. His segment with Conan was a good way to promote the game. Late night shows attempt to be savvier when they are helping to promote an upcoming product launch. The “Clueless Gamer” segments are always entertaining and get you to see a glimpse of the upcoming game.
February 27, 2016
UFC newcomer Cody East was investigated extensively regarding his criminal history. East, a 12-1 fighter from New Mexico, was charged with multiple counts of criminal sexual behavior in September 2005 when he was a 17-year-old in high school. This was only one of several crimes involving the heavyweight prospect.
East was charged with 10 counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor, four counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor and one count of false imprisonment. East pleaded innocent to the charges.
In 2007, East was charged with four counts of first-degree rape among other criminal charges. The sordid details are here. Although he was acquitted of the rape charge, East found himself in more trouble in July 2007 when he allegedly assaulted several young girls.
There is more to his criminal history here in this extensive post on Bloody Elbow.
East’s manager indicated that the company conducted an “extensive background check” before offering him a UFC contract.
In addition, BE has obtained a statement from the UFC which details their background check including interviewing East’s former probation officer. The probation officer stated that East would be “a good candidate” for the UFC which we assume meant that East had gone through rehabilitation and counseling successfully and would not be a detriment to the company.
East is scheduled to debut at UFC 197.
The UFC instituted a policy in 2014 which requests background checks for fighters. Notably, the Will Chope incident comes to mind. Domestic violence is a sensitive subject and you might understand why the UFC conducted an independent investigation which might have been above and beyond the standard background check. One would hope that the investigation concluded that East has reformed his life since his criminal activity. Combat sports as well as other sports such as the NFL have athletes involved in domestic violence and it’s up to the leagues to determine whether it is worth its time and reputation to associate them with its brand.
February 17, 2016
Nike has severed ties with Manny Pacquiao after the Filipino fighter made derogatory remarks about same sex relationships. Despite an apology from Pacquiao, it was too little too late.
Pacquiao had been a Nike-sponsored fighter for over 8 years. He had a clothing line specifically for the fighter including a logo made by the apparel company.
Notably, Pacquiao’s opponent for his last fight on April 9th, Timothy Bradley, is sponsored by Nike.
In a statement issued by the company obtained by Darren Rovell, Nike stated, “We find Manny Pacquiao’s comments abhorrent. Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the right of the LGBT community. We no longer have a relationship with Manny Pacquiao.”
As stated by Rovell, Nike has nixed the contracts of sponsored athletes that have been in the storm of controversy for their actions including Lance Armstrong, Ray Rice, Oscar Pistorius and Adrian Peterson. It was initially thought that Jon Jones lost his Nike sponsorship due to a media day brawl with Daniel Cormier in 2014. However, he later clarified the issue about Nike.
It should be no surprise that Nike dropped Pacquiao for his comments. It was swift and decisive as it had to protect its own brand. While the Pacquiao Nike brand had not done much in terms of retail sales over the past couple years, he was still a big-name for the company. It will be interesting to see if Pacquiao’s other sponsors will feel the pressure to sever ties with him. In his last fight with Floyd Mayweather, it was reported that Paquiao would make $2.25 million off of sponsors on his trunks alone. The Bradley fight would not have commanded this much, but the backlash for his comments may mean less in sponsor pay for Pacquiao.