April 27, 2013
For MMA fans the thought of professional wrestling is beyond comparison with the real sport of the UFC. Yet, if you want to see pro wrestling in MMA, you need only look to Chael Sonnen.
“Anderson Silva you absolutely suck.” – Chael Sonnen post-fight Octagon interview at UFC 136.
In my opinion, the best start to a promo in UFC History with GSP’s admonishment of Matt Hughes: “I’m not impressed by your performance,” coming in second. Sonnen liberally uses old school pro wrestling microphone techniques to add a unique spin to get his point across.
While we may scoff at Sonnen’s antics, his brash, trash-talk has grabbed himself headlines and main events. How is it that Sonnen was on the short list of fighters sought to replace an injured Dan Henderson at UFC 151? At that time, Sonnen was competing in the Middleweight division. He was chosen (after Lyoto Machida) because the UFC knew he was reliable to sell the fight.
When Jones passed on taking the match with Sonnen, UFC 151 was off and Jones and Greg Jackson took the brunt of the blame for the cancellation. Sonnen took to social media to call out Jones and rail on the champ. Seeing this as an opportunity, the UFC put Jones and Sonnen together as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. Hoping for the social media beef to continue on television, the adversaries actually became friends on the show. As a result, the ratings did not do as well as expected. Thus, no momentum was gained from the show to the fight. Yet, Sonnen has picked up the banter for UFC 159.
Sonnen has done the media rounds from The Jim Rome Show to ESPN. He’s bragged, he’s boasted, he claims to be making $10 million in the Jon Jones fight. Is it because of the delivery that no one seems to challenge Sonnen on his proclamations?
He’s helped promote this fight despite receiving little assistance from the champion. But then again, does the one man sound-bite need a partner?
Sonnen’s unabashed mouth has paid dividends for his career. He will eventually become a full-time talking head for the UFC…and will be the best at doing that job. He looks the part on the set of UFC Tonight of television anchorman. He’s composed, articulate and even if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it sounds like he does.
While there have been claims that Sonnen may use inferences of race in promoting himself to subtly remind people that he is white and his opponent is not, it is hard to verify the truth or falsity of the claim. Old school pro wrestling is known for racial insensitivities (YouTube any wrestling promotion in the 1970s-80s…90s…) and you will find the divide between good and bad may be based just on that. We’re not saying this may be the cause for the inferences of race, but its a possibility. But, the defense or the accusations of race baiting are set aside here. The purpose is to address the promotion ability of Sonnen.
In the end, will Sonnen sell pay per views as he claims he will? Let’s take a look from when he first had the chance to get an extended amount of time in front of a microphone – his fight at UFC 117 with Anderson Silva.
UFC 117: Sonnen-Silva I – 600,000 PPV Buys
UFC 136: Sonnen-Stann – 225,000 PPV Buys
UFC 148: Sonnen-Silva II – 925,000 PPV Buys
This does not include Sonnen’s fight with Michael Bisping at UFC on Fox 2 in January 2012. Still, Sonnen sold UFC 117 almost all by himself. He put the heat on Silva and almost pulled off the upset. I suggest watching the documentary “Like Water” to see that fight from Silva’s perspective. Silva did assist in providing some heat to the rematch at 148. Yet, Sonnen was still the center of attention.
However, UFC 136 seemed like an anomaly. It marked the return of Sonnen from suspension. It was headlined by Maynard-Edgar and Aldo-Florian yet only received 225,000 buys. UFC 159 should do well because of Sonnen’s constant sell for the fight and Jones’ ability to fight.
Do people tire of Sonnen’s gimmick? Yes. Will people stop watching him because of it? Probably not. Sonnen’s tactics in promoting fights are questionable but one thing is certain, he makes his presence known and tries his best to make you take notice.
April 24, 2013
MMA Junkie reports that Matt Mitrione will be fighting Brendan Schaub at UFC on Fox 8 this July. After the UFC announced his suspension on April 8th for his comments on transgender fighter Fallon Fox, it appears he is no longer suspended.
As you recall, Mitrione’s comments on The MMA Hour which were directed at Fox drew the ire of the UFC as it issued a statement suspending Mitrione for a violation of the UFC Code of Conduct. The UFC even released a copy of its Code of Conduct as an apparent sign of transparency and a caution to other fighters.
It appears that Mitrione’s suspension has been lifted as just 16 days after the infraction, the UFC has set him up for a summer fight.
Hopefully the UFC will address the situation and the reasons why it lifted its suspension of Mitrione and did not address the conditions for its reinstatement. Its an obvious question and whether Mitrione has done his penance or if he has met with UFC officials to discuss what happened, an explanation should occur to satisfy the LBGT community and others that his comments may have offended. For the UFC, an explanation also would serve notice to the rest of the roster that the Code of Conduct is not an idle document and a suspension will not be in name only.
April 10, 2013
First, a comment on Mitrione. UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta told Yahoo! Sports:
It doesn’t mean he’ll [Mitrione] be cut, or suspended long-term, or even fined… But the UFC will review the incident and, at the very least, try to educate Mitrione about why his comments were harmful.
The UFC sought assistance from the Washington D.C. firm of Covington Burling to draft its Code of Conduct Policy. The written policy was patterned after those drafted by the NHL, MLB and the NFL.
The policy’s intent is not to punish, but to educate and prevent flippant, ignorant comments that mainly occur via social media.
The Code of Conduct which you can see here has a provision to appeal (page 4). If a fighter does not agree with the UFC determination, it may appeal via binding arbitration. The determination of the binding arbitration as well as the proceedings will be confidential and “subject only to such disclosures as required by law.”
The other interesting note is that the fighter who engages in misconduct “may be required to undergo clinical evaluation.” If the fighter does not agree to do this, there may be a separate basis for discipline. Thus, it sounds like fighters are bound to do this “or else.”
This Code of Conduct is likely a part of the contract the fighters sign with the UFC. Obviously, if there was a negotiating unit for the fighters (the “u” word), it might be able to bargain with the UFC for some of these requirements.
The Iole article itself, is a partial editorial about the aftermath of Mitrione’s comments on Fallon Fox.
April 8, 2013
Coming off of a First Round TKO Saturday, Matt Mitrione was feeling good as he returned to The MMA Hour for his “Mitrione Minute.” However, his “jokes” and then commentary on transgender fighter Fallon Fox got him suspended by the UFC.
The UFC suspended Mitrione from his UFC contract based upon a violation of the Code of Conduct included in each fighter’s contract.
Mitrione’s controversial comments came after a Lloyd Irvin “rape joke” which he actually had written down. Mitrone is a regular guest on Ariel Helwani’s show and a part of his schtick is jokes or thoughts he’s written down. Mitrione called Fox a “disgusting freak” and referred to her as “he”.
Mitrone stated that Fox is someone that wants to beat on women. He analogized Fallon Fox beating women to the Chris Brown and Rihanna situation.
Zuffa acted swiftly by suspending Mitrione and calling for an investigation:
“The UFC was appalled by the transphobic comments made by heavyweight Matt Mitrione today in an interview on the ‘MMA Hour.’
“The organization finds Mr. Mitrione’s comments offensive and wholly unacceptable and — as a direct result of this significant breach of the UFC’s code of conduct – Mr. Mitrione’s UFC contract has been suspended and the incident is being investigated.
“The UFC is a friend and ally of the LGBT community, and expects and requires all 450 of its athletes to treat others with dignity and respect.”
According to a Bleacher Report (via Bloody Elbow) article, the UFC Code of Conduct may include a financial penalty and community service. The community service may include working in the community for which the fighter made disparaging comments. This may mean Mitrione working with a transgender organization. Although less publicized as a violation of the Code of Conduct, you might recall tweets made by Forrest Griffin about rape and then Griffin appearing and making a donation at a women’s shelter.
For the UFC, Mitrione’s comments go beyond Fox. His comments may offend a whole community of people that may be fans of the UFC. If the UFC did not respond, it could have faced a storm of bad publicity. Moreover, the silence could be seen as an endorsement of Mitrone’s comments.
Maybe the “Mitrione Minute” on The MMA Hour should have been more like 45 seconds. Mitrone usually is off color and uncensored on the show but for him to have a great fight and then do something so foolish just to put himself over was unnecessary. What was ironic is that he said he was going to do whatever the UFC wanted him to do with respect to who he would fight next. Now, he’s going to have to hope the UFC lets him fight in the organization again.
April 3, 2013
UFC lightweight Jamie Varner is preparing for Reebok’s Spartan Race this Saturday in Las Vegas. The Spartan Race is an extreme obstacle course race involving mud, water, barbed water and fire.
The courses are specific to the location of the races and challenge the competitive spirit of the competitors. The races are held all over the United States and in select international countries. For Varner, its a good way to supplement his day job.
“I enjoy staying physically active between fights,” Varner said, “Pushing myself in events like the Spartan Race keeps my workouts in the gym fresh and exciting. Specifically for this upcoming race my strength and condition coach has put together a couple new workouts.”
Even though it is likely that Varner will focus on his next fight after Saturday, he doesn’t rule out racing in a future Spartan Race. Despite this being a training exercise for Varner, he hopes to land in the top portion of his division. Varner has gotten into crossfit which has helped him with cardio.
“Overall I think this will make me stronger and also help on fight night,” Varner added, “I know that Spartan Race has some amazing athletes and people who are used to these obstacles. I want to push myself to the limits and finish the race in an impressive time.”
The Spartan Race is gaining in popularity if you look at its social media following. It has over 2.6 million followers on Facebook and over 58,000 followers on twitter. Varner’s cross-training likely helps with his overall training and the race can grab some crossover fans. Certainly there are many young, adventurous Spartan Racers that are fans of the UFC.
There are many ways fighters cross-train to keep in fighting shape. The Diaz Brothers compete in triathlons, Benson Henderson competes in BJJ tournaments and Varner is a Spartan Racer.
April 2, 2013
Quite a stir was caused on Monday when Wanderlei Silva tweeted that he had been contacted by the UFC about filling in to fight Gegard Mousasi at UFC on Fuel TV 9. While many picked up on it as true, Silva was playing an April Fool’s Day prank.
As many reported and confirmed on Tuesday, Alexsander Gustafsson had an injury and was required to pull out of the fight. No opponent was announced by the UFC until Dana White named Gustafsson’s training partner as the new opponent.
UFC news my guys fight Saturday agains Musasi!!! What you think? UFC just contact me about Saturday,UFC acabeu de me ligar o que acha?
— Wanderlei Silva (@wandfc) April 1, 2013
Before confirmation of the injury, Silva took to twitter stating that he was going to fight Mousasi. Even Mousasi tweeted that he was not sure if he had an opponent on Monday. Silva revealed that it was all a part of April Fool’s Day.
H/T via Cagewriter
The power of social media. Without it, Silva probably would not have caused such a stir. Silva made a statement, followers took the statement as true and others picked up on it. It shows how people consume their news and its a cautionary tale for media (including us) to ensure what we report is true. Even looking through MMA tweets about Silva possibly fighting on Saturday there was little verification on whether the report was true. Further, there was no mention that it was April 1st…and the possibility that the story might be a hoax. What Silva’s ruse did amounted to was a stealth PR campaign to get some attention. Its something that happens on twitter all the time.
A recent post on StiffJab outlines the problem through the example of false reports of boxer LaMont Peterson failing a drug test. There is a need to be first, get page views and followers. Many times the sacrifice comes with a cost. While Silva’s “prank” was relatively harmless, it did highlight an issue with social media and reporting.
March 31, 2013
Last week Georges St. Pierre came under criticism for wearing a gi with the Rising Sun flag inspired by Imperial Japan. The Korean Zombie Chang Sun Jung wrote an open letter to GSP on KZ’s Facebook page criticizing his apparel.
In response, Hayabusa has taken the product off the market and GSP added a personal apology for those it may have offended.
KZ compared the Rising Sun flag similar to the German Hakenkreuzflagge.
The Rising Sun Flag and symbol was used by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. It is a symbol of oppression for many Koreans as expressed in KZ’s letter.
This may not be just a publicity stunt but a legitimate issue. As Maggie Hendricks of Cagewriter points out, some South Koreans took offense to a Rising-Sun inspired uniform worn by Japanese gymnasts at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
Fortunately, Hayabusa and GSP acted swiftly and issued an apology in pulling the gi off the market. Via Hayabusa Facebook:
Since Georges St-Pierre wore our walkout gi at UFC 158 we have received attention surrounding the negative connotation of the rising sun graphic used. The last thing we want is to offend or alienate anyone with the choice of design on our products.
We at Hayabusa have the utmost respect for culture and history and appreciate all of our customers worldwide. As such, we accept full responsibility for this design and are taking all complaints and comments very seriously.
The gi worn by GSP will not be brought to market. In addition, we will be very conscious of this specific design element when developing future communication materials and products.
Please accept our sincerest apology for any offence this has caused. If you have any questions or comments regarding this matter, please feel free to discuss it with us at email@example.com. One of our representatives will be happy to assist you.
Hayabusa Fightwear Inc.
GSP also issued a public apology on his Facebook page: ” I’d like to also personally apologize to anyone who was offended by this. I am very sorry, that was never my intention.”
It was a good move by Hayabusa and GSP to act swiftly to avoid further conflict. Certainly Hayabusa realizes its market and it does not want to offend those in it especially after the origins of the design have been highlighted as a symbol of oppression. Which begs the question, why didn’t research and development for Hayabusa realize the negative connotations of the Rising Sun design. The Rising Sun design was worn by GSP in his last fight vs Carlos Condit (although the Rising Sun design was black on his gi). So, this was not a new design for UFC 158; just a different color.
KZ’s letter was pointed, articulate and argued his point of view without being confrontational. Obviously, one might also think his letter as a way to garner some press on the heels of one of the bigger PPVs in over a year. Still, if KZ honestly believed that the Rising Sun flag is a sign of oppression that he felt deeply about he should be applauded for taking a stand and pointing out a wrong.
There are many designs and logos that are culturally and racially insensitive that go by without being noticed because no one complains or the complaints fall on deaf ears. Certainly pulling the gis from sale is a business hit for Hayabusa but it immediately saw that the PR hit would outweigh the economic benefit. In the end, all involved handled the issue without it getting bigger than it could be.
March 16, 2013
Most media and fans think pre-fight press/teleconferences are pretty boring with media asking formulated questions and the fighters answering with formulaic answers. This goes out the window with Nick Diaz.
Diaz went on a verbal tirade last week at the teleconference at no one and everyone at the same time. While he expressed disdain for GSP, he also claimed he respected where the champ was at in his career. He also lobbied for change in the sport which would make the sport more entertaining.
At this week’s press conference, Diaz told us who sold “wolf tickets” and inferred that GSP was taking steroids. Stuff like that could get you sued (ask Floyd Mayweather).
Nick Diaz is a person that has a hard time articulating his opinions but it seems like (most) everyone understands. Diaz is the real Stone Cold Steve Austin from WWE fame. Yes, Austin was based on real feelings of the man playing the character, but Diaz is real. At both press happenings for this event, he’s brought up the differences in classes; his working class/poverty-stricken background versus GSP’s affluent upbringing. To be honest, I’m not sure GSP’s childhood can be characterized as affluent. Yet, it works for Diaz as its not the fuel you put in the tank but how you use it.
Diaz is loyal to his Stockton roots. He’s proud of where he’s from and revealing how he’s seen his friends shot is a personal tragedy that goes beyond the UFC. Again, it’s what fuels him but not the issue at hand.
As for Diaz’s media relations style, it works. The controversial comments had many trying to find Diaz’s pressers online. It would be inadvisable to most athletes to use expletives and infer your opponents use steroids, but that’s him. For someone to adopt this to get attention would be foolish.
Diaz does his own thing which includes not appearing at mandatory appearances. Of course its unprofessional but “no-showing” events is something that occurs with professional athletes in other sports. Diaz is unrefined and genuine and that’s an attribute that makes him popular. It is also could be the problem.
Diaz is a fighter. He’s a tortured soul that finds the world always turning its back on him. But, he uses this to make him successful. Many people empathize with Diaz’s plight. His working class roots are seen by many and its one of the reasons why he has so many fans. Also, his “do my own thing” attitude also ingratiates him to many wishing they could do the same to their employer. Its what made Stone Cold such a popular figure in pro wrestling.
Its undeniable that Diaz has gotten under GSP’s skin for the simple fact that he’s pushed GSP over the edge personally. In the end, if Diaz wins Saturday, his world is going to change and he will be asked (read: forced) to play “the game.” The irony of the situation is that with a win, Diaz’s hard work and dedication to being a martial artist will mean he will become “the man”; which means the money and fame that should come with it. It would be an interesting next chapter in the life of Diaz.
February 25, 2013
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at UFC 157 from The Honda Center in Anaheim, California. In the main event, Ronda Rousey defeated Liz Carmouche in the first ever women’s bout in the UFC.
Rousey submits Carmouche, UFC wins
Saturday night’s title fight between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche could not have gone better unless it had gone 5 rounds…or even 2. But, Rousey’s trademark armbar with just seconds left in the first round left the crowd and many fans satisfied with the main event.
The fight legitimized women’s MMA. Rousey did what she does (i.e., armbar) and Carmouche showed that she was not a tomato can. In the end, the UFC ended up winning as it showed that the women could put on a show. It took a risk in putting this as the main event and the women came through. Now the only issue is where it goes from here.
Machida wins, the fans do not
This fight complemented the main event because it was not an entertaining fight. If Rousey-Carmouche were not on top of the card it would have been this fight. Fortunate for everyone, the UFC went with the women. With that said, it was a tactical fight that was slow paced. Whether it was Machida’s in and out or Henderson’s constant measuring of the Dragon, the fight lacked any excitement.
Machida will get another shot at Jon Jones but after watching this fight, I’m not sure if that excites anyone.
Faber chokes out Menjivar
The details of jiu jitsu. If you have the fight on DVR, during the finish watch how Urijah Faber uses his non-choking arm to peel back the forehead of Ivan Menjivar which exposed his neck despite Menjivar’s attempts to tuck his chin. With the neck exposed, Faber slid in his arm and coupled with the body triangle Menjivar was forced to tap. The peel back of the arm is what Carmouche was unable to do with Rousey when the two were in a similar position.
An impressive win for Faber as he looked fresh and reminiscent of his time in the WEC. However, the rub is that he’s in a place where he’s better than the mid-card but not good enough to claim a title. We’ll see what the UFC does with Faber.
Attendance and Gate
Announced at the post-fight press conference, the Honda Center was sold out with 15,525 for a gate of $1.4 million. There was no confirmation on paid attendance versus comps.
As we detailed here, it was the highest attended event at The Honda Center which included UFC 121: Velasquez versus Lesnar. It also bested the two Affliction events held at The Honda Center although Affliction: Banned earned more ($2.1M gate per MMA Payout’s Blue Book).
It seems as though Anaheim is the “go to” venue outside of Vegas. This venue worked for this event. The Honda Center is down the road from Rousey’s home in the LA area and up the road from Carmouche’s in San Diego. Most fans could travel easily up or down Interstate 5 to support their fighters. Southern California is a hub for MMA and is more progressive than most areas of the country. Sure, it’s in Orange County but it’s in Anaheim, not Newport Beach.
As reported previously, the bonuses were $50,000 each and were awarded below:
Fight of the Night: Dennis Bermudez v. Matt Grice
Submission of the Night: Kenny Robertson
KO of the Night: Robbie Lawler
Promotion of the Fight
Rousey was on every media outlet imaginable: ESPN, SI, The Jim Rome Show, Time and HBO Sports to name a few. The UFC stated that this event received the most media attention ever and Rousey has received more media than Brock Lesnar. The Rousey media blitz drew support from mainstream notables that gave their support via twitter.
— Stuart Scott (@StuartScott) February 24, 2013
Congratulations Mohr Stories veteran @rondarousey . Amazing fight. Brilliant finish.
— Jay Mohr (@jaymohr37) February 24, 2013
Who all is watching Rouzey vs Carmouche?!?! Major night for women!!! Lets entertain the world!!! Who you going for? #fb
— Hope Solo (@hopesolo) February 24, 2013
The UFC pitched gay media to focus on the Liz Carmouche her story. The UFC did a good job in marketing Carmouche as a pioneer for the gay community without exploiting her sexual orientation. It also stressed the fact that she was a U.S. Marine.
With Danica Patrick competing at the Daytona 500, media were eager to jump on the women’s weekend. Realistically, it’s hard to blame the media focus: it is historical, out of the ordinary and an easy lead that would get readers/page views.
The 3 part UFC Primetimes were especially good this time around. It had more meat to it for the obvious reasons. Both fighters had compelling stories that drew you in. It’s what the Primetimes are supposed to do. It seemed more like the good HBO 24/7s especially the last 5 mins of the first and third episodes. Good narration and great writing made the shows.
The night’s sponsors in the Octagon included Xyience, MetroPCS, UltimatePoker.com, Toyo Tires, Dodge Dart, TapouT, new sponsor Head and Shoulders and Bud Light in the center. Corn Nuts also sponsored the corner cam.
Rousey was sponsored by the UFC as she donned the UFC-Monster headphones and wore UFC sponsored gear although I believe that Lululemon Athletic made the fight gear. Will double check on that. She also had a Xyience patch on her shorts.
In addition to inside the Octagon, Rousey also has deal with Fuji gis.
Carmouche had several sponsors including VA Home Mortgage (which sponsored several fighters on the card), Salesforce and Torque.
Henderson had his Twitter and Facebook handles on his shorts in addition to Clinchgear.
Machida was sponsored by official UFC sponsors Bony Acai and Head and Shoulders in addition to Venum,
Kenny Robertson won submission of the night and also gets the award for best sponsor: Mason Funeral Home. A funeral home sponsoring a UFC fighter? Everyone dies so it is in the UFC demo.
Josh Koscheck and Lyoto Machida are still sponsored by Lugz. I didn’t know that the company was still around. But, these two have had long-term sponsor deals with the company.
Post-UFC 157 Headlines
What’s next for women’s MMA – It was a good debut for the women in the UFC. It was an exciting, competitive match and no blood. There was the concern of Rousey almost losing her top but the UFC avoided that issue. So, what’s next? Rousey will be a draw the next time she fights. But, the bigger issue is what happens when other women fight. The UFC would not be able to get as much buzz for another women’s fight if Rousey is not in it. We’ll see how the UFC uses women’s MMA to complement the male card.
Machida next for Jones – Is anyone excited to see this rematch? Perhaps the UFC hoped for Henderson to win here to get a redo for UFC 151. I’d rather see Alexander Gustafsson get the shot.
Odds and ends
- Kenny Robertson will be teaching class on Monday at his “day” job.
- I was sitting on the tweet that Henderson was going to knock the head off of Machida’s shoulders all night. It didn’t happen.
- I wonder if there was a proposition bet on whether Carmouche would have gotten out of the 1st round. If so, that would have been exciting.
- It’s obvious that the UFC has a working relationship with Invicta as Carmouche’s coach wore the shirt and the logo was seen during the UFC Primetimes. Zuffa wouldn’t let this happen unless there was a business relationship. If women’s MMA starts to take off could we see another Zuffa purchase? More likely I could see the UFC using Invicta like a farm system and call up fighters to fight on a UFC card.
With all of the great media attention the UFC received for Saturday’s event, it will be interesting to see how much of the media attention will convert to PPV buys. It reached out to more media than usual in getting attention for this event. Rousey and Carmouche have been great ambassadors for women’s MMA. But, I think it will boil down to whether the casual viewer can stomach the possibility of seeing a woman busted open and bleeding like Joe Lauzon at UFC 155. Or, can they watch an arm be broken right in front of their eyes. These are questions that seem silly but will really determine whether women’s MMA can succeed with the UFC.
With that being said, a low to mediocre PPV buy rate would be disappointing considering the amount of public relations and press buzz the UFC received for this bout. Yet, how many new viewers can be added for this event? Would the backstory of Rousey and the novelty of the women’s fight be enough to convert non-UFC followers to pay for the PPV. Last year’s PPV average hovered around 450,000 buys. If UFC 157 hit the average it would be a success.
February 22, 2013
UFC 157 will go down as a historical night for the company regardless of the PPV buys. For the first time the UFC has put its faith in women behind Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche. While we all know about Rousey, Carmouche is a compelling story that complements the company’s first foray into women’s MMA.
The UFC is making a calculated risk by reaching beyond its normal demographics of young males in order to grab some mainstream appeal. Dana White has made a 180 degree reversal from his original stance that women would never fight in the UFC. Rousey was the perfect fighter to be the first woman signed to a UFC contract. Under the radar from the Rousey media storm is the fact that Liz Carmouche is also a pioneer in the sport. Not only is Carmouche participating in the first women’s fight in the UFC, she is openly gay.
The UFC marketed Carmouche’s sexual orientation smartly. It has promoted the accomplishment while not exploiting it. The UFC Primetimes have detailed Carmouche and coming out as gay even detailing how she met her girlfriend. In its pre-fight press, the UFC targeted gay media outlets to garner coverage for this demographic.
“I think the UFC is not shy about promoting her sexual orientation,” said Jim Buzinski of Outsports.com “Having an openly gay fighter is great in terms of showing that gays and lesbians are everywhere, even in the octagon.”
“The UFC’s inclusion of Liz is fantastic for two reasons,” stated Aaron McQuade of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), “First, it introduces their [UFC] fans to an openly gay fighter who’s considered one of the best in the world. Second, it shows their [UFC] fans that the world of mixed martial arts is open and accepting of all people, no matter who they are.“
The outreach to gay media should get the interest of some readers that may make an impulse buy of the PPV based on their support of a gay fighter. It might also help that it will be the first time women fight in the male-dominated UFC. With respect to Carmouche, she has been steadfast in being comfortable in who she is and what she stands for in the eyes of others. For those fans of Carmouche, she calls her followers “Lizbos,” an obvious play on words.
White’s opinionated stance on issues helped with the UFC marketing Carmouche. At the recent media scrum for the event, White respected Carmouche for coming out while stating he could care less about her sexual orientation. White’s comments imply that he doesn’t care whether Carmouche were gay, straight, bisexual or all of the above. When asked how would it be if a male fighter were to come out, White stated that the UFC would not treat them any different. I tend to agree with this comment although it would be clear that the UFC would likely market this individual (as it is doing with Carmouche) to the gay community.
White’s stance on the subject can be seen as a progressive look on societal changes. It can also be seen as taking advantage of a situation its been presented. His policy change on women’s MMA likely stems from the popularity of Rousey, Zuffa’s acquisition of Strikeforce and a need to inject some life into its flat PPV business.
Carmouche’s background is relevant because its rare in sports that an athlete comes out. We need only look to the NFL to see that even in the most popular sport in the United States, its players may not embrace an openly gay athlete. Earlier this month, San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver made anti-gay comments during the week preceding the Super Bowl. Interesting for Culliver when he plays for a team that actively markets toward the gay community.
For the UFC’s part, there has not been a backlash about Carmouche or homosexuals in the lead up to the fight this Saturday. Of course, it’s likely that opponents of homosexual athletes participating in MMA have kept quiet to avoid the ire of White.
Despite the UFC marketing of Carmouche, the fact that Carmouche is openly gay seems to be an afterthought in this fight as Rousey has been the center of attention. Carmouche is articulate, a role model for women and is good for the sport of women’s MMA. The only problem is that her best fight was a loss to Marloes Coenen. Ironically, Dan Henderson main evented that night. Carmouche is the overwhelming underdog here. Still, with the shocking KO of King Mo in Bellator, this sport doesn’t have gimme fights.