Alright, fine it might actually happen. It may still be highly unlikely, but a potential boxing match between UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor and undefeated boxing legend Floyd Mayweather is now at least a tangible proposition.
While the bout may still be a fever dream, the fact that all involved parties are openly negotiating monetary figures does raise an eyebrow at those in the MMA media who have largely treated this fight as low hanging fruit.
Over the course of the past month many (including this column) have defended the MMA media as a necessary entity that helps fight fans sift through click bait like a MMA/boxing pay-per-view extravaganza. However, this is now a very newsworthy MMA item and also one that fight fans were told to ignore.
Stepping away from the MMA bubble, overall trust in the news media is lower than at any other time in modern history. Consider the 2016 United States Presidential Election. (No this point has nothing to do with politics, it’s just an analogy that is easily relatable) For months political pundits assured the public that a certain result would not occur, but alas the opposite occurred, and those same pundits were left looking like they had mislead the public.
Surely an inaccurate forecast by the MMA media would have a much smaller impact, but in theory a similar result would put a negative shade on a group that Dana White and the UFC are actively working to delegitimize.
However, unlike the political media sphere, it is much simpler to go back and assess what the public has actually been told by the MMA media and examine the validity of these claims.
To do this most effectively, it is appropriate to look directly at the top.
Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com is arguably the most respected person MMA journalism, and perhaps the person that has been the most dismissive of a potential McGregor-Mayweather showdown.
But what has he actually said?
In May of 2016 when rumors about the fight began to swirl Helwani took to Twitter and wrote: “Absolutely no truth to this McGregor-Mayweather story. I can’t believe people are actually falling for this nonsense… McGregor has a UFC contract. He can’t just go fight Mayweather. And b) do you really think he would agree to those pay terms? C’mon now.”
Absolutely no truth to this McGregor-Mayweather story. I can't believe people are actually falling for this nonsense. … (Cont'd)
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) May 6, 2016
A) McGregor has a UFC contract. He can't just go fight Mayweather. And b) do you really think he would agree to those pay terms? C'mon now.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) May 6, 2016
In the wake of UFC 205, Helwani went on “The Dan Patrick Show” to address the resurfacing rumors:
“I think it’s absolutely ludicrous. I think It’s a B.S. storyline perpetuated by these perpetuated by these morning debate shows, cause they know nothing about mixed martial arts and this is the only thing they could grab on to… It’s ludicrous, it’s embarrassing, and any journalist who actually seriously debated this on Monday, two days after Conor made history at MSG, should be ashamed of themselves”
-Ariel Helwani on the 11/17/2016 episode of “The Patrick Show”
In the wake of the offer by Dana White, Helwani tweeted on Jan. 13: “Again, an unprecedented amount of hurdles. But, everyone involved stands to make a lot of money, hence the exploring. Worth monitoring now.”
Again, an unprecedented amount of hurdles. But, everyone involved stands to make a lot of money, hence the exploring. Worth monitoring now. https://t.co/bYXlpZmxhb
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 13, 2017
In response to some of the criticism he was receiving via Twitter, Helwani reiterated that his main issue with the discussion of this fight has been timing.
While Helwani does appear to waffle a little bit, his position has remained fairly consistent. He has maintained that the fight has too many moving parts to become a reality, but now must be taken more seriously.
His position has only slightly evolved with the inclusion of more information.
Despite the legitimacy of what Helwani has said in the past, if the fight does occur, he will certainly take criticism for “getting it wrong.”
While the criticism will have some level of credence, the barbs that will be potentially thrown at Helwani and others might be largely misguided.
The MMA media will have failed, not at examining known facts and making informed predictions, but will have underestimated the power of viral media on professional fight promotion.
If the fight happens, the credit should be given not to the morning talk shows, but to likes of TMZ, who have essentially acted as moderator between Dana White, Conor McGregor, and Floyd Mayweather.
The MMA media do not need be lectured about their credibility in this situation, but perhaps everyone will need to reassess their ability to predict the future.
BELLATOR DOES A GOOD JOB WITH CHAEL SONNEN VS. TITO ORTIZ HYPE
Although it might seem like eons ago that Bellator MMA signed Chael Sonnen, we are mere days away from the Jan. 21 tilt between Sonnen and Tito Ortiz.
To promote the fight, Spike TV aired an hour long documentary titled, “Countdown to Ortiz vs Sonnen.”
For a fight that has been lambasted in MMA circles, the documentary does a fine job of promoting two fighters who are in the twilight of their career. The UFC name-dropping is a little excessive, but the promotion is solid.
While Ortiz often comes across as if he is reading a script, the show features Sonnen in his natural trash-talking element.
The undercard is only given one segment of promotion, but they are presented before the conclusion of the Sonnen-Ortiz segments, thus forcing the audience to view them in their entirety.
Also of note is the narration of sports media veteran Dana Jacobson, who offers a different cadence to the rest of the program.
Bellator has made the show available online HERE.
A WEEK OF GOOD READS…
The transition into 2017 has been devoid of MMA events, but has yielded several quality pieces for the MMA reader to get wrap themselves up in.
Here are some notable pieces:
•Scott Harris on fighter pay: For Love, Not Money: How Low Fighter Pay Is Undermining MMA
•Mike Ciappetta on the reemergence of Holly Holm: Holly Holm Poised to Steal Spotlight Back After Ronda Rousey’s Loss
•Chuck Mindenhall on the state of MMA: What Will the UFC Look Like in 2017?
•Chuck Mindenhall on the nostalgia of B.J. Penn: A B.J. Penn victory over Yair Rodriguez would be like a reunion to simpler times
•Ben Fowlkes on Meryl Streep’s MMA comments: Is MMA one of ‘the arts’? And if not, do we all need to shut up about Meryl Streep?
•Combat Sports Law on Mark Hunt’s lawsuit: Mark Hunt Sues UFC / Lesnar Alleging Doping Fraud Conspiracy
•Jordan Breen on Mark Hunt’s lawsuit: Opinion: Is Mark Hunt going to get paid or not?
CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: MEDIA & BUSINESS: MMA “hot takes” are annoying, but a sign of UFC’s cultural penetration + SI Media Podcast review