MEDIA & BUSINESS: Why the UFC should embrace debate with the controversial sports commentator Skip Bayless

By Robert Vallejos, MMATorch Specialist

Why the UFC should embrace debate with Skip Bayless

On the two days prior to the UFC’s historic debut at Madison Square Garden, the UFC’s television partner will also present its newest show “Undisputed” from New York City. “Undisputed’ is a debate-centric show featuring NFL Hall of Fame Tight End Shannon Sharpe and the very polarizing former ESPN personality Skip Bayless.

Bayless is one of the most reviled pundits in sports media, but he is an asset that the UFC should capitalize on.

To be clear, Bayless has his reputation for good reason.

Bayless has made a career out attacking athletes on untrue or oversimplified premises. He once called into question Troy Aikman’s sexuality, repeatedly referred to LeBron James as “Prince James,” and unreasonably tied his wagon to the failing football career of Tim Tebow.

While Bayless may be a rhetorical disaster on a daily basis, he remains on-air because his incendiary remarks often garner a response from the audience and sometimes the athletes he is criticizing.

That is where the UFC can benefit.

Unlike athletes in other major American sports, UFC fighters have an equal responsibility to raising their profile as they do improving their athletic skills.

A public feud with Bayless keeps an athletes name at the forefront of whatever Bayless’s current platform is, plus his responses go viral on a regular basis. If the opportunity arises, it would behoove any UFC fighter to fire back at Bayless. The only barrier might actually be Bayless’s unwillingness to engage in UFC debate. Bayless has admittedly not been a UFC follower. However, after UFC 202, Bayless claimed to be “all-in.”

However, since UFC 202 “Undisputed,” he has limited most of his UFC discourse to the click-bait discussion of Connor McGregor facing off against Floyd Mayweather.

Bayless’s temperance on a topic he knows so little about will only last so long. Once he latches onto a legitimate UFC topic or fighter, he will not let go.

It is a commonly held belief that in the sports/social media landscape of 2016 that athletes are best served by not engaging in discourse with carnival barkers like Bayless, but Bayless is no common pundit. In the past when Bayless has been confronted, it usually goes badly for him. Add in the reality that the special brand of self-promotion that UFC fighters engage in is tailored make for a takedown of Bayless, and as  a result a heightened profile for the fighters.

The UFC’s two biggest current stars, Connor McGregor and Ronda Rousey have shown that having adversaries outside of the Octagon helps sell fights within the UFC. In the past, FS1 and the UFC have made no effort to create even the slightest hint of an adversarial relationship. After all, watch any UFC interview with Colin Cowherd and you will hear a two-way conversation about everything the UFC is doing right.

Despite their usually cozy relationship, FS1 is now run by Jamie Horowitz, who is a notorious Bayless enabler who places a premium on Bayless being as controversial as possible. If the paths of Bayless and the UFC cross over the next few weeks, fighters have a golden opportunity to build their brand.

Someone like Bayless, who carries such cloud of darkness, can provide a shining ray of promotion for the UFC.

Supplemental reading for UFC 205

To say that UFC 205 is stacked would be an understatement. From the prelims to the final fights, the card is littered with stars. Keeping track of who all the fighters are can get confusing.

Here I have complied links with one story regarding every fighter that will be featured on the UFC 205 card. They are a mix of profiles, perspectives from hometown media, newsworthy events, and even some dated pieces that are now interesting to read with the benefit of hindsight.


Liz Carmouche

Stefanie Loh, San Diego Union Tribune: Win, lose – Carmouche’s mom can’t watch

Katlyn Chookagian

Mak Ojutiku, nj.comHoboken bartender Katlyn Chookagian chasing her UFC title dreams

Tim Boetsch

Republican Journal Staff: Boetsch aims for big night in The Big Apple at UFC 205

Rafael Natal

Guilherme Cruz, mmafighting.comRafael Natal aims for top 5 status by the end of 2016

Jim Miller

Matthew Stanmyre, nj.comUFC fighter Jim Miller bakes bread, brews beer and beats up opponents

Thiago Alves

Gareth A Davies, The Telegraph: UFC: Thiago Alves lucky in more ways than one

Vicente Luque

Guilherme Cruz, Born in New Jersey, Vicente Luque explains why he’s fighting at home in Brasilia

Belal Muhammad

Bill Watts, UFC: Belal Muhammad’s Trip From the Streets of Chicago

Tim Kennedy

Ben Fowlkes, Why Tim Kennedy Won’t Stop Talking About the Military, Even if You Want Him To

Rashad Evans

Mike Meiler, Niagara Gazette: At 36, Evans still going strong

Michael Johnson

Steven Marrocco.  Meet “The Ultimate Fighter 12” cast: Michael Johnson, a producer’s worst nightmare

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Karim Zidan Khabib’s father explains why his son wrestled a bear as a child

Frankie Edgar

A.J. Perez, UFC fighter Frankie Edgar remains true to his Jersey roots as he prepares to take on B.J. Penn

Jeremy Stephens

Jake Chastain, Felony Assault Charges Against Jeremy Stephens Dropped

Raquel Pennington

David Ramsey, Colorado Springs Gazette: Ramsey: Colorado Springs mom loves her daughter, who fights in a cage

Miesha Tate

Justin Gimse, Tacoma Weekly World Champion Miesha Tate returns to her roots

Donald Cerrone

Geoff Grammer, Albuquerque Journal Still wild, ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone has evolved into respected UFC vet

Kelvin Gastelum


Yoel Romero

Marc Raimondi, UFC’s Yoel Romero ‘always going to hurt’ after decision to leave Cuba

Chris Weidman

Mark La Monica, Newsday: UFC champion Chris Weidman of Baldwin is living the dream

Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Jim Edwards, Coach Explains Why Karolina Kowalkiewicz Will ‘Shock the World’ at UFC 205

Joanna Jędrzejczyk

John Gooden, UFC 185: Joanna Jedrzejczyk profile – just for kicks….and a UFC world title

Stephen Thompson

Scott Keeler, Thompson’s legend grows with UFC main event win

Tyron Woodley

Dave Matter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Woodley blazes trail to UFC glory

Eddie Alvarez

Matt Mullin, UFC champ Eddie Alvarez returns to rough Philly neighborhood that helped shape him

Conor McGregor

Dave Doyle, Irish folk hero: Conor McGregor goes from rags to riches with one brutal knockout

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S MEDIA & BUSINESS COLUMN: Quantitative analysis of the drawing power of UFC titles over the last five years

(Robert Vallejos writes a new Specialist column for MMATorch titled “Media & Business” focused on, you guessed it, the media coverage of MMA and the business side of MMA. He is fascinated by the presentation, business decisions, media strategy, and press coverage of both UFC and MMA as a whole, and will bring that curiosity to explore and delve into that side of MMA to his weekly Specialist column here at MMATorch. He explains his approach: “As a sport in its relative infancy, MMA does not receive the same level of scrutiny and informed analysis from the sports media as other more established entities. This is why it is vital for independent outlets such MMATorch to grow, while featuring a variety of voices. Unlike mainstream outlets, MMATorch is not beholden to any organization. Therefore I believe it is essential for individuals such as myself to explain not only the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’ of MMA.”)

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