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UFC in Fistfight Uproar- Jenna Jameson and Tito Ortiz in the Middle of It?

Richard Abowitz writes on The Movable Buffet blog:

Las Vegas- One local journalist who covered Saturday’s Ultimate Fighting Championship card at MGM’s Grand Garden Arena wrote me an e-mail, offering this impression: “UFC attempts to be more controlling than other sports. UFC sounds like it’s trying to hem in media.”

We were discussing his experience as well as the credential application that UFC demanded that I sign to be approved to cover the fight. The application specified everything from the trivial, forbidding my wearing certain clothes, to the ridiculous, controlling where and when I was allowed to write about the event forever more. In explaining this bizarre credential application that most would call not an application but a contract, UFC events manager Diann Brizzolara wrote me: “We have the right to protect our brand and how coverage taken from our events is disseminated.” Actually, UFC does not have that right to control “how coverage taken…is disseminated” at all. This rather unique privilege in fact is what the credential application is trying to give them a back door claim to having. Brizzolara continued, “Other sports leagues, such as the NFL, have similar regulations printed on the back of their press passes.” Two points: Similar isn’t identical, and regulations on the back of a press pass are a wish list because they do not require my signature of agreement. Oh and the obvious, the UFC is no NFL.

Interestingly, in another e-mail, Brizzolara also wrote to me defensively that the UFC credential application was “actually reviewed by our COO (who also has a law degree).” Huh? Who is the COO’s client: UFC or media?

Credential applications are supposed to be basic as they are designed to confirm only the legitimacy and assignment of media to an event. The standard application answers two questions: is this writer a legitimate journalist and does the writer have an assignment? Since it is an application and not a contract, it is therefore revealing that UFC felt the need to have this routine document examined by a COO with a law degree.

By the way, the writer I was exchanging e-mails with who covered this weekend’s fight was not asked to sign any credential application. He was not even told that the application existed. Like me, he would never sign such a form. Could it be that UFC has a problem with the Buffet? Not according to an MGM spokesperson: “He [the other writer] had tickets to the event and no credential.” Of course, that offer of review tickets without a credential was never made to me.

But why would UFC have any problems with the Buffet? Certainly this was not the case two years ago, the last time I covered a UFC fight. At that time, there was no discussion of a credential application at all.

Of course, since then I have attempted to question famously touchy UFC head Dana White about his issues with fighter Tito Ortiz and Jenna Jameson, pictured. That request for an interview with White was at first rebuffed and then ignored. Now, when it comes to me, a credential application with all sorts of stipulations is required for a press pass. I wonder what they are so worried about?

Here is one possibility: if credentialed, I would have been there this weekend to view the after-fight press conference fight. According to Robin Leach’s blog, that press conference turned into such a fiasco with such vitriol and chaos that the police were called and “UFC officials immediately ended the press conference.” Eventually order was restored and the press conference resumed.

So, was the problem caused by two emotionally high-strung fighters who could not settle it in the ring? No. Once again the situation was apparently a conflict between White and Ortiz and Jameson. Apparently, White wanted Ortiz at the press conference about as much as he wanted me there.

Of course, next time, I can always just buy a ticket and go blog about the UFC event. But that might not be necessary. UFC’s moment may be passing anyway. Ortiz, the league’s biggest star, now is done with UFC, and the league is facing increased competition.

On his blog, Leach also reports about speculation on the future of Ortiz and for White’s UFC: “Will Tito join a rival Mixed Martial Arts league or retire and how will White take on his more bitter rivals in the XC Extreme Sports league that starts its CBS TV network coverage next Saturday night from Newark, New Jersey. If a ratings success I am reliably told three further fights would be broadcast live from Vegas.”

And, of course, network fights on CBS are likely to get many more viewers than pay-for-view and cable fights. That would begin to make UFC obsolete even as it approaches mainstream status. When I first wrote about a UFC fight in 2006 that league was bringing unprecedented attention to mixed martial arts. But maybe now it is time for the next big sensation. I wonder if EliteXC requires select press to sign a credential application?

UPDATE: An MGM spokesperson writes: “I can clarify the incident about the post-fight press conference — there was NO incident at all — the officers were simply there to monitor the situation in the event anything got out of control. Everything was fine and so you know they attend every event we have whether it’s boxing, UFC or concerts.”


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