Luke Thomas says the mixed martial arts (MMA) media’s inability to self-reflect is partly responsible for the contentious relationship between outlets and their readersship.
The COVID-19 pandemic drew countless lines in the sand between any combination of fans, media and promoters. The online tension reminded this writer of a statement Todd Duffee made at UFC Vancouver media week in Sept. 2019: Duffee accused media of being anti-fighter. MMA Mania conducted an online poll asking fans who is most responsible for tearing down fighters: fans, media or promoters.
The result was a resounding thumbs down for the media.
“That’s a complicated one,” Thomas said on the SBN MMA season premiere of ‘The Insiders’ (video above). “Partly, yeah, I do think it’s justified. MMA media is allergic to self-examination. They can’t stand the idea that they’ve done anything wrong. That, to me, is a dramatic mistake.
“It is true that there are really powerful forces perhaps unfairly steering public opinion in a way that does not reflect the true job that MMA media does?” he continued. “I’m certainly willing to consider that. I’m equally willing to consider that MMA media has dug its own grave.... Here is how you know this: Every time I bring up a criticism of a fighter, some fighter might say something, maybe not. Some fans might say something. Every time I bring up a criticism of the MMA media, however anodyne, they jump at me immediately. They cannot accept the idea that they’ve done anything wrong. Or they’ll pay lip service to the marginal stuff.”
Thomas reaffirmed that media does not exclusively shoulder the blame: “Again, it is true there might be powerful forces swaying opinion. It is also true that there are fans of the sport who don’t really understand the media’s role.”
“This is the one criticism I’ll push back on fighters a little bit,” Thomas said in defense of his colleagues. “Todd [Duffee] had two criticisms: one was that [media] does not write enough about substance abuse issues, he was right about that. Secondly, he was like, ‘you tear down fighters all the time.’ I had him on my show that week and I completely disagreed with him. Todd, if you think the MMA media is bad, you should see literally any other media. It’s far worse. Here is the point. MMA media, virtually to any other one, are boot-lickers to the nth degree. That’s not true in totality, it’s not true in every case with every person. In fact, it’s not nearly as true as people make it out to be, but relative to what you see in other sports it’s terrible.”
“They have laid down a role of being totally obsequious,” Thomas expressed. “They hardly do any adversarial media. They go to these press conferences where they are literally props and they wonder what people think of them as props. Think of them as people whose job is to facilitate my enjoyment as a fan. Why would a fan think that? ‘Cause you told them that! Everything you do gives that impression. So, of course, by the time you need to speak up and the time you need to push back, this is a totally foreign thing that they’ve never experienced before. So, yes, it’s not one or the other. It’s a series of difficult challenges. But are the media complicit in part of their own problem? 1000%”
Thomas is one-half of the hosting team at Showtime Digital’s Morning Kombat, anchors The Luke Thomas Show on SiriusXM, and posts regularly to his own YouTube channel.