When Mickey Gall submitted C.M. Punk in dominate fashion at UFC 203, the collective MMA community felt assured in proclaiming, “I told you that would happen!”
Correctly predicting the outcome of a fight with a -450 favorite is not difficult, but the vast amount of opinions about such an inconsequential fight does call in the question the level of coverage that a 0-0 (now 0-1) fighter received from the independent MMA media.
For their part, on September 9 (the eve of Punk’s UFC debut) MMAFighting.com, MMAJunkie.com, Sherdog.com, BloodyElbow.com, and the Fox Sports MMA feed featured Punk in a headline or thumbnail in 24 out of 88 total posts.
While the rate of 27 percent may seem high for fighter with no experience, the amount of Punk’s coverage is proportional to Punk’s place on the UFC 203 card.
Punk presented a dilemma for online MMA media. Punk was heavily promoted by UFC, thus making him a newsworthy entity. However, over-coverage of Punk could invite heavy criticism of media entities sacrificing responsible coverage for clicks.
Punk in 2016 ran the risk of becoming what Tim Tebow was in 2012 – a mildly relevant athlete who dominated the headlines. In this case temperance triumphed over temptation.
Minimal coverage of Punk would have also been problematic. Had the Punk “experiment” been ignored by these prominent sites, they would be doing their audience a major disservice.
A polarizing figure like Punk could have potentially brought out the worst in those covering him. The coverage of Punk is a small indicator that the MMA media is maturing and operating in a healthy manner.
Disclaimer In the interest of objectivity, coverage of C.M. Punk by MMATorch.com was not included in this analysis. MMATorch.com featured a headline or thumbnail of CM Punk in 6 of 15 posts on September 9.
Did we get what we wanted?
With C.M. Punk’s MMA debut in rearview, now is a good time for reflection on this entire saga. What did it all mean? Ben Fowlkes of MMAJunkie.com answers some these questions in an interesting piece titled “What do we want out of this CM Punk thing, anyway?“
While this piece was penned prior to Punk’s debut, it still relevant after his inevitable loss to Mickey Gall. Fowlkes does an amazing job of tasking the reader to through every fans perspective of Punk’s foray into MMA.
The post-fight debate
The conclusion of UFC 203 featured not only a frenzied Cleveland crowd celebrating Stipe Miocic’s first title defense, but also a bizarre exchange between commentator Joe Rogan and the recently defeated Alistair Overeem.
Shortly after Rogan took to Twitter to express his feelings on interviewing fighters after being “KO’ed.”
I asked the UFC brass if we could please refrain from interviewing fighters after they've been KO'ed. I don't think it's wise nor fair.
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) September 11, 2016
If you've ever talked to a friend who has been KO'ed their perception of reality can be drastically off & their memory is severely impaired.
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) September 11, 2016
Rogan does have a fair point; judging the verbiage of anyone who has recently had a professional fighter pounding them in the head is simply unfair.
On the other hand, MMA is the rare sport where the public immediately gets treated to the words of both the winner and loser. In other sports such as the NFL, a winning coach or player is interviewed immediately after the contest, while members of the losing team are heard from at a minimum of ten minutes after the conclusion of the game.
The raw emotions after a UFC fight are a significant aspect of the UFC experience. This creates a conundrum for UFC officials. Do they change a portion of their presentation based on the public urging of one of their most visible personalities? Or, is the influence of Rogan negligible given his diminishing role within the company?
READ THE PREVIOUS “MEDIA & BUSINESS” COLUMN: MEDIA & BUSINESS: “Evolution of Punk” fails to evolve image of C.M., a profile on the departing Joe Silva
(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.”)