The UFC has done a good job of cultivating its image. Much of it was done via the internet through media members who were fans of the sport. The organization has always yearned to hit the big time and get coverage from mainstream television, newspaper and radio. I always said during the days when there was just a small group of media folks who covered the sport, the UFC is in for an awakening when the "real" media does show. You can't control what American columnists and radio talk show hosts will write or say. They're generally going to try and reach the lowest common denominator. It's really no different anywhere around the world.
UFC 91 marked the first time that some German media members were noticeable. Maik Grossekathöfer from Der Spiegel was doing an introduction piece on mixed martial arts. For the "Time" magazine of Germany to cover an event was a huge get for the UFC. As it turns out, the organization may not be thrilled with the press it got leading into its June 13 debut in Cologne, Germany.
When the Las Vegas Review-Journal had a story earlier this year calling White the "White Don King", the UFC president lost it. It may have been one of the only times I've seen him really lose his cool with the media. He wanted to rip the head off LVRJ writer Ed Graney. Without evoking the name of Don King, Der Spiegel made it sound like the name was pretty accurate:
White, a short, round-headed man wearing a skin-tight shirt and belt with a skull-shaped buckle, is the president of the UFC. He is 39, a former bouncer and a bellhop at a Boston hotel. He was found guilty of assault and, because he refused to pay the fine, wound up in prison. He became a boxing trainer and fled from the Mafia to Las Vegas, where he had grown up, and opened a boxing gym. White now owns a Range Rover, a Ferrari and two Mercedes, but he still has difficulty saying three sentences without the word "f***" in at least one of them.
Der Spiegel would have one thinking that former rap mogul Suge Knight, another famous Las Vegas area high school alum, was running the UFC. The writer also came away less than impressed with the "artistry and nuances" of the sport when he wrote about the main event's close:
(Brock) Lesnar pounces on (Randy) Couture, kneels over him and starts punching him in the head, doling out 17 blows in a seemingly endless 10 seconds, until the referee finally intervenes. Couture is lying on the floor, motionless, looking dead. Seventeen blows to the head in 10 seconds, blows coming from a barely padded fist -- it sounds brutal. In fact, it is brutal, and it raises the question of whether Ultimate Fighting is a sport or simply assault.
The UFC can't control everything that is written by the uninitiated media so it has to take the good with the bad. There were some complimentary points in the story about the education level of many of the fighters and Couture seeming like a gentle guy. But it sounds like the education process in Germany will be much like it's been in the U.S., a long and arduous process.