Cagewriter - Mixed Martial Arts

UFC can't be pleased with on-again, off-again MMA coverage from ESPN. The Big Lead pointed out that UFC 86 got almost no face time across the ESPN family of networks and on the web this past weekend...So Why Did ESPN Ignore UFC All Weekend? 

Are the stodgy, old school corner offices in Bristol still not sold on the sport? Or is it simply that Dana White didn’t want to play ball with ESPN last year, and when the two couldn’t reach a partnership, sports fans - that’s you guys - get stuck with Spelling Bees and Hot Dog Eating contests and MMA is relegated to the ‘other sports tab’ on the front page of ESPN’s website.

ESPN's website did post a fight recap story but was a reporter actually in Las Vegas for the fight?

Now there's a controversy brewing over the .com's chief MMA content provider, sherdog.com. Sherdog is not credentialed to UFC events and now one fighter, Phil Baroni (pictured), is accusing the site of making up quotes in a Rampage Jackson-Forrest Griffin reaction story. Nice pickup by Fightlinker. Baroni reportedly said this to Mike Sloan of Sherdog:

"I don’t know how two judges gave Forrest that first round, man. That’s some bulls—. I thought Rampage clearly won the fight. That first round could have been 10-8 for Rampage!"

Baroni responded on a mixedmartialarts.com forum:

"First off I never gave my opinion on the fight being scored wrong to anyone esp a reporter from Sherdog. I never spoke to any media about my opinion the fight. I think its bullsh*t that Sherdog quoted me.

First off I think the fight was a great one. Second I feel the decision was a fair one. I think Forrest is an inspiration and fought his heart out. His career is an inspiration and story book. He did a great job fought like a true champion against Rampage and his entire career. He deserves to be UFC champion and I take my hat off to him.

On the other hand Rampage fought his heart out as well and will be back, He has come back from alot worse an himself is a great fighter an inspiration. I think the fight was a great battle of wills. Both guys gave it there all and Im proud to be friends with both of them.

Thats my opinion on Forrest Griffin and Rampage Jackson. I'm in England now and just wanted to address this stupid article on Sherdog. Again I never made those comments and am proud of both fighters and there efforts. I hope to fight with as much heart an courage this weekend in England."

Sherdog is standing by Sloan, saying he did get the quote directly from the bombastic Baroni:

Sherdog.com's Mike Sloan said Baroni gave this quote in person and on the record Saturday night shortly before doing an on-camera interview regarding his upcoming Cage Rage bout. However, Baroni has since denied offering this opinion on the Jackson-Griffin fight being scored wrongly, saying the decision was "a fair one."

Who's changing their story? Sloan or Baroni? Baroni is a bit of a whack job and we heard from an ESPNRadio1100 host who was seated near Baroni at the event, that he wasn't exactly of right mind. Pauly Howard, the afternoon host at ESPNRadio1100, said Baroni's state appeared altered as he went off on an anti-semitic rant during the event:

CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO HOWARD ON BARONI (ESPNRadio1100 UFC 86 post-fight show):

The official who was screamed at by Baroni was telling the same story following the event in the media room

Who knows if Baroni gave the quote to Sherdog? The bigger story here is ESPN's reputation. As long as Sherdog is refused access to UFC events and has to sneak around the venue, these he-said, she-said situations could become more common.

UPDATE: Let's spell this out more clearly. ESPN.com does not have a staffer who covers the world of MMA. It's chosen to use a third party content provider in Sherdog. Sherdog is now being accused of making up quotes. Baroni is a jackass, so who the hell knows if the quote is true or not? If it is made up, I'm sure ESPN.com wouldn't be happy to find this out.

It's about time ESPN beefed up its in-house coverage. And before this turns into a "Yahoo is bashing ESPN" thread, remember that my M-F radio job is on ESPNRadio1100 in Las Vegas.  

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