August 11, 2008
It's a quarterly rite of passage that may turn into a monthly one. The UFC hits a new market and hopes to breakthrough with a new audience via the "old" media. The public relations department works hard to make sure that the local newspapers and television/radio stations come out on fight night. The UFC staff succeeded in a big way on Saturday night for UFC 87 in Minneapolis. It got full coverage, unfortunately it resulted in the same tired old tune come Sunday morning.
Both the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer-Press staffed the event at the Target Center. Also on hand were several television sports guys and at least one member of the KFAN on-air lineup, Mike Morris. Even the Dean of the Minny sports media showed up for the event. Sid Hartman (pictured), the 88-year old Star-Tribune writer, sat on press row and made it through the Brock Lesnar-Heath Herring fight which finished around 11:25 pm local time. All in all, not a bad turnout.
But the UFC can't completely control the impression that the event makes on the local media. Tom Powers, the sports columnist from the Pioneer-Press, pulled out all the 2002 UFC references he could get his hands on, writing your run of the mill, 'I'm too old to get this sport' reaction piece. As soon he ripped out the tired "cockfighting" reference you knew it was going to be a long column.
It's as vicious as cockfighting, except you can't deep fry and eat the loser on a bun. Although a lot of fighters that looked like hamburger limped past the press table after their bouts. And those were the winners.
Powers, sitting in the front row, admitted that he turned his head each time fighters worked for an arm submission. He also said the fighters' internal organs must resemble oatmeal.
He was impressed by the ferocity and volume of the crowd and pointed out how the sport draws that key 18-to-29 male demographic. But then the story quickly goes back to references like "The National Decapitation League" and suggests that guys going into a cage with machetes is going to be the next hot sport.
When will newspapers get it? Writers lament the fact that young readers are moving online and yet they can't appreciate a sport that is immensely popular with those same young readers.
At least Powers' story appeared on page one of the Pioneer-Press. The Star-Tribune's UFC wrap was on page 13. Although that may have been to due an early deadline. It should be noted that the Star-Tribune did place UFC pre-fight stories on the front page on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The television stations aren't much better. One on-air personality with one of the four major network stations in Minneapolis told Yahoo! Sports that as soon he broached the topic of having a UFC guest on his local show, management told him, "absolutely not, that sport is too violent."
Next up for the UFC in the U.S. are Atlanta, Chicago and probably Portland. My guess is that the Atlanta and Chicago media will barely show for the UFC events. Both towns are football crazy. The events are Sept. 6 and Oct. 25 respectively.
The UFC may get a good pop on the local sportsradio stations in Atlanta. The Zone's lineup is relatively young and its lead show, The Two Live Stews, does cover some boxing. I have little confidence in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The staff led by 89-year old Furman Bisher (who recently made an 'oriental' reference in a column) is a bit long in the tooth. In Chicago, there is zero shot that the UFC will get time on either sportsradio station, The Score or ESPN1000, during football season. Best guess here is that the Chicago Tribune will ignore the event while Roman Modrowski from the Chicago Sun-Times will push for solid coverage in his paper.
Listen to here to Kenny Florian, Roger Huerta, Dana White, Jon Fitch and Georges St Pierre from the UFC 87 post-fight presser.
You can also listen here to the archives of the only UFC 87 post-fight show from the Target Center on Saturday night. Guests included ref Dan Miragliotta, Kenny Florian, trainer Greg Jackson and Georges St. Pierre.
Other pre-fight interviews here include Heath Herring, Dana White, Tonya Evinger, Amir Sadollah and Matt Serra.
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