A who’s who of UFC executives attended UFC 287 on Saturday night in Miami. UFC president Dana White, UFC COO Lawrence Epstein, UFC CBO Hunter Campbell, and UFC SVP Jeff Novitzky were all on hand. But, unfortunately, the UFC access media failed to ask or report on their responses on at least two important topics.
Conor McGregor and USADA
The first issue the access media should have tackled was that Novitzky has been silent since White shut down questions on Conor McGregor and told the media to ask the Senior Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance instead. The hot button issue at the time was the absence of former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) testing pool, and the possibility that he could get an “exceptional circumstances” waiver from the UFC to compete without being in the USADA testing pool for six months.
As White directed, Bloody Elbow contacted the UFC and Novitzky for comment on McGregor on March 20. The promotion did not acknowledge that request, nor did it reply.
According to online records, McGregor, who is expected to face Michael Chandler later this year, has not been tested by USADA since the third quarter of 2021. It’s up to Novitzky to answer the question if McGregor is going to get an “exceptional circumstances” wavier from the UFC, and only the promotion can offer that waiver, not USADA, or if he will be required to remain in the USADA testing pool for six months.
New gambling scandal from UFC 287?
The second potential conflict the access media needed to address was whether Sam Hughes’ boyfriend violated the UFC’s policy on athlete wagering at UFC 287. Hunter Campbell, who signed the anti-gambling policy, could have tackled that question, as could have White or Epstein.
Hughes openly stated that her boyfriend bet on her UFC 287 fight, which would’ve been a violation of the gambling policies that the UFC strengthened in the wake of the James Krause-focused betting scandal, that continues to be investigated.
In mid-January, ESPN reported that the organization, in a document signed by Campbell, had updated its anti-gambling policy to include” other individuals affiliated with the athletes or the UFC.” According to that report, promotional fighters who violated the rule would face disciplinary actions. Hughes seemed to violate that policy after acknowledging her boyfriend bet on her to win her fight opposite Jaqueline Amorim in Saturday’s curtain jerker. At the very least, the media should have asked White, Campbell, or Epstein about Hughes’ statement, not to get Hughes in “trouble,” but to get clarification from the promotion on what is and isn’t a breach of the anti-gambling policy.
Instead, the media, some of who tweeted and later wrote about Hughes’ statement about her boyfriend placing a bet on her ahead of UFC 287, seemingly avoided that subject and McGregor’s possible drug testing waiver.
The access media should have asked these questions at UFC 287. This wasn’t a failure to do the heavy-lifting of investigate journalism. No, this was a failure to do the most basic type of journalism, following up on something the president of the organization invited the media to do and reacting to something that seemed to violate the organization’s rules.
The fact that the access media failed to ask either question strengthens arguments that many media members who work events are not there to do journalism, but to act as an extension of the organization’s PR arm. Fan-voted awards and accolades won’t change that perception. Doing the work will.
And if, by chance, the media working the event in Miami asked either of the above questions of the UFC brass, and they refused to answer or offered a “no comment,” there is still a story worth reporting in that silence.
Bloody Elbow reached out to the UFC for a statement on its anti-gambling policy on Hughes as well as another request for comment from Novitzky regarding McGregor and USADA. The promotion did not respond before publication.
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