UFC media easily bites the Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Tyson Fury bait

The UFC intentionally muddies the Conor McGregor USADA waters

By: Trent Reinsmith | 4 months ago
UFC media easily bites the Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Tyson Fury bait
Copyright: Louis Grasse

The UFC has been chumming the waters, and the MMA media has taken the bait.

Last week, the promotion offered an “exclusive interview” on its YouTube page with former two-division champion, current coach of “The Ultimate Fighter” and, at least on paper, seemingly ‘retired’ UFC fighter Conor McGregor.

The promotion posted the interview before the premier episode of the current season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” where McGregor coaches opposite Michael Chandler. The purpose of the nearly 12-minute long video, at least to my, perhaps jaded, senses was to promote the ESPN reality show, create some talking points about McGregor’s possible return against Chandler, and most notably, move the conversation away from the fact that McGregor is still not in the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) testing pool.

UFC fighter Conor McGregor

The video was a success on all fronts, well, maybe not promoting “The Ultimate Fighter.”

UFC media aggregates a softball

Conor McGregor drives traffic. Everyone, especially the UFC, knows that. So, the promotion knew MMA websites would dig into the video for any vein of content it could mine. One of the more rewarding seams was McGregor’s revelation that he wanted to fight three or four times a year. Another lode was the former champion promising the “greatest return in combat sports.”

Several MMA sites picked up on McGregor’s statements. Some even mentioned that McGregor is still not in the USADA testing pool, which makes him ineligible to compete for the UFC without the promotion granting him an “exceptional circumstances” waiver. Other sites, much to the delight of the UFC, I’m sure, failed to mention that salient point when recycling the promotion’s narrative to their readers.

Again, I understand McGregor drives clicks, but this interview was nothing more than a softball, a puff piece, a distraction, a way for the UFC to move the narrative away from “this guy needs to be in the USADA testing pool for six months before he can fight” and toward giving fans hope that McGregor will be in the octagon before the end of 2023, again, without an “exceptional circumstances” waiver.

UFC president Dana White gets in on the act

No one honestly believes Tyson Fury will fight UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones inside the octagon. And yet, UFC president Dana White, who wasn’t asked a question about a potential Jones vs. Fury fight at the UFC Vegas 74 post-fight press conference, went off on a tangent about the potential of making that fight happen under the UFC banner.

“I like Tyson Fury, I have a great relationship with Tyson Fury,” White said. “So there’s this debate right now about the baddest man on the planet, right? And Jon Jones is the baddest man on the planet. There’s no doubt about it. So when you talk about who’s the baddest man on the planet, if two guys fought, fought, in a fight, who would win? If you want to discuss another baddest man on the planet, it would be Tyson Fury in a boxing arena.

“We all know if Jon Jones boxed Tyson Fury, Tyson Fury wins. All these boxing guys want to talk about this and keep it in the ring. I’m telling Tyson Fury, who I respect very much: If you really want to find out who the baddest man on the planet is, I will make that fight. I will make Jon Jones vs. Tyson Fury in the octagon. And we’ll figure it out. We figured out how to pay Floyd (Mayweather), we’ll figure out how to pay you too, Tyson.”

This was a strange tangent from the man, who, in mid-May, said, “It’s all about these gimmicky-type fights [in boxing], and that’s just not what I do here [in the UFC]. It’s not what I do. I put on fights with the best fighters in the world and fights that people want to see.”

But White had a reason to throw the idea out there, and that was once again to distract from the fact that the McGregor vs. Chandler fight is unbooked because McGregor is not in the USADA testing pool. Something White tried to spin in another direction when a media member asked him about the fight later at the UFC Vegas 74 post-fight press conference.

“The one thing you guys have to understand is this kid has so much money. It’s like Khabib [Nurmagomedov] now,” White said of McGregor. “These guys got s***-loads of money and it’s hard to reel these guys back in and get them fired up to get in and fight.”

Media needs pressure the UFC

The UFC did not get to where it is today by luck. There are some smart people inside the organization. Say what you will about White, but he knows how to manipulate the media, especially the access media, and control the narrative. The more distractions he provides, the more random headlines he offers, the farther away the conversation about McGregor and USADA moves.

The MMA media needs to stay on point on McGregor, the UFC, and USADA. The questions White fields on the matter can’t be “Do you have an update on McGregor vs. Chandler?” White can bat that inquiry away in his sleep. Instead, the media needs to ask White, “What’s the delay in getting McGregor into the testing pool since all he needs to do is tell the UFC he wants to rejoin the USADA drug testing program?” And if White tries to muddy those waters, bring it back to that question because that’s the USADA policy. There is no paperwork to fill out.

White and the UFC need to be held accountable by the media. That can be uncomfortable, but that’s the job. It’s not just access, cageside seats, and free food, sometimes there’s work to be done, and that work is asking the tough questions and holding power to account.

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About the author
Trent Reinsmith
Trent Reinsmith

Trent Reinsmith is a freelance writer based out of Baltimore, MD. He has been covering sports for more than 15 years, with a focus on MMA for most of that time. Trent focuses on the day-to-day business of MMA — both inside and outside the cage — for Bloody Elbow.

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