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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Why didn’t MMA media ask White about Perry?

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One of the biggest stories in MMA are the domestic abuse allegations Mike Perry’s ex-wife, Danielle Nickerson, has made against the UFC fighter. Despite the evidence against Perry, which includes 911 audio police recording and court records, the story has felt noticeably under-reported. Most notably, MMA access media on hand for UFC 254 on ‘Fight Island’ have seemingly failed to do any follow-up work with the promotion’s president, Dana White. Even as Perry has once again been given a booking, on the main card of UFC 255.

All of this evidenced in the recent press conference, where not a single question about the allegations against Perry was asked.

These allegations reflect every bit as much on the culture of the UFC story they do on Perry himself. After all, he’s fresh off a briefly upheld suspension from the promotion for a drunken brawl with patrons at a Texas restaurant. As such, any questions should have been 100% acceptable for the UFC 254 pre-fight press conference. Questions about domestic violence need to be addressed in front of a large audience, especially given White’s past hardline stance on the issue:

“We’ve been human beings in letting these guys, other guys make up for what they’ve done and come back,” White said, speaking of fighters who have run afoul of the law and/or UFC conduct policies. “There’s one thing that you never bounce back from and that’s putting your hands on a woman. Been that way in the UFC since we started here. You don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman.”

Media members in attendance failed to do their job. It’s hardly the first time, but as is the case every time these situations arise, each one is embarrassing.

Despite White’s claims above, the promotion has hosted (and continues to host) multiple fighters with domestic violence charges and allegations against them. Most notably playing a continued part in the public rehabilitation of former NFL star Greg Hardy. For many, it seems they can “bounce back,” all the more so when scrutiny fails to follow.

By not even asking for the standard, canned statement, media members showed the grip that the promotion has over them. But, if there’s fear of losing credentials to future events – one many media members no doubt have – I would ask if those credentials and access are worth the credibility they cost.

Even if it’s just the fear of being ‘the only one’ to take a stand; that White will single out whoever is brave enough to broach the topic and launch into a rant against them live and in public. Should that even be a fear? White’s bluster and red-faced antics are well known by now. Media should come to expect that kind of pushback as part of the process for having the audacity to ask a legitimate question.

Would White have played off any inquiry about Perry, or made a vague statement about a third-party investigation? Probably. But the job is still to ask and find out.

The longer media wait to ask about Perry, the easier it will be for the story to fall by the wayside—replaced by some other minor transgression more comfortably made for hand-wringing. Leon Edwards’ removal from the UFC rankings feels like a perfect opportunity to move on to a topic that has no meaningful impact. And it’s exactly what the UFC wants, for these allegations to be swept away and not spoken about. But, domestic violence should be too important to be easily pushed aside.

If the media does not pressure White and the UFC on the topic, they create a climate that suggests a certain level of comfort with domestic violence among fighters. And silence can so easily become approval. No one should want to be seen as accepting this as part of the culture of MMA. If the UFC is comfortable accepting these things, that’s their choice. But the media should always be willing to push back. That’s what needs to happen with allegations like those against Perry.

However, ‘Platinum’ wasn’t the only ball dropped during the UFC 254 presser. The other item glossed over came when White, who has vocally and visibly supported Donald Trump’s re-election bid, told the assembled media how he hoped that much of the “bullshit” the UFC is going through right now would go away following the presidential election.

Not one person attempted to ask White what he meant by that statement and what he hoped would change and who he hoped would change it. And it’s not as though this is the first time White made that declaration. But, instead of pushing back, the media let it drop like a turd in a punch bowl. It sat there. Everyone saw it. No one dared mention it.

There’s still time to address both issues. White is likely to appear at the UFC 254 post-fight press conference, where there will likely be ample opportunity to once again ask him questions, on the spot. Between now and then, though, those on hand at ‘Fight Island’ should consider just how much of their jobs involve being the unpaid public relations wing of the UFC.

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