One of the interesting but overlooked sub-plots developing in the wake of the UFC’s new seven year TV deal with FOX is that it appears to have been a catalyst for certain exiled journalists to be welcomed back into the fold.
At the initial press conference at FOX HQ to announce the historic deal many were surprised to see that two of UFC president Dana White’s mortal enemies – ESPN’s Josh Gross and The LA Times Loretta Hunt – were both in attendance and asked questions of the panel which included White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta.
That’s something we haven’t seen for a number of years as both have been on the UFC’s permanent blacklist for their past transgressions.
Gross had his press credentials revoked as far back as 2006 after he revealed the winner of The Ultimate Fighter season 4 during a broadcast on Sherdog Radio well in advance of it airing on Spike TV. As recently as last year White described him as “a scumbag and a bad guy”, which appeared to rule out him ever getting access to the UFC again.
Meanwhile White’s falling out with Hunt was publically documented after he used one of his video blogs to unleash a foul-mouthed rant at her for writing an article revealing that some MMA managers and agents were having their UFC backstage passes revoked.
So both journalists appearances at the press conference raised more than a few eyebrows, and it appears not to have been a one-time deal as while Hunt wasn’t present at yesterday’s ‘UFC On FOX 1’ press conference, Gross was.
he wasn’t the only one though. The sport’s biggest website Sherdog.com have had a rocky relationship with White (it should be noted both Gross and Hunt worked for the site in the past), leading to their media credentials being revoked on numerous occasions over the years.
Despite that they were also in attendance yesterday for the first time in over a year, and their reporter Greg Savage even managed to secure an interview with White (view it below).
So is this a sign that White is finally turning over a new leaf? I’m not 100% convinced yet.
My best guess is that this is something that FOX have negotiated as since that deal was announced the likes of Gross, Hunt and Savage only appear to have been given access to FOX related media engagements.
Having said that it could be that this allows them to get a foot back in the door and eventually could lead to them being given access to UFC events on a more regular basis.
I certainly hope that’s the case. If the UFC wants to continue to grow and become as big as Dana White believes it can be then they need all hands on deck, and that includes the aforementioned journalists who are amongst some of the most capable working in the sport today.
See below for Greg Savage’s UFC 135 pre-fight interview with Dana White.