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Josh Gross leaving Sherdog for SI.com

Normally I spend almost no time and attention towards covering the MMA media, because in the end, do the masses really care about my thoughts on other websites and other writers? You’re hear to read about fights and fighters, and I get that.

However, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Josh Gross is leaving Sherdog.com as its editor in order to accept a position with Sports Illustrated. In fact, I think today is his last day on “Beatdown” with T.J. DeSantis.

While I’ve been a fan of MMA and traditional martial arts for quite some time and have been a sports writer for over ten years, I did not start covering MMA until December of ’06. As such, I feel it necessary to give respect to the journalists in this field who were covering the sport even when there was no money in it. Not that there is much money in covering MMA now, but at least you can earn a living wage if you’re one of the chosen few.

So on behalf of 5 Oz. of Pain, I wanted to congratulate Gross on his new gig. I’ve never met the man, but I respect him and his contributions to the sport.

But the move is not without some controversy. In the April 28 print edition of the Wrestling Observer, Dave Meltzer raises the following point:

A very interesting situation in the MMA media arose when Josh Gross, formerly at Sherdog.com, left this week to take a job as the main writer for MMA for the Sports Illustrated web site. SI.com has been way behind in covering MMA, as CBS, NBC, FOX, and Yahoo! have gone into varying degrees. However, Dana White hates Gross. I’d describe the situation as similar to Vince McMahon and me in 1985, but there are major differences. The people on White’s bad side took it way too personal and I never did and really never cared… From my standpoint, the behavior of both in the situation was wrong. Point of all this is everyone is wondering with Gross with SI if White will now be cooperative with him. I don’t know the answer but I’m betting he won’t be. Whether that leads to a negative slant, I don’t know, because I can’t see SI caring about anything except UFC and maybe EliteXC because of Showtime and CBS…

Meltzer is right in that since word broke that Gross was going to SI, a lot of people have wondered whether he would begin to get credentialed by the UFC. Like Meltzer, I would also bet against him getting access but I’m hoping that’s not the case. However, White just doesn’t seem to be the forgiving type.

I don’t think not having access will hurt Gross’ ability to cover the UFC. It has always been my contention that the multiple angles you get when you watch an MMA event on television provides a much better perspective than what you see live. But if you really want to cover an event live, you don’t need free passes. A promotion can deny you credentials but they can’t prevent you from buying a ticket.

You do miss some access to fighters when you don’t get credentialed, but MMA is not like baseball, basketball, football, or hockey where you get access to the athletes in the locker room. Someone like Gross has plenty of contacts in the industry so if he wants to talk to someone, he can still get to someone even if the UFC isn’t helping him. And fighters are some of the most down-to-Earth athletes in the world and if you can’t catch up to them at the event, they are usually more than willing to talk if you run into them at the hotel.

So while I don’t think not having access to the UFC would hurt SI’s coverage, I do think it could hurt the UFC. As I’ve stated in the past, the UFC has some very rigid media policies and as a young company in a young sport, I still don’t think they understand the concept of balanced coverage. Not everyone is going to be 100 percent positive about their product all of the time and when someone is negative or gives coverage to another promotion, I think the UFC takes it personally. I don’t know if they realize that journalists are different than that of a public relations writer.

But by dealing in absolutes when it comes to certain members of the media, I do feel the UFC is hurting the long-term growth prospects of not only its own company, but also the sport. There are still many skeptics of MMA within the mainstream media and there are still many hurdles to climb when it comes to convincing people in key editorial positions that MMA is worth time and attention. Trying to be over-bearing when major media outlets try and cover you is not going to win you allies and not cooperating with a Time Warner-backed company such as SI isn’t going to help the sport grow.

As a writer who doesn’t get credentialed by the UFC, I am a little biased in this regard. However, you can’t tell me that possibly denying full access to a major media player like SI is a good business move.

16 COMMENTS
  • NealTaflinger says:

    I don’t know D. White but I do listen to a lot of interviews with him – listen to him on NPR or major broadcast outlets. It’s a much fuzzier Dana than the hardcores get. SI is huge, he will be as concilliatory as he has to be. He’s not an idiot.

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  • Kelvin says:

    ^^I agree

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  • Ark says:

    This part looks a lot like a strawman argument:

    “As I’ve stated in the past, the UFC has some very rigid media policies and as a young company in a young sport, I still don’t think they understand the concept of balanced coverage. Not everyone is going to be 100 percent positive about their product all of the time and when someone is negative or gives coverage to another promotion, I think the UFC takes it personally.”

    The fallout between Sherdog and White was a result of White refusing credentials to online media and Sherdog publishing the Ultimate Fighter winners in retaliation. It has nothing to do with any negative coverage.

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  • Patrick says:

    White knows what he’s doing, I honestly don’t think anything that he does goes without weeks of thought, he doesn’t “wing it” as much as people think he does.

    He’ll drop whatever issues he has due to his desire to get MMA to become a fixture with SI.

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  • recently.reaped says:

    meh SI has pissed me off with their reluctance to get on board with MMA.
    I’ll be supporting places like NBC, Yahoo and CBS before I read SI’s MMA coverage.
    did anyone else see the recent article put on their site about the barbarity of MMA and how Boxing is dying not because it’s too violent but not violent enough
    pure uneducated crap from one of the ‘old guard’ writers SI emplyoees.
    I wrote to the writer.. I doubt my rather rational and intelligent email will ever get posted.
    SI has dropped off horribly in the last 5-6 years IMO and I only go there for Peter Kings’ MMQB

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  • Evan says:

    “SI has dropped off horribly in the last 5-6 years IMO and I only go there for Peter Kings’ MMQB”

    Thats all I read it for as well. CNNSI’s sports coverage is awful and the magazine is a waste of money.

    But MMQB is an amazing read.

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  • mike wolfe says:

    Why does White or UFC have to cooperate with the press regardless of whether its coverage is positive or negative? The press will cover MMA as long as it has a following, and that means covering UFC. If a reporter or publication is routinely negative about UFC, why shouldn’t they pay their own way? It’s free speech because nobody can stop you, not because somebody else pays for you to do it. Expenses like tickets and travel are tax deductible anyway and SI won’t make it’s writers go out of pocket. Furthermore, keeping an arm’s length relationship tends to ensure that a reporter doesn’t get too friendly and co-opted.

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  • NealTaflinger says:

    A lot of sports organizations and individual franchises treat writers and publications like shit. It’s not unheard of.

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  • BJJDenver says:

    Dana is extremely forgiving….

    when it benefits him.

    That is just who he is, and I would fully expect him to welcome Gross, now that he is with SI. This is a big step by mainstream sports media, to invest in a legit mma writer and it could be very big in wider acceptance of the sport, thus the UFC.

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  • Evan says:

    I wish Dana was more cooperative but with some of the BS that comes out on MMA sites I can’t blame him. Just in the past few weeks we had Joe Rogan leaving the UFC and Kalib’s protest. This site and Junkie are pretty good about running legit stories so it’s a great start in the right direction of MMA sites with accountability.

    And Josh can deny it all he wants, which he has, but he is very biased against the UFC in my opinion. As a previous frequent listener it just got so old.

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  • Gygax says:

    On the flipside, will Zuffa now have a better relationship with Sherdog with Gross out of the picture? And thus conveniently, a better relationship with ESPN since Sherdog is the partner site of ESPN.com?

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  • Evan says:

    Good question.

    Sherwood is still there but now that he sold Sherdog (a year or so ago) and Gross is gone you would think so.

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  • Reaser says:

    SI’s front MMA page after UFC 83 had Rich Franklin winning the Welterweight title in a HUGE headline!!!!

    Its a crap site, remember how they did when they tried to get into television? That was regrettable.

    SI’s a crap site and Josh Gross is a terrible MMA “writer,” with extreme bias towards the #1 MMA promotion, nice hire SI, just when you thought SI couldn’t get any worse they go and hire the worst MMA “journalist.”

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  • Rln says:

    “White just doesn’t seem to be the forgiving type.”

    Why should he forgive him? Josh Gross ruined a complete season of TUF just out of spitefulness. Even the people that didn’t hear it on his radio show had it ruined by people constantly posting it on message boards just to be dicks.

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  • I have had the privilege of having Josh as my editor at Sherdog.com for the past two years.

    I can say with complete sincerity that Josh was the heart and soul of Sherdog, which under his guidance has become the most respected source for MMA news in the world.

    Josh enforced extremely high standards in both writing ability and journalistic standards. While sometimes this may have annoyed me when I had to go back and work more on a submission, the end result was a superior product that benefitted the reader.

    To say that he was biased against the UFC is fallacious. Josh has been both praising and critical to all organizations and fighters at the appropriate times. When the UFC did something well, he said so. When the UFC did something poorly, he said so.

    I am sad to see Josh go and I hope that we will be able to maintain the high standard that he brought us to. I wish him all the best, and am eager to start reading his coverage on Sports Illustrated.

    Andy Cotterill
    acotterill@sherdog.com

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  • Mike Wolfe says:

    Andy

    Care to comment on the above suggestions that there is or was some tension between Josh and White/UFC? Did Josh announce the winners on TUF before the show ran? If he did, why did he do it? How would you characterize the relationhsip between UFC and Sherdog? If there are tensions, what do you perceive to be the causes? Do you expect a thawing of relations since Josh has moved to SI? Enquiring minds want to know.

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