Spencer's Soapbox: People Don't Really Want Great Stories
Everyone talks about what they'd like to see from the UFC and the media, but few are actually taking time to tell or share those stories
I pretty frequently see people on social media talking about all the great stories that exist in MMA that need to be told, lamenting how no one is out there shining a light on these cool stories that everyone should know and hear and read, especially after events, when those cool stories have landed in their laps.
But every week, many of those same people aren’t taking the time to tell those cool stories, nor are they actively working to find the people who are and helping get those great stories out to a wider audience.
Instead, they’re stuck in the machine, turning out whatever is going to generate clicks and talking to only the people that are put in front of them.
And I don’t think it’s that chasing down people has become too hard because we’ve all never been more connected, which means it’s literally and figuratively a business decision — a choice to write the cool story a limited group of people are going to read or to write a similar version of someone that can be found in several places, but will do well from a traffic standpoint.
Look — I get it. That’s the gig. That’s the mandate. That’s what people want. Cool beans. But maybe stop lamenting all that isn’t being done because there actually are people out here trying every week to tell those cool stories, regardless of whether you see them or acknowledge them.
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Mike Malott had a massive win on Saturday, had a terrific post-fight interview, and was trying to shine some light on the challenges facing the family of one of his coaches, Joey Rodriguez, and his family.
Why did no one have this before the event? Why has no one followed up since?
Maybe they’re coming — and for the record, I’m speaking to Mike in 30 minutes because I’m putting together a story about him and the Rodriguez family for OSDB this week — but it seems more likely to be another one of those things that was cool in the moment, but not a big enough deal to follow up with now that the moment has passed.
Another Canadian, Jesse Ronson, has had a truly unique time in the UFC.
He lost his first three fights by split decision against quality competition and got cut. A bunch of years later, he jumped at a short notice opportunity, but it was scrapped soon after when he was determined to be too heavy to safely make the cut to lightweight. He was told he’d never compete in the UFC again.
But he did, stepping in for Danny Roberts opposite Nicolas Dalby on Fight Island in July 2020, earning a first-round submission win — his first UFC victory and a cool closing to a one-of-a-kind story… but then he tested positive for a banned substance and the victory was overturned.
He returns this weekend against Rafa Garcia, still searching for that first UFC win; still looking for a cool way to close out his story.
I wrote about it for the UFC website, and absolutely crushed the feature, in part because Ronson was a great interview subject, but also because I took the time to know the story and put it together well, because it’s one of those cool stories everybody is always saying we should make a point of telling people.
No one is going to write a better Jesse Ronson story this week.
Few will even write a Jesse Ronson story this week, but if he’s victorious on Saturday, there will be plenty of immediate reaction pieces to his crazy story because that’s what we do — we react, we capitalize on the moment, and then we hustle back to the stuff that does numbers and generates the most social media impressions.
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The real kick in the balls is that while I’m out here doing the thing all kinds of people often say needs to be done — writing the shit out of cool fucking stories on the regular — a whole bunch of people have told me those stories don't count because they’re published on the UFC website, and people don’t view them the same way as if they were posted on any other website.
You see, it’s not that people want the cool stories — it’s that they want the cool stories from the right people, and the right places, and even then, those cool stories aren’t as important as the latest Twitter chatter because that shit does numbers and a story about Jesse Ronson is interesting to only a fraction of the people.
It’s the reason the whole “the job is to cover everything” bullshit people were spewing when there was wall-to-wall coverage of Jake Paul boxing Tyron Woodley (the first time) was so clearly disingenuous, because the night before, there was a UFC event that featured the two finale bouts from The Return of The Ultimate Fighter and those “the job is to cover everything” folks sure as fucking shit weren’t covering TUF 29 from week-to-week and reporting on Bryan Battle or Ricky Turcios or my guy Pat Sabatini.
For the record: I did a recap on every episode of TUF 29 and put together pre-fight features on Battle and Sabatini. I don’t say that to brag, but rather to point out that there actually are people out here doing the level best to try and cover as close to everything as possible, while a whole lot of other people shout about how important it is, but never come anywhere close.
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Part of what inspired or motivated me to get this out of my system this morning was this question posed by Ben Fowlkes yesterday on Twitter:
This was my reply:
People say they want highly skilled competitors who are great at self-promotion and achieved high-level success, but what they really want is Conor McGregor, Nathan Diaz, and very few others.
People say they want to hear and share all the cool stories MMA has to offer, but what they really want is bulging eye emojis because someone said something about someone else on Twitter and putting together “a story” about who said what to whom is way easier (and gets more traffic) than actually chasing down and putting together those cool stories they claim to want to hear and share.
And even if someone else does go out and put those stories together, most people won’t seek them out or share them if they find them, because it’s not really about making sure everyone gets access to those stories — it’s about the performance art of saying, “We should be telling these cool stories,” bitching that the UFC doesn’t do a better job at it, and then tweeting about whatever McGregor or Diaz or Cejudo said on Twitter yesterday.
If you really want to see more great stories told — seek them out, tell them yourselves, and share them when you find them.
And if you’re not willing to do any of those things, kindly shut the fuck up about how it’s too bad that we don’t tell more of these great stories or how the job is to cover everything because it’s really goddamn insulting to someone like me that is trying to tell great stories every goddamn week and literally writes about every fight on every UFC card multiple times a week while you’re tweeting about the same shit as everyone else.
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Update: I wanted to go back and get the link to my rant entitled “Isn’t the job to cover everything?” to include above and it turns out the boxing match people were trying justify covering was the Evander Holyfield dumpster fire. Seriously. It wasn’t even the Jake Paul-Tyron Woodley fight… it was a 58-year-old man getting beaten up by Vitor Belfort and Anderson Silva boxing Tito Ortiz.
I honestly wish I was making this shit up because it’s just so goddamn ludicrous that people would try to find some way to justify covering that debacle beyond saying, “Hey — people are interested and it generates more clicks than the UFC show that weekend” while dismissing a staggering number of UFC Fight Night events, only to then lament the vast number of untold stories and unheralded talents that compete inside the Octagon from week-to-week, like they didn’t tell folks the event didn’t matter or they don’t have a means of giving them greater attention.
In the words of the great New York Times best-selling author Shea Serrano, “Fuck Outta Here!”
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