Liz Phillip’s criticism about the UFC and her Fight Night loss as a result of a judges’ split decision only adds to the question about social media’s effect on MMA. Does open opinion on social media effectively promote or hurt the world of Mixed Martial Arts? This isn’t a question of whether or not MMA organizations and athletes deserve the right to free speech on social media, but how social media feuds and criticism like Phillips’ shapes the reputation of the sport and its organizations.
(Chael Sonnen, Game-Talk specialist)
In many ways, Twitter battles, Facebook outbursts and other opinions from MMA fighters help promote the sport and their respective match ups. If fighters choose to got the route of exchanging words online before a fight, it works very well to create anticipation and attention to them specifically as an athlete. Fighters aren’t the only ones famous for chipping in a jab or two, UFC president Dana White and former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney shared many famous twitter battles. Who could deny the fun of watching the back and forth between presidents of two MMA organizations? The drama and attention caused by outspoken social media statements or rants absolutely helps create a hype and encourages fan participation, but how does that affect the perception of the world of MMA?
Phillips’ outspoken criticism of the UFC and the judge’s decision also works greatly to undermine the reputation of the UFC. Granted, MMA is not your typical sport and fighters are not your typical professional athlete, but open hatred and criticism of the organization is bad for public perception of the sport. A statement like that creates belief that either the UFC is inept and “corrupt” as an organization, or that its fighters lack an honor and professionalism with regards to the organization. Phillips’ statement is especially damaging to the UFC’s reputation following Dana White’s removal of a judge in the middle of Fight Night Macao following two controversial decisions.
In all, social media back-and-forths, outbursts etc. accomplish a bit of both. It is fun on the part of a fan to watch the battle of words carry out online, and allows fans to participate in the hype that leads up to a fight. However, an outburst like Phillips’ that openly criticizes the organization can be very damaging to the reputation of the sport and the UFC. As far as a solution goes, you certainly can’t take away anyone’s right to express their opinion online. It’d be ludicrous to eradicate all of the shit-talking from MMA, and there’s nothing wrong with criticizing the way an organization is run. However, everyone from the MMA Organization President to the fighter is a representative of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. There has to be a way to accomplish the fun and promotion in the battle of words and criticism on social media without crossing the line into the unprofessional.