It was to be her big step up from the obscurity of MMA blogs to the big time of broadcast TV. But, instead, recent CBS Sports recruit Loretta Hunt’s promotion ended in this week sorrow when UFC boss Dana White refused her press credentials to cover last week’s Strikeforce show.

Hunt has not been best of friends for Dana White for some time, with the two having done battle online over topics prickly Hunt covered for Sherdog.com, but few would argue that the reporter is one of the biggest names in MMA journalism.

That matters not, apparently. For the UFC, it’s seemingly more important to maintain grudges than get good coverage in the mainstream media, even to the point of blocking a major US TV network from covering their events.
CBS, according to Hunt, hasn’t taken the pushback lying down. They’ll simply not cover MMA for the near future – period.

Hunt spoke to Sherdog’s Jason Probst:

“Did it hurt me? Yeah, sure. That was my first assignment for CBS Sports. I worked with one of the editors, producers over there who does the NFL and also had done MMA in the past. His name is Denny Burkholder, he’s a big fan of Mixed Martial Arts and CBS Sports, I’m told, hasn’t really covered MMA for the last year or so for various reasons I’m told because they’ve had some difficulty with getting interviews and things like that in the past, so they kind of cooled off from it and then they were coming back in, this was the first show that they were going to do in quite some time. They brought me in, assigned me, and then we were turned down. So, CBS Sports decided that they just weren’t going to do any coverage at all of the UFC. They don’t want to be told who they can send to their events and who they shouldn’t send to their events representing them.

“Yeah, I mean that I’m sad this door closed. I mean, a door really did close. CBS Sports is not going to look at MMA for at least a little while.”(Transcription by Fight Opinion, hat tip to Bloody Elbow)

For me, as a journalist, this story angers and annoys me. I’ve spent a lot of time I’d gladly reclaim on my deathbed telling non-believers how awesome MMA is as a sport, but increasingly it becomes difficult to defend the major league of the sport when actions such as this happen, especially as banned drug user Chael Sonnen prepares to come back to UFC action and multiple drug enthusiast Josh Barnett sits on the Strikeforce roster.

Will I find myself refused access for UFC 131 because I’ve written this story? I doubt it, but the fact of the matter is, it shouldn’t even be a question. If the UFC is a legit mainstream sport, as so many of us believe it is (and argue with our bosses that it should be), then media accreditation for large outlets should be a given, even if you’re not happy with their slant.

Hell, last year at UFC 115, Sun columnist Iain MacIntyre called the UFC “like an execution, only slower,” while Kim Bolan focused solely on whether gang members were around at the event, but we heard nothing but thanks from UFC brass for the coverage – because any coverage in the mainstream media brings the sport to the fore.

Dana White, if he made the decision to block CBS Sports, should urgently reconsider. If it wasn’t his call, he should make the call. MMA needs eyeballs, not a bad reputation behind the scenes to go with the one it has traditionally had in the cage itself.

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5 comments

  1. justa fan
    April 13, 2011

    “but few would argue that the reporter is one of the biggest names in MMA journalism.”

    Few would also argue that one of the main reasons she is a “big name” in the sport is because of that bpublic feud with Dana. As a writer she isn’t particularly talented, and although she boasts of not having to cater to Zuffa as a writer she has more than once wrote an opinion peice that exaggerates one of it’s competitors accomplishments. She has taken part in the Matt Lindland documentary that all but accused Zuffa getting rid of Matt to protect Rich Franklin as a champion. She wrote a piece on the Gina Carano vs. Christiane “Cyborg” Santos fight, and called it more imptortant than UFC 100 (an opinion that is hardly realistic). And those are just a few examples. Her main accomplishment is a book about Randy Couture that is horribly written, and is only popular because of the fighters name on the cover.

    This policy of Zuffa is damaging and bad for the sport, but not letting Loretta Hunt into any Zuffa events is nothing to cry about. CBS should have done there research before hiring a writer with a terrible relationship with Zuffa (the parent company of the top two promotions in the sport, and over 96% of the top tier talent).

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  2. Mike
    April 13, 2011

    Of course, you’re skimming right over the fact that Strikeforce has been on Viacom-owned Showtime and CBS for almost two years now and CBS Sports had *zero* coverage of a promotion in which their parent company had a vested interest before this event.

    If you think Hunt is one of the “biggest names in MMA journalism” you obviously haven’t been around the MMA business long. Her list of journalistic ethical lapses is only surpassed by her ability to make herself the story.

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    • sunedit
      April 13, 2011

      So what are you suggesting? That because CBS didn’t cover Strikeforce back in the fay they should be forced to not cover the UFC going forward?
      I’m not saying Hunt is the best MMA journalist around, but she’s got a profile in a market that is very much profile-free, at least in the mainstream.

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      • justa fan
        April 13, 2011

        They aren’t forced to do anything. They can either hire someone else (there are many more people in the industry who would be better for the position than her), or they can just not cover the sport as they haven’t for quite some time (as Mike pointed out with a promotion that was accesible to anybody with computer on a network they owned).

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      • Mike
        April 13, 2011

        Jayson Blair “has a profile” too.

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