Social media set alight with embarrassing coverage of world’s best promotion.
Useless, embarrassing and terrible.
They are just some of the printable words that were used to described the Channel 5 studio coverage of the UFC’s recent jaunt to London, which saw the world’s best mixed martial arts promotion try and spread the word of their sport.
The fact it was on free to air television is appreciated, to be able to watch the number one light heavyweight in Alexander Gustafsson from the comfort of my couch was generally sensational.
But there was a black cloud that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
The coverage of the fights from The O2 was great when it was showcasing the fights themselves, with John Gooden and former fighter Dan Hardy being knowledgeable, insightful and great ambassadors for the sport.
However, there was such a large footnote that has to be mentioned.
The in-studio coverage of the fights was so bad it was likened to university-level of professionalism or, more like it, primary school.
Despite having UFC legend Forrest Griffin in the chair opposite him, host Mark Pougatch, did more damage to the sport than American politician John McCain circa 1998 and PED’s combined.
The host clearly had no idea about the sport.
Asking such basic questions of Griffin as “is that what you used to do” in reference to his Hall-of-Fame career and “it’s very visually alluring isn’t it?”.
“So what’s happening here” was another popular question from the clueless Pougatch when replays of rounds were shown and “this is exhausting for both fighters isn’t it.”
Yes Mark, a combat sport tends to be quiet tiring.
Despite mixed martial arts not being everybody’s cup of tea, if you’re charged with the task of hosting what is an important program in the continued education and exposure of the sport to interested fans, you need to know what you’re talking about.
While Griffin has an at times unusual way of delivering his information on the sport that made his famous around the world, half of Pougatch’s work was done for him in that he simply had to bounce relatively well-learned sounding questions off him.
If Pougatch had not seen much of any of the fighters on the card in London or MMA in general, a couple of days scanning the internet would have given him more knowledge than he possessed on Saturday night.
This is not simply aimed at Pougatch personally, despite hundreds of upset fans of MMA taking to Twitter and other social media during the telecast to express their disgust.
But more to point out how important it is to present the sport in a continued proper light so as to convert interested fans and quash false rumours that it is merely “human cock fighting”
Channel 5 also advertised the fights, all two of them that were shown in “real time”, were indeed live.
This was also false, as BT Sport and the rest of the internet was minutes ahead of the Channel 5 stream.
And in a sport where fights end in a split second, it was not good enough from a program that most fans were led to believe was being shown at the same time cage side as it was in their living room.
Garry Cook, UFC executive vice-president and EMEA managing director said the move to have UFC on in prime-time was new ground for the sport in the UK.
“I’ve got to give it to Channel 5, they came to us and said: ‘We think there’s a place for boxing or UFC on a Saturday night’,” Cook said.
“Although it’s new territory for both of us, we’re going to work hard and make it work.
“It needs to be a partnership though: if Channel 5 gets great ratings, that’s a success for them. But if they also tell the fighters’ stories, give it some context and provide education, that’s a success for us too.”
Education yes is important especially if people are wanting to learn more, but there is a way to do it.
And yes having any MMA on television for free is a nice change of pace from always paying for a sport, millions around the world gladly pay for the right to watch.
However, Channel 5’s amateurish, and at times almost condescending coverage away from cage-side, did more damage to the sport and was embarrassing for most who know their Thai-clinch from their side-control.