Thoughts From Across The Pond 12.11.13: A Bloody Disgrace to Journalism
Posted by Alex Watt on 12.11.2013
On Friday night Mark Hunt and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva delivered one of the best fights of the year but not everyone was as enamoured with the craziness of the heavyweight classic as UFC fans were. An Australian journalist took to one of the biggest news outlets in the country to run down the sport. 411’s Alex Watt responds…
Phil Rothfield A Bloody Disgrace . . . To Journalism
On Friday in Brisbane, Australia heavyweights Mark Hunt and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva battled to a majority draw (48-47, 47-47, 47-47) in an instant classic.
The fight between the two humungous hard hitting combatants wasn't expected to go past the second round and a (T)KO finish seemed almost assured. After all, neither had ever been in a fight which lasted longer than 15 minutes.
Instead, Hunt and Bigfoot tore up the playbook and ate every bit of the substantial artillery that their opponent threw their way for 25 thrilling minutes, in which both men were frequently rattled, dropped and showed every bit of the war as blood covered both of their tired faces.
There is little doubt that it was the greatest heavyweight fight ever contested inside the UFC's Octagon and it might yet take Fight of the Year honours away from the likes of Sanchez vs. Melendez and Jones vs. Gustafsson.
Unfortunately, not everyone was as enamoured with Hunt and Bigfoot's fight for the ages as the 11,393 raucous Aussie fans in attendance and the thousands more UFC fans watching at home.
Australian journalist Phil "Buzz" Rothfield – allegedly a first time UFC viewer – took to Sydney's Daily Telegraph pages to condemn the violence and call for the sport to be banned in the country.
To a first time viewer, I could understand someone not entirely understanding the sport after watching that particular fight. After all, Hunt vs. Bigfoot wasn't the greatest example of skill ever seen inside the Octagon but rather a dramatic display of two combat athletes refusing to back down an inch, despite eating hard punches and battling exhaustion.
Even so, the article in question is remarkably ill informed and reactive.
To watch one UFC event and then see fit to decry an entire sport is ridiculous. It would be akin to watching one disappointing football or tennis match and ridiculing the sport as a whole as being entirely boring, unwatchable and void of merit.
What is immediately clear is that Rothfield knows little of the history of the sport and has not done his research to discover more about MMA and the numerous disciplines it encapsulates. For instance, he frequently refers to the sport as "UFC", as opposed to Mixed Martial Arts.
The uninformed statements in his article are numerous.
"Since when is kicking, elbowing, kneeing, punching and stomping an opponent classified as sport?" Rothfield begins, immediately showing his lack of knowledge of the topic in question given that stomping is not permitted under the unified rules of Mixed Martial Arts.
Rothfield continued, describing the experience as one of "almost defenceless men being held down on the ground and punched senseless", as if Hunt and Bigfoot had accidentally wandered into the Octagon entirely unprepared for combat, as opposed to being highly trained, disciplined and well paid athletes.
Rothfield even urged his readers to "Google ‘UFC worst injuries'" so as to back up his opinion of how brutal the sport is. Ironically, a simple five minute Google search would have cleared up many of the ignorant generalisations Rothfield makes in the rest of the article.
By the time Rothfield was asking, "Why aren't fighters getting protection from blood diseases?" I had my head in my hands. Would it really have been so hard to look into the extensive drug and disease testing policy that the UFC has in place before posting this nonsense?
The sentence which resonated with most pro-UFC readers however was this one;
"The fact women were allowed to fight on the card was an even bigger disgrace."
Why? Should female athletes not be permitted to compete in the sport that they love? Why is women competing in MMA any worse than men doing so? Does Mr. Rothfield consider females too delicate and lovely to be engaging in combat? Perhaps he would rather see them "in their place" raising the children and cooking him his dinner?
That's not just ignorant. That's sexism bordering on misogyny.
You'll note too that Rothfield ignored Hunt and Silva's behaviour during and after the fight. Both heavyweights absolutely battered each other with strikes and were left cut and bruised by the end of the contest, that much I can accept. Yet Rothfield neglected to mention the fantastic sportsmanship and respect between the two men; a factor which plays into why so many UFC and MMA fans are hooked on the sport.
Hunt and Silva frequently touched gloves, shook hands, hugged at the beginning of the final round and immediately fell into each other's arms in a show of mutual respect and admiration as the horn signalled the end of the five rounds of crazy action.
A little background research on Rothfield (something all good journalists should do, Phil) shows that he primarily writes about Rugby League and Boxing. I wonder then why he is questioning the safety of Mixed Martial Arts when it is proven to be safer than both of the sports he frequently pens articles about.
It's almost as if he has an agenda against the UFC and is trying to deflect attention away from the dangers of the sports he loves and onto a different one.
His questions about why competitors are allowed to compete in the cage when "it's illegal on the streets" and why MMA fighters aren't "at least made to wear headgear" are ones which could just as easily be levied at boxing.
He concluded his article by stating, "The injury risks they face in rugby league and all the footy codes. At least their sport involves a large degree of skill - and it's not just a contest to violently bash another person into submission."
Again, the wilful ignorance on display here is laughable. Mixed Martial Arts is a combat sport which encapsulates various disciplines including, but not limited to, wrestling, judo, boxing, and taekwondo, all of which are sports considered skilled enough to be represented at the Olympic Games every four years (and in 2016, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu could also be added to that extensive list). On top of that the likes of Ronda Rousey, Dan Henderson, Daniel Cormier, Hector Lombard and Ben Askren all competed in the Olympics.
What this article does show is that many people still need to be educated about Mixed Martial Arts as the sport continues to grow.
I would advise that Rothfield go and watch the likes of Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Jon Jones, José Aldo and Ronda Rousey before passing judgement on the skill level of the athletes in the UFC and in Mixed Martial Arts.
Sadly, I know he has no intention of doing so. Rothfield has made his decision based on one event and no amount of logical argument or reasonable debate or even facts seem to be about to sway him from his stance of ignorance.
What is most frightening of all is that Phil Rothfield isn't an unpaid blogger or an internet writer for fun, the man is a qualified journalist writing for a major news publication in the Southern Hemisphere.
As someone who is currently studying for my NCTJ qualifications in journalism, I found Rothfield's article especially reprehensible.
Rothfield's article isn't just ignorant to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, it's downright irresponsible and unethical journalism.
Admittedly, I can only refer to my knowledge of the NUJ Code of Ethics which covers the press in the United Kingdom and Ireland but I find it difficult to believe that the Australian equivalent would be drastically different.
For reference, here are points two, three and four of the code of conduct;
2. Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.
3. Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies.
4. Differentiates between fact and opinion."
I don't think it's a stretch to state that Mr. Rothfield broke every single one of these three points frequently throughout his article.
Sadly I realise that in writing this response article, I've given Rothfield and his employers exactly what they want; more eyes on their product. Mr. Rothfield went fishing for reactions with his article and he got them. It just saddens me that clickbait like this now supersedes ethical journalism.
I should note that the Daily Telegraph, to their credit, have given other writers for the publication the right of reply and a couple of articles have since sprung up on their website defending the UFC and the sport of MMA. Even so, it doesn't necessarily justify such a poorly researched and discriminatory article appearing on a respected down under news organisation's website in the first place.
What is perhaps even more negligent of Mr. Rothfield is his use of social media to further his agenda against the sport.
Sadly, instead of explaining to his 14,000+ followers that those attacking him in such poor fashion were in the minority, "Buzz" made sure to tar all UFC fans with the same brush by playing the victim and aim to turn those also unfamiliar with the sport against all followers of the sport by employment of a crass generalisation.
This is despite the fact that I read dozens of well informed, educated and well written comments on Rothfield's controversial article itself disproving every speculative bit of nonsense that he was spouting. It's strange that he ignored all of those, isn't it?
Similarly disgracefully, Rothfield has been sure to retweet the uneducated comments which back up his own line of thinking (eg. "Not surprising when the sport is basically back-alley brawling", "nothing but legal thuggery", etc), rather than sharing some of the various tweets sent in his direction – many from those like myself who write about the sport – which gave the opposing view to his own and might have inspired healthy debate on the issue.
And that is one of the main points of good journalism; to inspire discussion and debate. By wilfully ignoring any viewpoint which doesn't adhere to his own agenda, Rothfield has shown himself up as a hack.
If you don't like the sport, then that's fine. Combat sports are not for everyone. Just don't watch it.
And certainly don't pass judgement on it if you have no intention of learning anything about the sport or of engaging in intelligent discourse with those who understand its worth.
After all, is it too much to ask that qualified journalists check their facts, do their research and don't resort to reactionary nonsense and scaremongering in order to make people read their articles?
And that'll do it for another week. Please let me know what your response to Rothfield's contentious article was in the comments section below.
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