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UFC Madness at the WaPo

So yesterday Jason Campbell debuts, the Redskins' freefall continues, a top 10 local hoops team is upset at home, the most important BCS rankings of the year are released and the Nats' best player signs with the Cubs. Sorta busy sports day 'round here. And what's the most-read sports story on our Web site this morning? A 390-word story on Ultimate Fighting, written off TV coverage by a freelancer, which appeared on page E3 of today's Sunday's print edition.

Not only is it currently beating all the Redskins and Nats and Hoyas stories on our site; it's currently second on the entire Washington Post site. Number one: Pentagon options on improving the Iraq situation. Number two: Ultimate Fighting, covered via TV, on page E3.

The story achieved that rank because it's the top story on UFC's Web site, and the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of UFC fans who go there then jump to our site. Every time we write about these events, the UFC hooks us up with a link, and the resulting TV-based recap is the most-read sports story on our site. And I mean no disrespect to Andrew Levine, who does a fine job with these recaps; it's just not how I traditionally have thought of sports writing. It's really remarkable, and it has me wondering a few things:

1) Will sportswriters in the future watch events on TV, conduct phone interviews or listen in on press conferences and then write remote stories? It's true that you can't replicate being in a locker room. It's also true that you often get a better picture of what's happening by watching and listening to a television broadcast. And satellite TV is cheaper than plane tickets and expense-account dinners. Once you've done it with Ultimate Fighting, why couldn't you do it with any other sport, especially big events like Michigan-Ohio State, where the out-of-town writers are going with the big picture and not trying to snoop out any real news?

2) Will sports sections in the future make their coverage decisions based on Web clicks? Disgruntled local sports fans always ask us how we decide which teams to cover, and we often refer to readership surveys that are in many cases dated, and that always involve random samplings. With the Web you don't have to random sample anything; you can just look at the numbers. If clicks is what we want, the answers are clear: UFC and Redskins.

3) Should I just ditch the local sports angle and write about nothing but UFC, and then hope the fine folks over in UFC-land see fit to link to my blog posts? I'd lose Unsilent Majority and bryc3 and SEKim, but I'd gain the world.

Edit: I didn't realize this, but we're now also publishing UFC videos on our site. So you can watch some red/white hot UFC action here, and judge for yourself, I guess. Although for sheer quantities of blood and nastiness, you might just as well watch Chris Clark take a puck in the mouth.

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 20, 2006; 10:37 AM ET
Categories:  Fighting Sports  
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Washington Post needs more MMA coverage. I keep hearing about dwindling circulation and the need to genrate more revenue - there is part of your answer right there. Well, it won't help circulation...but as you have said it will drive page views on the website.

You want traffic, cover MMA. The fans online virtually kept the sport alive in the US when the previous owners of the UFC tried to ruin it by allowing just about anything to go. Now that things are headed in the right direction under new ownership you would be well advised to get in the game. Showtime is on board, HBO is not far behind.

Posted by: Prophet | November 20, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

and now i've gone and posted in the wrong thread. your readership ain't exactly known for its smarts.

this shoulda gone here:


I have no idea what the hell the UFC is, but I have every intention of following you to the ends of the Earth if you're going to mention me in your posts.

MMA stands for Mid-Major Afros, right? Dan had that story covered. I guess we can't assume anyone connected with the Mason team reads the blog though, cause that fake-ass Darnell the Crabman wannabe Ogirri murderized us on Saturday afternoon.

Posted by: bryc3 | November 20, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse


Consider yourself lucky, I seem to be taken for granted as to following Dan.

Posted by: Kim | November 20, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

If you feel you must cover the UFC and abandon the Caps, the only shocking thing would be that you chose something besides even more Redskins coverage to leave the Caps behind for.

And then I would lament the passing of another chance for a bit more news on the Caps. I understand you have a vendetta with Ben Clymer, but don't let that get the best of you.

Posted by: Goat | November 20, 2006 12:39 PM | Report abuse

"Will sportswriters in the future watch events on TV, conduct phone interviews or listen in on press conferences and then write remote stories?"

Dan, it's being done NOW. Scandals in Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York have erupted because of writers "mailing it in" off a TRS-80 (remember those?) whilst watching the tube.

Posted by: Thunderstruck | November 20, 2006 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Hockey became irrelevant not only due to the lockout, but because of the crackdown on fighting. Boxing is a crooked racket and there are no compelling stories aside from Mike Tyson's sex life and obvious insanity. The UFC with its superior athletes, bloody violence, and strangely compelling reality show on Spike provides outstanding entertainment. MMA is the sport of the future. What we need is a UFC in DC.

Posted by: atrain408 | November 20, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I went to Summer's Restaurant in Arlington on Saturday afternoon to watch some football, and by the time I left, the remaining games were being shown on only a couple TVs while most of the rest were showing the UFC fights, and anyone coming in had to pay a cover charge. Patrons were actually booing and cheering their favorite fighters. The most interesting fight was the first one, where the eventual winner caused his opponent to tap out after a choke hold. Before the winner leaped up in jubilation, he made sure the loser was okay and able to get his wind back. Can't say I've ever seen that in regular boxing or the fake WWF crap...

Posted by: Anonymous | November 20, 2006 5:54 PM | Report abuse

If you all at the Post would cover the pro boxing scene IN YOUR OWN AREA, you would get some of the better stories!!

Posted by: Gary Digital Williams | November 20, 2006 8:45 PM | Report abuse

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