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Astroturfing, UFC Rio Rancho and the Mixed Martial Arts Media

There is a pervasive silence encompassing a number of controversial topics within mixed martial arts which are routinely smoke screened and socially engineered into strawman, parallel bearings within the media in order to drive their naïve, unsuspecting audience into the most profitable direction in what can be safely written. The very nature of the mainstream mixed martial arts media outlets themselves creating a third party, proxy environment where media conglomerates are ready, willing and able to serve special interest groups in the name of marketing and professional business affairs. In a world where if one controls the message, you in effect control the people, it should come to nobody as a surprise when elements of the mixed martial arts media, whether knowingly or otherwise, ultimately serve the interests of the combat sports entertainment industry elite.

In a February 8, 2012 TheGuardian.com article titled, “Astroturfing: What is it and why does it matter?” author Adam Bienkov writes that, “Astroturfing is the attempt to create an impression of widespread grassroots support for a policy, individual, or product, where little such support exists. Multiple online identities and fake pressure groups are used to mislead the public into believing that the position of the astroturfer is the commonly held view.” The report goes on to state that, “The use of so-called “astroturf” groups is widespread across all nations and walks of life, from China to Britain, from book reviews to online surveys, and from big business to local politics.”

According to a February 21, 2020 Luke Thomas YouTube video titled, “Joshua Fabia Reaction, Wilder-Fury 2 & UFC Auckland Preview | Live Chat, ep. 20 | Luke Thomas” the Showtime MMA analyst explained how things operate in his corner of the internet to those who may not be regular listeners to his broadcasts. “Okay, you guys know the drill,” explained Thomas. “I put up a question thread around noon every Thursday. Now I didn’t, I did do that yesterday but we didn’t go to our normal time today,” Thomas explained in elaborating on exactly how and where he draws much of information and material online.

Reflecting on his February 19, 2020 YouTube video titled, “Joshua Fabia, Diego Sanchez’s Coach, Speaks Out After Taking Criticism,” Thomas looked back on his interview with Diego Sanchez’s coach Joshua Fabia. According to the SiriusXM radio host, “Here is my hunch of things,” said Thomas. “First of all, it’s kind of interesting,” explained Thomas in laying the ground work for his thoughts. “The week began with did Diego quit? Is he a quitter? And you know, everyone’s got their own debate about it. I tend to think he quite obviously decided he’d had enough,” said Thomas.

“But, given that promoters have been sticking it to fighters all these years, splitting their purses up between show and win, and you know, he’s going through a divorce. And you know, you have a financial incentive to just say fine, I, you know, it’s hard for me to get really upset about it,” explained Thomas. “Plus, he’s been such been such a blood and guts fighter for so long. You know, if this happens again well that’s different, but for the one time, I just, I just have a hard time holding it against Diego. Its interesting, now that at the end of the week that conversation has all but gone away. Now the conversation has shifted entirely to his coach, no one is really talking about did Diego quit, did he not quit. Everything is about what role is the coach playing in his life,” the Showtime Morning Kombat MMA analyst explained.

“But In general, I feel like I did what I was mostly supposed to. He wanted to get his word out there, that’s part of what an interview is about, right? Both sides need to feel like they got something out of it. On the other hand, I don’t feel like what he said was especially exonerating,” opined Thomas.

In fact, I think it was quite the opposite. For a video of mine to have around 80,000 views, which it has right now, the typical comment count is around 500-600. We are currently bordering on 3,200 for him. So, it’s about six times the normal rate, if you look at the comments, and I think the general feedback which I’ve gotten, I don’t think a lot of you found his answers particularly convincing as well,” explained Thomas.

So, what we can establish from this information alone is that Thomas works off data supplied to him online from anonymous online sources, including taking questions online and listening to viewer comments, suggestions and feedback. Some of which ultimately make their way into his various radio shows and YouTube internet Live Chat sessions. With Fabia receiving a great deal of criticism, both online and from within the mixed martial arts media its particularly interesting to note that according to Thomas himself, the comment count on his YouTube video following his interview with Fabia is six times that of the normal rate.

That is a fascinating statistic in light of the MMAPressRoom.com’s February 16, 2020 article titled, “Black Propaganda: The Psychology of the Combat Sports Entertainment Industry” where information is discussed involving the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s use of viral marketing companies for the purpose of posing as fans online while serving the needs and interests of the promotion. Interestingly, according to a March 30, 2017 MMAFightingonSBN YouTube video titled, “The MMA Beat: Episode 143,” The MMA Beat host and current ESPN MMA analyst Ariel Helwani went on record to state that, “I’ve noticed, because you know we’ve been very Bellator centric on this show, my show, at the press conference on Tuesday and I’ve seen just so many negative comments from fans, quote-unquote “fans” online. And people have been telling me for a year or so, that Zuffa pays people to go on line and disparage the competition,” explained Helwani.

“Astroturfing is what it’s called,” interjected Helwani’s then co-host Luke Thomas.

This information was further explored in February 21, 2020 MMAPressRoom.com article titled, “The UFC Rio Rancho After Action Report” where the question was posed --- “Exactly how much of the negative online feedback concerning Fabia and Sanchez is genuine and how easily is the mixed martial arts media coerced into doing the 800-pound gorilla’s bidding?”

Considering how much of Luke Thomas’s content is drawn from anonymous online sources, one has to question the possibility that viral marketing companies are using the power of suggestion to lead Thomas and other leading mixed martial arts talking heads around by a leash with their astroturfing campaign techniques. And with Thomas himself revealing a comment count six times of the normal average on his YouTube video interview with Fabia, coupled with the extreme level of criticism and scrutiny leveled towards both Fabia and Sanchez online from virtually all corners of the internet and the very real possibility that something out of the ordinary is occurring here becomes readily apparent.

A February 17, 2020 MMAFighting.com article titled, “Diego Sanchez and his coach blast media for ‘smear campaign’ following UFC Rio Rancho,” underscores the negativity the Sanchez camp feels they have endured in the court of public opinion following the severe backlash online. Some of that criticism includes but are not limited to labeling Fabia a “weirdo” and his and Sanchez’s martial arts techniques as “fruitcake moves.” Other flattering elements of the smear campaign include painting Fabia as a dangerous knife wielding maniac while also questioning his credentials to be involved in the sport of mixed martial arts.

Without question, there is a concerted effort to undermine Fabia’s credibility currently underway that is designed to undermine the UFC Hall of Famer Diego Sanchez’s market value going forward as the Sanchez camp nears the end of their contractual obligations with the UFC and the possibility of testing the free agent waters becomes an increasingly likely possibility. Though some of the criticism leveled towards the Sanchez camp is likely genuine and organic in nature, the six-fold comment count increase on Luke Thomas’s YouTube video interview with Joshua Fabia seems to indicate an unusually high amplification of this topic which has no doubt contributed to the smear campaign taking on a life of its own online.

It would be alarming to discover that the mixed martial arts media is so easily mislead as to serve as the proverbial marionettes controlled by a puppeteer on a string. The pied piper leading the rats through town, playing the media like a fiddle as they swim with the current created by the UFC’s rotors. And in a sports world dominated by statistical facts, the six-fold comment count increase in Thomas’ video is a tantalizing piece of evidence to digest. From the outsiders perspective, it certainly seems like Joshua Fabia is suffering the same fate as MMA superstar Ronda Rousey’s coach Edmund Tarverdyan, another victim of an online smear campaign akin to a modern day witch hunt.

Interestingly, according to a June 23, 2010 MiddleEasy.com article titled, “In 2006, Dana White Approved Of People ‘Posing As Fans’ And ‘Leaking’ Videos To Message Boards” information surfaced that suggested there may be more to Ariel Helwani’s observations concerning the UFC paying people to go online and disparage the competition than initially meets the eye. “The following is evidence from the trial of the Viacom vs. YouTube lawsuit that just wrapped up a few hours ago,” MiddleEasy.com reports. “This is not a hoax; all of this has been verified,” the article continued.

With some of the sport’s most popular opinion makers being aware of the viral marketing companies and their astroturfing techniques, one has to question the very nature of the mixed martial arts media itself when those who are cognizant of the corruption knowingly put themselves in a position to be manipulate and controlled by the combat sports entertainment industry elite. The very nature of the mainstream mixed martial arts media creates a third party, proxy environment where media corporations are all too willing to meet marketing advertiser demands. With a pervasive silence encompassing any number of controversial topics within mixed martial arts; without question elements of the mixed martial arts media knowingly or otherwise serve the interests of the combat sports entertainment industry elite.