Rees Lloyd: Why Do Oregon Media Ignore or Marginalize MMA Athlete

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As reported by the Victoria Taft Blog (here and here) Chael Sonnen, a native Oregonian from West Linn,  former  All American wrestler for the University of Oregon, former Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling Team Alternate, and now Mixed Martial Arts Superstar from Oregon’s now world famous Team Quest training center in Portland (Gresham) co-founded by MMA legend and former Olympic Silver Medalist Matt Lindland, won the co-main event of a major UFC production, UFC ON FOX on Saturday, January 28, 2012.



Fox’s broadcast of the UFC event involving three fights, including the co-main event featuring Oregon’s Sonnen, is only the second time in UFC history that an MMA event was broadcast on a major American television network. It was seen by 17,000 in the Chicago arena and by millions all over the U.S., and in twenty-four foreign countries, according to Fox.  


Sonnen’s unanimous decision victory over England’s Michael Bisping gives Sonnen his long awaited rematch with UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva of Brazil, who is considered the best MMA fighter “pound-for-pound” in the world. However, he met his match when he fought Sonnen, the first fighter to literally manhandle Silva and beat down Silva until the final seconds of the last round, when Silva managed to apply a desperate “triangle choke hold” which forced Sonnen to tap out before being choked out. Every judge had given Sonnen every minute of every round, until those last few seconds of the last round of the five-round fight.


The Sonnen-Silva championship  rematch is expected to take place in a huge soccer stadium in Brazil, where MMA is a national obsession. It has been called “the most anticipated rematch in UFC history.”


However, the question presented regarding the rematch is– Will UFC Champion Anderson  Silva actually sign for the fight with Sonnen, or duck it? Again? Sonnen has called Silva out repeatedly, and claims that the UFC has offered Silva a contract for the fight with Sonnen four times, but Silva has ducked the fight on each of the four times with one excuse after another.


The question I have, however, is this: All these facts are true, and are being published across the fruited plain by various major media and on the internet. However, they are ignored by Oregon media. Why?


For instance, the Oregonian, the 800-pound guerilla of newspaper journalism in Portland and Oregon (okay, the 8-Pound Chimpanzee of newspaper reportage), did not report a word about Chael Sonnen’s victory in Chicago, or that he would now fight for the title.

Why would the Oregonian and other Oregon media ignore the achievement of Sonnen and other MMA fighters from Oregon? The Oregon media fails to report on Sonnen’s victory,  despite the fact that Sonnen is a homegrown Oregonian, so proud of it that he ensures that the ring announcer always identifies him as “Chael Sonnen, fighting out of West Linn, Oregon.” 


He also makes clear in interviews (with national and international media in pre- and post-fight interviews, which Oregon media do not bother to cover), that no matter his rise to MMA superstardom, he is proud of his Oregon roots and will return post-fight to his hometown of West Linn, to coach kids in the “All Phase Wrestling” team in association with West Linn High School, and  will to continue to train at Team Quest, where he began as a high school wrestler himself.


I don’t understand this lack of media response to MMA athletes as opposed to other athletes.  Oregon is a small state. For instance, the population of the entire state is about the same as Riverside County, CA.  Most states take great pride in their homegrown athletes that make good. In Boxing or MMA, fighters are usually referenced at some point in the commentary, as “L.A.’s own hometown hero,” or “New York’s own [fill in the blank].” I can assure you that if Riverside County, CA, from whence I relocated to Oregon,  had a homegrown athlete as No. 1 UFC contender now with a title shot, it would be a matter of pride with lots of publicity. If he won, there would be parades.


Team Quest is a “homegrown”training center of world renown, Matt Lindland is an MMA Superstar and former Olympic Silver Medalist from Oregon, and Chael Sonnen is a Team Quest MMA superstar, former All-American at the University of Oregon, and an Olympic Team alternate, who is the No. 1 contender for the Middleweight title for the UFC, which is the major leagues. UFC is biggest show in MMA fighting. Athletes dream of making it to the UFC, let alone becoming a contender or a champion. 


Yet,  when Oregon’s Chael Sonnen wins a critical fight Saturday night that gives him a title shot in a UFC event seen by more people than any MMA event in history, the Oregonian doesn’t think it is worth reporting,  and ignores it in favor of, say, a non-Orgonian, non-American tennis player having a bad day at the Australian Open.


I just don’t get it. Even political conservatives, other than Victoria Taft,  have apparently failed to see that almost all MMA fighters, if not all, and most MMA fans, are American patriots,  and political conservatives not all anxious to become slaves or dependents of the state under the neo-socialism which is creeping through the culture.


Further,MMA is the fastest growing sport in the country.  Oregon has produced some of MMA’s greatest legends and rising stars in that fastest-growing sport. Yet there is silence by almost all of the Oregonian media about even Oregon-born superstars in the sport.


Why? Do the reporters, journalists, and editors of Oregon media have a prejudicial view of MMA? Is it “too brutal” or “violent” or “bloodsport” as was once claimed? None of those things are true, of course, as MMA requires great skill in diverse martial arts; MMA has rules governing what is allowed and not allowed;  and, though rarely reported,  the UFC has not experienced the serious damage caused to athletes in other sports. For instance, there are no “punch drunk” former MMA fighters; no former fighters with permanently disabling head, back, or other injuries, as in other contact sports. 


The fact is, neither the fighters in MMA nor the fans are knuckle-dragging Neanderthals savoring blood. Indeed, almost all of the top MMA fighters are college graduates. Many, like Chael Sonnen, were All American wrestlers in college. Many are veterans like Randy Couture (six years in the U.S. Army). Most if not all are unashamed patriots like Matt Lindland–about whom I have to ask: Just how many Olympic Silver Medalists does Oregon have that the Oregon media can  marginalize a MMA legend like Matt Lindland? 


The so-called “MMA community” is also large and growing. Recall that  when Randy Couture, native of the Portland Metro-area (born just across the Columbia in Washington), co-founder with Matt Lindland of Team Quest in Portland (Gresham),  and five-time UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight Champion, fought in UFC’s event in the Rose Garden, almost 16,000 MMA fans showed up to see it. 


I covered that fight for Victoria Taft, and spoke to many, many people in the audience: Who they are; what do they do; why are they there, why MMA? What about the state of the economy, the country, the culture? In my random interviews, these were people better educated than the average; many highly educated. Articulate.  All I interviewed actually worked for a living, most in the private sector. They were self-reliant working people. I did not encounter any liberal progressive elitist trust-fund babies and stock coupon clippers.Those I interviewed were confident, but unpretentious, or elitist. When I probed on matters cultural and political, they were proud of their country and grateful to it. Proud to be Americans. They were also proud of the military who have protected our freedom. They were people humble enough to be thankful to their country, and courageous enough to defend it. 


In short, they were very much like the people I have met at Tea Party rallies: Self-reliant, hard-working, humble,  Americans who love their country, are grateful for the freedom they enjoy as Americans, and willing to take a stand against its transformation into a quasi-socialist welfare state of limited freedom instead of limited government, state dependency instead of individual responsibility and freedom to succeed. 


Does that explain the Oregon media’s apparent dismissive, distain for the achievements of Oregon athletes in MMA? 


Is MMA considered a sport appealing to “conservatives” and thus not to reported on by the liberal to progressive to worse media?


Is MMA just not fou-fou enough for Portland, the Principality of Progressive Political Correctness?


Is there an elitist snobbery factor here?


I don’t know. If you who read this know, then please enlighten me with a comment below.


What I do know is that elitist media distain for MMA should disappear, and Oregon’s MMA athletes should be given equal attention by the media, not ignored, not marginalized.


I salute native Oregonian Chael Sonnen for his victory, native Oregonian Matt Lindland for his achievements in MMA and staying home to create and sustain Team Quest, and all the Team Quest and other MMA athletes who are bringing honor to themselves and to Oregon by their hard work in MMA. I thank all of them for their patriotism, there many, many  volunteer hours (and days) in service for our troops, and for our country.


[Rees Lloyd is a civil rights attorney, a veterans activist, a resident of Portland, and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.]


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