Lorenzo Fertitta: Rashad 'threw a fit' over CagePotato photo caption

by Sergio Non | source: usatoday.com

A photo caption posted on the irreverent MMA website CagePotato.com resulted in a legal demand for its removal, with the ominous statement that the demand was "the first required step in the filing of a lawsuit seeking punitive damages against a party that has maliciously published defamatory statements about another."

The caption referred to wagering on Saturday's long-awaited showdown between champion Jon Jones and former champion (and former teammate) Rashad Evans.

CagePotato managing editor Ben Goldstein issued a retraction and apology, and removed the story from the site. Goldstein also defended the piece as satirical and humorous and thus allowed by law.

UFC President Dana White was made aware of the piece via Twitter, and reacted characteristically. But he was not the only person upset. As related in a USA TODAY interview with UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta and the UFC's chief marketing officer Bryan Johnston, Evans "threw a fit."

Sergio Non: Why is it such a serious thing for UFC?

Lorenzo Fertitta: Because these guys flatout lied. They just made up a story and lied. Somebody who doesn't know what our policies are and what we do, they could look at it in a very negative light.

A lot of people out there already don't even understand how the fight business works with regulation and everything, and for these guys to come out and make a statement like that, that is an extremely slanderous statement that potentially harms us in a big way.

The other thing too that you've got to understand is the fallout that you have. These fighters are already paranoid enough. Dana had to talk to Rashad on the phone for 30 minutes to calm him down, to tell him, "Are you crazy? There's no way I would ever bet on a fight or bet against you."

These guys go out and do this reckless reporting -- it's not even reporting -- make these reckless statements and they end up causing us fallout and having to deal with issues. Why should we even have to deal with this stuff? They made this up and lied and put it online.

SN: Their counterargument is that it was just satire and that most people clearly understood it as such. Why is that an insufficient explanation?

LF: Because we know what the outcome was. We had a flurry of people contacting us through e-mail, Twitter. Rashad throwing a complete fit and talking to Caren Bell, and then Dana having to call him to calm him down. If (people) thought it was just satire, we wouldn't have had that reaction.

Bryan Johnston: And it's really a weak argument to hide behind, satire. If tomorrow we put out an article online that said you were a pedophile and it went worldwide, it doesn't matter what kind of satire that is -- how do you unwind that?

SN: You don't, but I think ...

LF: Yeah, you don't.

SN: Where you do you draw the line? If someone's telling a joke and it just happens to be a bad joke, is that reason enough to...

LF: But it didn't even read like a joke. It didn't read like a joke at all. If you look at the article, when you first read that, it sounds like that they were in a room with Dana, talking to him, and he says, "Oh," and he kind of made a mistake and said something, and said "Don't print that."

To me -- and I'm a pretty educated guy, I read the paper every day, one of the people that still reads the paper...if I read an article like that, I would seriously believe that that actually happened and that went down.

It wasn't like it was a cartoon of Dana, with him blurbing something out in his head, with a bubble. It was put in print like a regular article.

SN: They issued a retraction on their website. Does it satisfy your demands?

LF: We're currently evaluating whether it's sufficient or not. Like I said, there's been a massive amount of fallout in the wake of them putting out something that is completely reckless in the way that they did. I don't understand how anybody could defend what they did. It's a very serious allegation.

For them to even joke that Dana made a wager of that magnitude on one fighter versus another fighter is something that could have tremendous negative implications for the industry, for our company and a lot of different things.

Read entire article...


tags: UFC   CagePotato   Lorenzo Fertitta   Dana White   


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Recent Comments »

Steve4192 site profile image  

4/19/12 6:03 PM by Steve4192

 Exactly. The 1919 'Black Sox' didn't control the organization they played for, but they sure as hell controlled the outcome of the games.  And before you make the 'but he bet one himself' argument, Pete Rose already tried that.  It didn't work out so well for him.

mikethecricket site profile image  

4/19/12 5:49 PM by mikethecricket

I get the feeling a lot of people commenting did not actually see the article.IIRC, the line in question was a caption to a photo.I gotta say that Lorenzo is exaggerating - he makes it sound like the line was in the body of the article.I totally understand why they would ask for a retraction, and why they would use this opportunity to f--k CP.I do believe Evans could have freaked if he heard this second hand. I doubt, though, that if he saw the article first he would have taken it seriously.

notsobigmike site profile image  

4/19/12 4:50 PM by notsobigmike

Being caught wagering on the outcome of UFC fights could potentially cost Dana his promoter's license and would be a HUGE scandal and potential career-ender.The UFC reaction may seem extreme, but even as a joke, it's a pretty serious allegation to make. As they mention in the article, you wouldn't joke about someone being a pedophile and not expect repercussions.Gambling in sports is a touchy topic. Ask Pete Rose.

UGCTT_Suess site profile image  

4/19/12 3:53 PM by UGCTT_Suess

you're right, he doesn't control the org.  he just controls  the fight he's supposedly betting on.  haha, wow!

goku site profile image  

4/19/12 3:48 PM by goku

 theyre not going to sue...standard bully lawyer tactic

netterbog site profile image  

4/19/12 3:25 PM by netterbog

I've been practicing law for a few years now - here's my 2 cents (strategy here, not analysis):Zuffa may be able to sue - but it can't win. However, it would be an expensive, nasty lawsuit for CP and Break Media to defend. Zuffa would probably sue Ben Goldstein personally as well, which would make things horribly uncomfortable for him. The discovery and depositions alone can suck years out of a man - or woman's - life.That being said, Zuffa has to know that the 1st Amendment is way too big of a hurdle for them to overcome, combined with the anti-SLAPP protections, mentioned above. Ultimately, I don't think they'll sue. That being said, if Fertitta and DW suddenly get very quiet on the issue - you can bet that the lawsuit is on its way out the door... At best, I see this whole thing as DW's way of making good on his promise to "F cage potato like they've never been F-ed before."

Hendpwned site profile image  

4/19/12 2:21 PM by Hendpwned

Exaclty. They went from content to controversy. They are the TMZ of the mma world. Just putting out news to get noticed, spreading rumors and lame attempts at humor.

Garv site profile image  

4/19/12 2:10 PM by Garv

 The problem for Cage Potato and everyone else Zuffa decides to sue is not the facts of the lawsuit, it's the deep pockets behind it.  The UFC can make the claim that someone said something that hurts their brand, and even if it's a bogus claim, you will need lawyers to fight it--which takes money.  There will be times where you must show up to court or else they might rule the case against you--only because you failed to show.  Unwinnable lawsuits have been a tool of the rich to fuck with thier enemies forever.  They know they can't win but the goal is not to win--it's to make you spend a ton money defending the charges. 

JimmersonzGlove site profile image  

4/19/12 2:04 PM by JimmersonzGlove


12SixElbow site profile image  

4/19/12 2:04 PM by 12SixElbow

 Is the UFC going to retract its statement about Dana NEVER betting?