Question Gus Johnson's MMA Announcing, Get a Profane Phone Call

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Last Saturday night's Strikeforce kerfuffle seems all but forgotten now: it happened, it was regrettable, and it's water under the bridge. But CagePotato's Mike Russell was upset with Gus Johnson's announcing job -- light on correct specifics and capped by an assertion about the fight that "sometimes this happens in MMA" -- and poked the bear, firing off an email to Strikeforce president Scott Coker.

Word of that e-mail got to Johnson by late Monday night, when, Russell writes, he received a phone call that began like this:

⇥"This is Gus Johnson," the person on the phone informed me. "I want to talk to you about some things you said about me."⇥...⇥"Dog, what are you doing going around saying I don’t know the difference between an armbar and a kimura and that I’m mistreating the sport because of comments I made on Saturday?"

It gets better.

Johnson went on to defend the job he does...

⇥"Do you even train? If you’re as credible of a journalist as you say you are, you can’t take the opinions of people on the Internet to heart, without talking to somebody who knows what they’re talking about — me included. I take jiu-jitsu three times a week. I know the difference between a kimura, an armbar, a reverse armbar and an Americana from side control, because I study it," he asserted. "As far as people saying that I damaged the image of the sport because of what I said about the s--- that went down Saturday night, if anything, it was me trying to make an excuse for these idiots going out on national television and pulling what they did after the card was over. It’s obvious that it happens. People don't need to hear it from me to know that it happens. We've all seen it. I state the obvious, and that’s obvious.
...how Russell made things "personal" by e-mailing Coker...
⇥"Where do you get off saying that to my boss? Writing it on your website is one thing, but you contacted my boss to ask him about it. Now it's personal and you need to be accountable."
...and his role in the promotion of mixed martial arts.
⇥"I take a lot of criticism, but I try my best to try to help promote this f------ sport, when nobody else, including television executives could give two s---- because they think it’s barbaric and it’s filled with a bunch of hoodlums, which is exactly how it looked to everyone watching the show Saturday night. I don’t really care about the 'growing opinion', because there’s another side that isn’t going to feel that way [about me]," Johnson explained. "There are certain messageboards and websites where people don’t feel that way at all. The problem with MMA is that these Internet guys ruin the sport because they’re negative 90 percent of the time. I’ve looked at them. if we give everyone a voice, we wouldn’t get anything accomplished. I try to say as many good things about these athletes in this sport on a network level — not on an underground level or a Spike TV cable level or a pay-per-view level. This is actual television and nobody knows if they’re going to pull the plug on this thing. If that happens, then everyone will lose money."
It's a testy, contentious Gus that Russell's article depicts, and between his profanity and frustration, it's a little hard to believe that this is real. But Russell swears it's real -- "I couldn't make this s--- up, he explains in the second comment on the post -- and Russell has the whole thing on tape, for anyone doubting his account of what seems like a long conversation.

And so it's hard not to conclude that Gus Johnson may be one of the most singularly passionate people in sports media, possibly to his detriment. Who calls up writers from the Internet and gives an animated defense of his job and his sport, complete with profanity, at 11 p.m. on a weeknight?

Apparently, Gus Johnson does. And even if I disagree with some of his sentiments and tactics, like the "How can you criticize me? What do you know?" assumption he seems to make, I'm impressed by the interest in converting viewers to MMA and dedication to answering critics. It's certainly better to have announcers who care about their sports; there's already enough indifference to go around in broadcasting.

(HT: CagePotato.)↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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