MMAJunkie’s John Morgan and ‘Cold Coffee’ explain how MMA journalism works

From: The MMA Road Show with John Morgan Episode 38 – December 8, 2015

John Morgan: A little bit of a weird vibe at World Series [of Fighting] today. Ali Abdel Aziz — I’m thinking he probably wouldn’t have been there anyway. Ali Abdel Aziz is of course the manager of Rafael dos Anjos, the UFC lightweight champion fighting in Orlando Saturday night. I’ve gotta think… You know what, I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. Uh… Maybe he would have been there. Maybe he would have just flown out on Saturday morning to be there with his client on Saturday night, but, as it stands the reports are out there. Ali Abdel Aziz no longer with World Series of Fighting, and um… yeah.

It’s kind of weird, I mean he’s been a fixture of that organization for a long time and we were there today with all the executives, and of course [WSOF president] Ray Sefo was there and WSOF COO] Keith Evans was walking around, um, you know.. Just not seeing Ali there was uhhhhhh… a little bit weird. But it seems like, you know with talking to everybody — [WSOF CEO] Carlos Silva as well — talking with them, everybody feels like they’ve made a good decision. Everybody’s okay with it and everybody feels like they’re moving in the right direction.

Cold Coffee: I mean, it’s got to be one of those things where they know it’s gonna be.. it’s tough, you know, I think they’re all friends and they respect him and they know that they’ve helped built this thing and it’s constantly going forward that an organization I think at the point where it is right now they can’t take a huge hit to… They can’t take a black eye right now.

cold coffee

John Morgan: Right.

Cold Coffee: At some point they’re going to have to decide, you know, it’s not personal, it’s business. You know, and for the greater good… And even, who knows, reading some things like the WSOF age that was putting part of this initial lawsuit, it was against the detriment of theWorld Series of Fighting and all this other stuff they were trying to do.

John Morgan: Right.

Cold Coffee: And I can understand that, so… Yeah, it’s a little surprising, because you’re right, every time I think of it I think of Ray and Ali like side by side every time I see ’em.

John Morgan: Yep.

Cold Coffee: But, you know, um, it’s not like they’re parting ways. They’re still going to see him. I think they’ll probably still try… Ali, he’s still going to promote the organization, I guarantee. He’s still got fighters [he manages] there, um…, But you’re right. I mean, especially we’re seeing Khabib [Nurmagomedov] and a lot of the other guys there.I guarantee he would have been there, but you know, there could have been other stuff. But there’s another fight week down in Orlando. There’s things going on down there, so, um… Yeah. I mean… But it was interesting. Cuz’ he has one of those bold presences that you just notice there.

John Morgan: Right.

Cold Coffee: When I happened to see him… He was there at one of the TUF… I think the TUF finale, or it was [UFC] 194 — one of the UFC events I saw him, you know. He comes in the room, he’s kinda the personality, you just, he becomes known that he’s there, you know. So I guess the lack of seeing him there was definitely noticeable, but it was the right thing to do. They don’t want to anything that’s going to harm the organization when it’s at such a good point and it’s gaining momentum. You know, it’s getting a lot of people talking about it, so. It’s unfortunate because he’s a good guy, but, you know, it is what it is.

John Morgan: Yeah, definitely, so and uh, I had a chance to speak with Ali on the phone today. I had reached out to him before, you know, Ali, and I’ve made no secret about this: he’s a guy that I like. He’s rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and I’m not trying to, uh, defend his business practices or his decisions. Um, everyone has their own dealings with him, but a guy that initially when I first met him I thought he was crazy, and thought, “I don’t want anything to do with this guy. And then, uh, started to get to know him and enjoy talking fights with him especially. You know, stuff outside of fights couldn’t tell you much about it, but enjoy talking fights with him. He can break down some fights. And um, I had reached out to him for comment cuz’ all the stuff’s been coming out. Mike Russell, a gentleman based out of Canada has been doing a lot of research and a lot of reporting on Ali Abdel Aziz’s background and some wild stories out there to say the least.

[Editor’s note: Morgan’s colleague Steven Marocco referred to me as “MMA journalist and industry veteran Mike Russell” in MMAJunkie’s official report on Abdel Aziz’s departure from WSOF. Marocco took my tweet to WSOF and they admitted Abdel Aziz was no longer with the company, but denied he was made to leave. This is untrue. More on that in a future story.]

Uh, I’ve had some people ask why I’m not jumpin’ on it. Um…Can’t. Can’t verify most of those stories to be honest with you.I…I…I…I’m sorry, I don’t have CIA sources, and FBI sources, and uh… Really there’s just no way for me to do it. And I can’t… With that level of… With that level of what’s being said and the accusations that are being made, I can’t just throw it out there and be like, “A report said…” That opens up USA Today to lawsuits and things like that, and it’s certainly something we can’t touch.

Cold Coffee: Then you start looking like one of those rags that literally is just trying to throw a headline out there to get some clicks, get some doing whatever, and if anything else that’s what I think I pride myself working with an organization that doesn’t jump on the bandwagon — doesn’t jump to that stuff. And it’s not a matter of protecting a friend or doing whatever. You just don’t want… You’ve got to be reputable. You gotta know your shit.

John Morgan: Definitely.

Cold Coffee: You don’t want to go out there and say something because, oh, it’s gonna get somebody appeased — some person that’s like, “Why aren’t you… Why aren’t you lighting a torch, and putting it to the, you know, to the fire yourself?” You know, it’s about making sure that you have coverage about what you’re really trying to say and you can back your shit up. Just like you say you would never say something that you wouldn’t be able to say in front of a fighter, you don’t want to say something that isn’t going to stand up in court, or elsewhere.

John Morgan: Absolutely. Yeah.

Cold Coffee: Cuz’ that’s real deal shit, you know, like lawsuits and libel and all that other kind of shit. It’s a real thing.

John Morgan: It is a real thing.

[Editor’s note: the logo for the MMA Road Show is a photoshopped version of Beastie Boys “License to Ill.”]

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Cold Coffee: You know, when you have the coverage that as many people read on Junkie and talk about what’s said, that anything you could say can and would be used against you…

John Morgan: Yep.

Cold Coffee: You know, so, you gotta be smart about it. Just some of the stories you started to tell me just a second ago just blew my mind. You know, about the CIA shit and spy stuff.

John Morgan: It’s crazy.

Cold Coffee: I mean like how the fuck do you try to fact check something like that? I mean, how do you find out about that shit?

John Morgan: Yeah. I’ll be the first to admit I’m just a lowly MMA reporter, man. I do not know how you get Pentagon sources.

[Editor’s note: I have never stated I had Pentagon sources.]

Cold Coffee: Yeah.

John Morgan: I do not. Now if you need me to find out if a particular featherweight is fighting or something, I’ll find that out for you.

Cold Coffee: Or what size the Octagon is — the big one or the small one.

John Morgan: I got that for you all day, man. I will get you some answers to some MMA questions. I’ll be the first one to admit Mike Russell has some sources that I do not have, man. He has access to some information that I can not get. So, I haven’t been able to talk to Ali about a lot of this stuff, but he did make himself available today, and I spoke with him briefly about kinda how he was doing with the separation — the fact that he’s no longer with World Series of Fighting.

I did see a lot of people out there speculating on Twitter — the hate. “Nah, he’s not really leaving. This is just a front.. This is just a cover.” I can tell you we were hanging out a little bit today at the [Cosmopolitan] and the conversations I was able to have with the [WSOF] staff while we were there does not seem to be any type of false arrangement. Everybody has basically said, “Love the guy. Um… Wish it didn’t have to be this way, but we all agree, uh, this is the right thing to do for our organization and moving forward. I think it’s legit. I think it’s a legit separation. I think Ali is going back to managing. Uh… You’ll hear a little bit of it, so I talked to Ali about his feelings, how he’s handling the departure and then after that we kinda got into some updates. Asked him what’s going on with some of his clients. Khabib Nurmagomedov — he had some interesting things to say about Frankie Edgar and Conor McGregor. And he previewed the card for us a little bit. This World Series of Fighting 26 card. It’s funny — he won’t be there — he’s no longer with the organization, but he did matchmake the whole event. So I’m like, “Hey, you matchmaked it, tell me what I need to watch.”

[Editor’s note: During a brief Twitter exchange with Canadian MMA reporter and Parting Shots Podcast co-host Carlin Bardsley, Morgan admitted he had not read the book written largely about Abdel Aziz’s testimony about how he became an NYPD/FBI informant after being arrested twice for flying into Colorado with a stolen Egyptian passport.]

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