Back in March, Stephen A. Smith got plenty of kudos from MMA fans when he shouted out ESPN’s UFC coverage and name-checked a bunch of commentators, analysts, and reporters.
Forgive me for bragging, but we’ve got the best @ufc coverage in the world on ESPN+. Ya got @dc_mma, @joerogan & @Jon_Anik cage side. @ChaelSonnen & @bisping providing color. My bro @michaeleaves Hosting post-fight coverage and @bokamotoESPN & @arielhelwani always on scene.???
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) March 28, 2021
One person he did not receive kudos from was Megan Olivi, who does pre-and-post-show interviews as well as co-hosting duties for UFC events for ESPN, and was noticeably absent from Smith’s tweet.
Ummm hey there – you’re forgetting someone ?
— Megan Olivi (@MeganOlivi) March 28, 2021
Anyone who knows how to speak internet can tell you that the smiley face at the end of her response probably didn’t match the way she actually felt about the snub and Olivi elaborated on that feeling in a Q&A following Friday’s UFC 261 weigh-ins (transcription via MMA Junkie).
“That was actually tough for me,” Olivi told reporters. “I don’t love social media in general, but then to play such a big role in terms of pre-and post-fight interviews, like, I’m the one onsite doing them. Then to do all the hits on the broadcast and be a part of this team and literally the only women on the pay-per-view team – there’s no other desk host, there’s no one on the pre-or post-show. It’s literally just me. And I’ve worked to be here. I wasn’t handed this. It’s been a very long journey, as people who have seen me 10 years ago I’m sure can attest to. I’ve done everything the right way to get here, and to not get the acknowledgment as my male colleagues got, I genuinely was so hurt. It was nice to see the MMA community have my back on that.”
Olivi added that she didn’t think Smith was purposefully leaving her out of the praise but it’s possible that some criticism she’s received about her lack of MMA knowledge might have played a part in being left out of the male-centric accolades.
“It’s, unfortunately, something the women in this room have dealt with before and will have to continue to deal with,” Olivi said. “I don’t think he did it on purpose. I don’t think there was any (bad) intent. I don’t think he was trying to be rude by any means. I just think it didn’t really matter to him…I don’t know how much he actually watched. I know he’s supposed to be an MMA insider and he does his best, but he has a lot on his plate, as well. I don’t know how much he actually sees. … I don’t want to make it about me and be like, ‘I don’t know how much he noticed me.’ I just don’t think he was genuinely paying attention.”
“I also wonder if he was helped with the tweet, if maybe it was just, ‘OK, here are the people on the broadcast.’ Because I don’t know if he knows everyone on the broadcast, in general. So, it’s difficult to be overlooked and not take it personally. I’ve tried not to, and I’ve tried to use it as a moment – I don’t want to say a learning moment – but for me to just realize you go on whether people notice you or not. I think what I do is important, especially when I can tell the stories of these athletes.”
Olivi said that she and Smith have chatted before, but it doesn’t sound like they’ve spoken since the tweet. She’s hopeful that might happen one day soon.
“Funny enough, Stephen A. Smith and I have had nice conversations in person,” Olivi told reporters. “It would be nice if he was like one day like, ‘Oh shit,’ I didn’t see this. But I don’t think that’s the character we’re dealing with.’”
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Olivi worked as a reporter on this weekend’s UFC 261 broadcast and it looks like a good time was had by all (except for the people who lost their fights).