An Open Letter to the MMA Professional Journalists Association

All this pearl clutching over a one hundred dollar bill. Here's what the MMA Journalist Association should really be concerned with.

By: Nate Wilcox | 4 months ago
An Open Letter to the MMA Professional Journalists Association
MMAJA thought leader Ariel Helwani. IMAGO/Inpho Photography

The MMAJA is the “The association for mixed martial arts journalists.”

They say, “It is our hope that this association will succeed not only in promoting a high standard of ethics and professionalism among its members, but also in advocating for the interests of its members as they navigate working relationships with promoters, fighters, managers, and the many other professionals who populate the sport of MMA.”

Ariel Helwani is not only the most famous reporter in MMA, he’s one of the leaders of the MMAJA.

Last week he emailed the MMAJA membership in regards to the events summarized in this story. TL;DR version: Amy Kaplan of Fansided took $100 on video from Dana White for correctly guessing which fighter was stepping up to take a fight.

The MMA Journalist Association’s thought leader speaks!

Here’s what Ariel Helwani had to say about the kerfluffle I discussed Sunday:

Ultimately I think the only thing we can do is to remind members that this sort of behavior/engagement goes against what we believe in. I believe this thread is doing that but I don’t see harm in a tweet/statement.

Not sure anything else can be done. I don’t even think Amy is in the JA but I could be wrong. I also don’t think we should be trying to embarrass her (or anyone) or create some sort of friction with non-members. I know that’s not the intention here, but it could be perceived as such. Ultimately, the goal of the JA has always been to create a fellowship with members and non-members alike.

I do appreciate the conversation. Thanks for bringing it up, Scott.

My response

Below is my reply to the MMAJA, but first, did you know we are fundraising to cancel our debt to Vox Media and become a fully reader-supported publication? You can read about that here and how your paid subscriptions on Substack keep independent MMA journalism (the kind that doesn’t rely on tit for tat and friends in high places) alive!

Now, back to your scheduling programming…

May I ask what it is “we” (the MMAJA) believe in?

What’s the real journalistic sin?

Taking $100 publicly from Dana or trading favorable coverage for access? 

I’d argue the former is nothing. She disclosed it publicly. Everyone knows where she’s coming from and what she’s about. 

What our readers don’t know about is all the stories we’ve failed to report out of fear of losing access.

I’m not throwing stones here. I’ve buried as many good stories for reasons of conflict of interest as anyone here.

But I do think it’s time for a change. This sport is in dire condition.

MMA popularity has been in decline for the last four years.

I’m sure you’re seeing it in lowered traffic and lowered ad revenue and layoffs.

The $100 dollars is the least of our issues.

The issue is letting a cabal of power players control the sport, corral the fighters and rob the fans.

I’m doing my best from here on out to report the facts and let the chips fall where they may.

Y’all can keep on keeping on but the good times are over.

The easy traffic is gone.

This sport either grows up or it’ll be replaced by celebrity boxing, bare knuckle blood fests and slap fighting in short order.

MMA was a lock to replace boxing as THE premier combat sport in the world.

Then the UFC decided they couldn’t afford to pay Conor McGregor what he was worth and helped him set up a freak show exhibition match against Floyd Mayweather. 

A contest with a foregone conclusion. 

Ever since then the sport has been sputtering and shrinking and more and more talent stays away or goes for celebrity boxing money or sacrifices their faces in Bareknuckle bouts that at least are more sporting than slap fights.

In my opinion, it behooves the members of the MMAJA to advocate for the fighters and fans, not just for fellow journalists.

Media pressure on promoters to serve up better fights will help fighters negotiate better deals.

Media pressure on promoters to serve up better fights will galvanize fans to demand better product.

Win. Win. Win.

We can do better. The sport deserves better. The fighters deserve better.

The fans can do better.

MMAJA y’all keep doing what you’re doing but here at Bloody Elbow we’re going to keep fighting for the sport, the fighters and the fans.

Join the new Bloody Elbow

Our Substack is where we feature the work of writers like Zach Arnold, John Nash and Karim Zidan. We’re fighting for the sport, the fighters and the fans. Please help us by subscribing today.

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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