The Spark That Created the MMA Journalists Association
It took the MMA Journalists Association a couple of tries to get off the ground, but a high-profile news story involving a big-name reporter gave the group both a reason for being and the momentum to get over the hump.
Mixed martial arts, or MMA, is a fast-growing sport—to the point where a sizable media industry has grown around its professional leagues.
But, thanks to a high-profile event involving a well-known reporter, it only recently became clear that the journalists who cover the sport needed an association to represent their interests.
Last week, the MMA Journalists Association found its footing. While the idea for the group dates back to 2009, efforts to launch MMAJA began in earnest last year after an incident highlighted a serious media ethics issue.
Last June, Ariel Helwani, a reporter for MMAFighting.com, was barred from an Ultimate Fighting Championship event and his press credentials were revoked after he correctly reported that pro wrestler Brock Lesnar would make a return to mixed martial arts at a UFC event—before UFC was ready to reveal that news.
The incident, as well as UFC President Dana White’s defiant stance on it, drew a broad outcry from the journalism community, both inside and outside of MMA.
Helwani and two of his coworkers eventually got their press credentials back, and soon the wheels were in motion to establish the new association. Dann Stupp, MMAJA’s interim president and a reporter for MMAJunkie.com and USA Today, claimed that the incident showed the new organization was “long overdue.”
“We’re stronger together, and we want to continue raising the ethics and professionalism among those who cover MMA for a living,” Stupp told Sports Illustrated. “It’s a diverse group but one that shares many of the same objectives. Thankfully, our initial group contains experienced and influential journalists, and they felt it was time to band together for the greater good.”
The association, which launched a website and a constitution last week, said it would aim to 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.”
It’s not clear whether other journalists might be treated by MMA sports officials the way Helwani was, but if they are, now they have an association to back them up.