Going It Alone In MMA Media
Or It's Not Going To Be Easy And It Might Not Be For Everyone
Welcome to the latest C’Mon Now, a newsletter focused on mixed martial arts. This is the place where I’ll share my thoughts on all the goings-on in MMA. Those thoughts could range from media criticism to advice for folks looking to get into MMA writing to why certain fighters or managers are not good for the sport.
Today I take off from where Luke Thomas left off in a recent discussion with Bloody Elbow.
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The photos I use for the newsletter are things that catch my eye on the Library of Congress site.
Oh, I’m Trent Reinsmith, you can follow me on Twitter.
This is how fast things can change.
On Saturday, I took the dog to the vet. He's a rescue and he's always been very healthy. His only other vet visits have been to go for his yearly exams and shots. Earlier this week, we noticed his belly was a lot bigger than usual. We thought that with the cold weather, he might just be getting fat, but we started to get concerned, so I took him in. The vet did an ultrasound and an x-ray and was concerned about what he saw, so I took him to Pet ER. They said his heart and belly were full of fluid and if I hadn't brought him in, he might have had hours or days left. Even with treatment, they're unsure of his prognosis. They drained his belly and heart of fluids and are going to keep him for the weekend. On Monday he'll see a cardiologist.
All of our past pets have gotten ill or had to be put down between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That's one of a couple of reasons I don't celebrate holidays.
Last week, Luke Thomas spoke on the Pull no Punches podcast. One of the topics Thomas covered with host Shakiel Mahjouri was the MMA media landscape. I'm not going re rehash the topics Thomas covered, but I will say it's worth checking out what he had to say. The conversation led me to think about my path through MMA. I'm not comparing myself to Thomas. Any success I've had is on a much smaller scale than what he has achieved. Thomas is one of the most successful folks in MMA media these days. I'm able to scratch by and make a living. So, I guess what I'm saying is the level of success Thomas has might be something to aspire to over the long term, but my level of success, which is making a living, might be the next step up the ladder for many (most?) folks on the MMA media scene.
One thing Thomas said that I find to be 100 percent true is, "If you want to get ahead in this business, generally speaking, you have to attach yourself to power. That's the way to do it. There are ways to do it without it, but they are much slower, they are much harder, they are much longer, they are certainly a lot less grateful and rewarding."
I attached myself to some level of power for more than ten years. I played the game that needed to be played. I was sometimes critical of the powers that be but never terribly so.
That changed earlier this year when I quit MMA Junkie. That was the point where I figured it was time to start being true to myself.
I'll be honest. I liked writing for MMA Junkie while Dann Stupp was there. I had a steady gig and if I had an idea that worked for the site and for my role as a freelancer, I was able to pursue it. I can say that Stupp never said I couldn't work a story. After Stupp left, I was no longer happy working at MMA Junkie. The writing staff was great, the editors were extremely helpful, but the managing editor didn't give me the opportunities that Stupp did. Eventually, I left.
With that, I decided I was going to be true to myself and focus on criticism.
My thinking was that I was not going to limit my criticism to the UFC and other promotions, but that I was also going to look at the MMA media. I knew that was going to leave me on my own island. After 10 years of playing it safe I was going to do what I wanted and do it how I wanted, which meant I was going to possibly make some enemies. I was fine with that. I am fine with that.
That was a big step. It was a risky step. It also came with the knowledge that I could fail. Considering I'm still in the early stages of all this, I could still fail. I'm okay with that. If need be, I am ready to shake off this MMA media "career" and move on. I can get another job if I have to and do this as a hobby.
I know that's not very inspiring for those looking for advice on how to make it. It's probably the exact opposite of that. But that willingness to move on gives me freedom. I'm not afraid to make enemies. I'm not scared to stick my finger in the eye of the UFC or focus om powerful managers or even big-time media members or media organizations. I will add that my idea was that I would always try to punch up. I'm not going to criticize fighters for what they do during a fight or media members who are just looking to get established. I think that's easy, cheap and I don't want to do that.
I know most folks who are just getting started or looking to move to the point of getting paid or making a living don't have that luxury. These folks might have to play the game that Thomas mentioned and that I played. I want to tell you that that won't feel all that great. It'll be a lot of pushing content. That's fine. While you're doing that, take your time and get better as a writer. Ask your editor to send you marked-up copies of what they edited. Go over your stories line by line with an editor. Read everything you can on improving as a writer. Just because you're creating content, doesn't mean you can't also grow as a writer.
Once you feel comfortable, maybe ask your editor if you can write an opinion piece that punches up. If they say yes, congrats, go for it. If they say no and you have the time and can afford to, maybe do an occasional newsletter. Or maybe, write something and use it as a podcast script. Writing for free isn't great, but if it's for you and it's not going to line someone else's pockets, hey, go for it. That's what I'm doing here.
Now, here's what you need to be ready for as a columnist:
If you are going to write editorials or columns on the reg, make sure you have thick skin. People are going to attack you, especially folks who are in love with those you are going after. You'll quickly find that the UFC and Dana White have fans who don't think you should ever speak ill of them. These people will let you know just how they feel. If they make valid points, consider them. If they don't, that block button is a beautiful thing.
If you are fair and balanced and don't consider anything off-limits, you need to be okay with those attacks coming from all sides. Again, well-reasoned arguments against your points should be considered, others should be ignored and blocked.
Be comfortable being confrontational. This can be hard, especially if you're coming from a place where you had to go along to get along. In my recent story about the ESPN interview with Nick Diaz, I found myself using soft language in my first draft. As I reworked the story, I realized the style I was using made my argument weak. I strengthened that language and I think my points came through better for it. Don't be afraid to take a firm stance.
Now, if you do take a strong stance, make sure you can back it up. Always believe what you write. If you're just writing to make some noise and shine a spotlight on yourself, I don't think that'll last. I guess the advice here is, don't be a troll. The second part of this is that even if you aren't being a troll, someone is going to call you one. If you know you can back up your argument, don't sweat that.
This last item is the one big thing a lot of folks fear. You're going to lose access. The UFC won't answer my questions and I seem to have made it to the "no dice" list for credentials. Know this could happen going in. If you're not comfortable with the UFC putting you on the shit list, maybe rethink doing all of this. I'm okay with it, but I do have to say that was probably the last thing I shook off. The UFC counts on you not being able to take that last step, especially if you are someone who doesn't have the power of a big site on your side.
The funny thing about all this is that sometimes things can work out and change for the best.
Not long after I decided to strike out on my own, Bloody Elbow contacted me to see if I wanted to write opinion stories for the site. I'm still in the test period there, but if it works out, that's where most of my writing will appear from now on. I'm happy that Bloody Elbow contacted me after five years away from the site and I hope I can stay there.
Feel free to hit me up with questions. I might not get back to you right away, but I'll do my best to get you an answer.