Are Fans Becoming The New MMA Press?
It’s probably no secret that most of us in the MMA ‘reporting’ world visit the various forums for discussion and information. This is especially true because most of us who write about the sport were and are fans who share our opinions rather than professional media. This article came to mind as I mulled over what the subject of my next article would be. I began to think about how and where I get my MMA news and realized that it’s changed quite a bit in a short time frame. I’m not divulging any new facts by writing about how social media has all but supplanted standard reporting, especially in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Virtually everything we hear nowadays comes from a social media source, and both the fans and media clamor to be the first to bring this news to the public at large.
The popularity of social networking has boomed on the Internet. In recent years we’ve seen networks like Myspace, LinkedIn, Bebo, Friendster, Orkut, and of course Facebook and Twitter come to the forefront as a means of communication for business and leisure. When Google Plus was announced, the demand was so great to join that Google had to limit the amount of subscribers to avoid a meltdown. Facebook is popular among fans and fighters so it’s a given that your favorite MMA’er will have an account, but the premier method of catching breaking news comes from Twitter. For those not in the know, Twitter is a social network resembling a chat session in which users post their daily goings-on to followers who subscribe to their’tweets’. The Twitter network has millions of users and allows fighters and fans to correspond on a personal basis, exchanging tweets which are viewable to anyone who subscribes to the network. According to several sources, the UFC places such importance on Twitter that it attaches a monetary value to the amount of fans that are followers of a particular fighter. A secondary benefit of Twitter is that fighters are able to easily disseminate information with absolutely no media involvement, and it’s this occurrence that has changed the way news is being received by the MMA community.
During what some of us refer to as the ‘Dark Ages, the UFC was removed from the cable networks and prohibited from most markets due to legislation introduced by Senator John McCain. 36 states enacted bans against ‘no holds barred fighting’ beginning at UFC 12. During this time hearsay came mostly by word of mouth or coverage from websites dedicated to the sport. Back then it could be months before information reached the entire Mixed Martial Arts community, and as a result websites with MMA insiders prospered. As time passed, state sanctioning became a priority, the Internet matured, more media coverage ensued and the technology to get the latest became readily available. This is the current state of MMA. Fans have instant access to fighters’ innermost thoughts or actions via their social networks, and they are none too shy about reporting almost anything that could be considered newsworthy.
This not to say that ALL news comes from social media. Dana White tends to safeguard certain announcements until important press conferences, scheduled releases, or even occasionally giving scoops to favored reporters. However, a lot of what goes on in the life of UFC competitors will tend to leak onto Twitter via an external source or the fighter’s themselves. Look no further than last week’s war between Rampage and Jones where Jones’s manager blamed Rampage for a posting that led to ‘Spygate’. Jenna Jameson and Tito Ortiz have certainly led an active life over Twitter and drama between the two is well known to the MMA public. Just recently a political debate between polar opposites, Jeff Monson and Pat Miletich, heated up on the Twitterverse. Fans constantly monitor the rumblings of their favorite or not so favorite fighter at all hours of the day and more than once this has led to tweetings that have become headline news.
To be fair, MMA is not the only news source that is utilizing social networks to obtain insider information. Celebrities seem to prefer tweeting to print, it’s almost like a press-release that generates instant buzz and interest about their lives. That buzz will attract attention from the traditional press which follows up with the obligatory interviews and coverage. Gossip outlets like TMZ or ‘The Dirty’ are pretty standard in their Twitter coverage and will hunt down celebs to get them to expand on random thoughts given over the Internet. Although those are extremes, it illustrates the point that the traditional press still has an important role in the digital world. After all, there is only so much information that can be given with a 140 character limit. However, the personal nature of fans interacting with these celebrities directly is usually more appealing than simply watching television or reading a newspaper for it.
Yes, it’s extremely difficult to break news in this day and age. Information travels quickly, and juicy information travels even quicker than that. It’s not every day you can ask a famous fighter questions about news you would otherwise only get through the mass media, or rather, yes it is every day you can ask a famous fighter a question and actually get an answer. This is the age we are in, and Mixed Martial Arts coverage is at an all-time high due to social networking. As technology and access increases, news will continue to be a commodity for the fans and professional media alike. As our friends in the Twitterverse might say, #news is trending, RT to @EVERYBODY.