The UFC Fan's Guide to the Internet: The MMA Media Musts
Following the wacky world of mixed martial arts online can feel like a full-time job. For a stick and ball sport you can just flip on SportsCenter and hear the latest news and rumors. Information seems to float everywhere, just waiting to be plucked.
That's a strategy that won't work for cage fighting.
The sports media ignores MMA, even the UFC, almost entirely. Sure, ESPN might discuss the announcement or result of a mega-fight, but your average event isn't going to be part of the mainstream discussion. Jon Jones is rarely mentioned side-by-side with Mike Trout or Kevin Durant. Pat Curran and Cris Cyborg aren't likely to be mentioned at all.
The above may sound like a complaint, but it's not. Because of this lack of mainstream acceptance, MMA fans have always taken care of their own. A robust, fan-driven grass roots media has always been a part of MMA culture, from Full Contact Fighter to Sherdog.
In many ways, it still is.
Rather than a professional media corps, MMA news, opinions and interviews are delivered by the fans to the fans, creating in many cases, much more nuanced and informed content than you'd get from the MMA-ignorant general sports reporters. There's plenty of great material out there—you just have to dig for it.
I'm here to help. What follows is a list of the top MMA information and opinion sources. Which sites should you be reading? Which podcasts are worth a listen? Where are the hidden gems? This may not be a definitive list, but it's a good place to start.
News Source: MMA Junkie
MMA Junkie, founded by Dann Stupp in 2006 and acquired by USA Today in 2011, has a peerless reputation for providing breaking news. There's no better place to find the latest fight announcement or television rating.
Despite its penchant for news, it's actually the features that stand out here. Ben Fowlkes, an import from MMAFighting.com, is the sport's leading long-form artist. Additionally, newspaper reporter Kyle Nagel's Fight Path series, focusing on a fighter's decision to enter the cage for the first time, is one of MMA's best on-going features.
Opinion Source: Bloody Elbow
Bloody Elbow features MMA's most aggressive editorial content. The site runs mainly off of opinion and analysis and, no matter what side of an issue they come down on, they hit hard.
Founded by "Kid" Nate Wilcox in 2007 for the burgeoning SB Nation blog empire, it now features state-of-the-art interview features by Stephanie "Crooklyn" Daniels to go along with the hot takes from a rotating cast of characters.
Wilcox (who I once worked for at Bloody Elbow) may not have invented caustic analysis, but he certainly perfected it for the MMA space. Although he doesn't write as much as he once did, it's generally guaranteed to be, at a minimum, interesting.
Managing editor Brent Brookhouse is especially compelling when he grabs a hold of a controversial issue like recent scandals at MMA trainer Lloyd Irvin's gyms. He doggedly pursues the kind of esoteric stories many sites eschew, often running his prey to the ground in particularly brutal fashion.
1-Stop Shop: MMA Fighting
At AOL, MMA Fighting established a solid reputation for quality across the board. Editor Bryan Tucker brought together a diverse and talented group of reporters including Ariel Helwani, Mike Chiappetta and Michael David Smith and supplemented their news with features from Ben Fowlkes.
Since being purchased by SB Nation in 2011, some of the faces have changed. Smith, Chiappetta and Fowlkes are all out, but they've been replaced by solid professionals like Dave Doyle and Dave Meltzer. The site continues to provide a mixture of content, including popular video features from Helwani and SB Nation holdover Luke Thomas.
More a "must see," but Helwani has firmly established himself as MMA's most popular journalist. His video podcast, The MMA Hour, often breaks news and also features Helwani's brand of carefully inoffensive and articulate interviews with the sport's most important figures.
Meltzer is the godfather of MMA media. As the editor of the legendary Wrestling Observer, he's covered the sport since the very beginning in 1993. His insight and analysis is crucial when it comes to navigating the tricky waters of television and pay-per-view.
The Old Guard: Sherdog.com
Sherdog has an unwarranted reputation for being "anti-UFC," stemming from a long feud with UFC president Dana White. The site is actually generally very fair. It applies the same level of scrutiny to the UFC it does everything else in MMA—but that still makes the contrast between Sherdog and its competitors, often slavishly pro-UFC and reliant on UFC ad money and access, stark.
While the site has a diverse array of content, both news and feature oriented, it's perhaps best known for the "Fight Finder," a comprehensive database of fighter records and event results. This must-resource makes Sherdog indisputably valuable to any student of the sport.
The site has a number of excellent podcasts, but the best of the bunch are hosted by Canadian Jordan Breen. He has a special way of seeing the sport, especially the action inside the cage, that makes him stand out in a crowded podcast landscape.
Also worth noting are Sherdog Alums Josh Gross and Loretta Hunt. Gross is the lead MMA writer for ESPN where he predictably offers top-notch writing and podcasts. Hunt is a writer for Sports Illustrated. Like Gross, she is banned from UFC events by White, but still manages to compete for the top stories and scoops.
Zach Arnold's site usually has a singular focus. At one point, it was the fall of Japan's most popular fight promotion, Pride. More recently, he's zeroed in on issues like testosterone replacement therapy and the sport's poor regulation in places like California.
Arnold never lets up and his viewpoint is different than anyone else's in the sport. It's a welcome change; even if you find yourself disagreeing with his opinion, his hard work and meticulous detail makes it worth taking note of.
It's hard to describe exactly what Tapology is. Its database takes Sherdog's to the next level, including a ton of extraneous factoids and the kind of information not likely to be found at any other single site. Worth checking out for yourself.
Home to Tomas Rios (freelancer) and Tim Marchman (Deputy Editor), it automatically becomes a must-visit site for MMA fans—or would if it covered the sport more consistently. The two are among the most impressive stylists in all of MMA media and are worth following wherever their work takes them, whether it's the Classical, Sports on Earth or elsewhere.
Stephanie Daniels and Iain Kidd interview some of the sport's biggest names and media stalwarts and always manage to get something interesting out of them. Their open and inviting style lures guests into a comfort zone—and that's when the fun begins.
Co-Main Event Podcast
MMA Junkie's Ben Fowlkes and ESPN contributor Chad Dundas have an easy chemistry and together tackle the news of the week with verve and style.
Host Jack Encarnacao welcomes guests for long interviews about their lives and careers. His style, reminiscent of NPR greats like Terry Gross and Tom Ashbrook, provides a great mixture of serious commentary and fun anecdotes.
Showtime boxing announcer Mauro Ranallo, formerly the voice of both Pride and Strikeforce, covers the entire world of combat sports, from boxing to MMA and beyond.
One of the best sources of news out there. He aggregates almost everything worth reading so you don't have to.
Front Row Brian
MMA's preeminent superfan often has the latest scoops before the certified media members. Beware—he's not shy with his opinion.
The MMA Fighting editor is quick on the draw with trenchant analysis of all the latest news.
Love him or hate him, his comic stylings will force you to take sides.
Come for the UFC news. Stay for the foul mouthed fights with his fans.