MMA Is As Damaging to the Feelings As It Is the Body

Mixed martial arts is a sport where sticks and stones are rendered useless—or you’d think they would be—against the hardened bones of those who, of free volition, step into the cage, but feelings, as noted in my limited time collecting media passes around Northern California, often crumbled to pieces because of words.

Over the course of my couple years covering MMA, in conjunction with other combat sports, at norcalmixedmartialarts.com, I couldn’t believe the number of people I rubbed the wrong way. The purpose of my NorCal MMA project: showcase the gladiators scattered throughout the local scene with an online gallery. I never published opinion pieces, welcomed one and all with steel gates that never locked shut, and the majority of my interaction amongst NorCal MMA’s passionate community has been positive. Of course, I’m aware: not everyone is going to like me—I accept that—though the content delivered was merely a presentation of what transpired—nothing more. Whether recapping an event that ended with more violence outside of the cage than in it or reliving some highlight-reels on NorCal MMA’s Instagram (@norcalfightmma), those who reacted poorly to anything I produced usually fell into one of several categories: the individual who felt left out, singled out, or misheard.

You Left Me Out

Think of how difficult it is, even as a fan who follows mixed martial arts closer than most, to stay current on every persona to enter one of the plethora of promotions available. MMA, amid the regional sector surrounding me, is extremely saturated.

As if a name and face isn’t enough, the business of MMA can network itself into an indistinguishable knot, and by untangling the knot—which I tugged away diligently at norcalmixedmartialarts.com—fans are more easily tied to one of the men or women standing under the spotlight. For instance, Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male (TAM), a stable of champions and future stars on the rise residing under one roof, trains out of Ultimate Fitness, a gym coined by UFC Hall-of-Famer and local legend Urijah Faber. When amateurs out of the gym find a place on a card, they are expected to fly under the Ultimate Fitness flag, not TAM. Although this may be common knowledge around these parts, I’m uncertain how many others could connect the dots.

Also along the lines of confusing collaborations, I had someone express actual outrage for not having their “promotion” nominated for a NorCal MMA end of the year award in 2017. The criteria for the award included: I provided coverage—to at least some degree—of an event, and the promotion hosted a minimum of two shows in the calendar year. From what I could gather, this individual’s “brand” was affiliated—as a matchmaker of sorts—with several promotions. I’m not sure how some behind-the-scenes legwork with your logo subtitled on a banner makes someone eligible for NorCal MMA’s Promotion of the Year award, but, in the end, I just absorbed their verbal assault and moved on.

I have always had an open door policy, but a handful, for whatever reason, since launching NorCal MMA’s website and social media have perceived my operation to act more like a brick wall.

You’re So Negative

Have you ever heard the saying: Any publicity, even if it’s negative, is good publicity? I can attest to this not always being the case.

If you were to scroll any of NorCal MMA’s online platforms, it’s littered with history—no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be. Nothing is painted positively or negatively; it’s simply an artifact, a moment marked in MMA’s youthful past, on display for readers, or viewers, to interpret for themselves.

Earlier this year, a riot erupted directly behind me at The Titans Cage (TTC) 19.

Did you see the table used as a diving board into the danger zone before being swallowed by the swath set on ‘self-destruct?’ That was was where I was seated, and somehow escaped, just as the brawl ensued. The spark that ignited a raging fire of punch-drunk patrons wasn’t something anybody, regardless of the credentials held by the security team, could have prepared for. Like a pack of hungry cannibals, a collective in support of the same corner turned on one another, tearing anyone within arm’s reach limb-from-limb.

When TTC’s following event, TTC 20, approached, I learned that I would not be granted a press credential. The promotion proclaimed their decision had nothing to do with the distribution of the show-ending melee, but they, immediately in the wake of the incident, had asked me to remove all the footage—which had gone a tad viral by that point—and not discuss the issue any further—which wasn’t happening.

I completely understand TTC’s head honchos wouldn’t circulate such a blight to their organization of their own accord, though I’m still awaiting an encounter with something positive from all this…

As much of a stretch as it is at times to walk in the shoes of another, there are some sneakers, no matter how hard I strain, I’ll never squeeze into.

On NorCal MMA’s Instagram page, I regularly resurfaced jaw-dropping finishes that would otherwise remain buried. When I began delivering a daily knockout, TKO, or submission, I posted them with a brief narrative—a minute was never encapsulated an entire scene.

What struck me as bizarre: A handful of competitors on the losing end of the day’s footage unfollowed, or even blocked, the NorCal MMA account; moreover, some went as far as unfollowing and blocking my own personal accounts, too—whether I shared any content there or not, which wasn’t a standard practice of mine.

I stretched myself to conceive the possibility: the short descriptions that accompanied each post weren’t capturing the sequence of events to their fullest. To test my hypothesis, I updated the format, sticking strictly to the facts: the name of each fighter being featured; the event’s name and date; the opponent’s name; and what the stoppage was officially ruled.

After being unfollowed and blocked by another group who failed to have their hands raised, the only thing left for me to do at that point was shrug my shoulders. More than a dozen people, prizefighters who place their well-being on the line for small sums of cash, wanted no association with anything I was doing unless I was singing their praises.

You Said It Wrong

I can count on one hand how many subjects of an article have approached me with concerns about how I wrote something.

In one instance, I agreed, apologized, and immediately rectified the matter; the other cases were because I didn’t say it exactly how they expected. If that was their complaint, I’d suggest to them: write it yourself.

Luckily, I’ve run into this problem so rarely that it’s essentially a non-issue, which, I hope remains the status quo moving forward.

The power of the pen is true. Without having ever crossed the cage’s threshold, I have bruised feelings; caused some to shell up and protect their soft sides; and shattered the egos of several of the world’s most unbreakable athletes.

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