A Bloody Elbow site logo. A Bloody Elbow site logo. (BloodyElbow.com.)

For the second time in a year, MMA site Bloody Elbow has gone through an ownership transition. But this one seems to have had much worse impacts for many of those involved with the site. The site was founded in 2007 within SB Nation (which itself was founded just two years earlier) as that company’s first MMA site, but was hit in last year’s wave of Vox/SB Nation layoffs, and was eventually sold to founder Nate Wilcox last March.

But now, Wilcox has sold “the website and social media assets” to GRV Media, which said in a release “No staff or contributors will be coming across to GRV following the sale.” Here’s more from that release:

The critically acclaimed website was founded by Nate Wilcox in 2007, and he acquired the rights to Bloody Elbow, purchasing the site from its former parent media company Vox in March 2023. The site is notable for its investigative reporting, breaking news coverage, opinion and analysis.

Nate said: ‘We have worked hard over the last year to try to preserve the Bloody Elbow legacy. After much thought, and with a heavy heart, I have decided to sell the website assets. Like many online publishers in the last year or so, we have faced economic headwinds, increased regulation and dramatic shifts in major platform algorithms. It’s been quite a journey, but it’s now time to move on’.

‘I would like to thank our readers, partners and contributors who have supported us through the years. My thanks, too, to the team over at GRV Media, who have been professional and understanding during the sale process. The company has kindly agreed that I can continue to operate in this space should I elect to do so’.

GRV Media Executive Chairman Vic Daniels said: ‘Bloody Elbow will complement our existing portfolio of sports brands, which operate in football, F1, golf, NFL, tennis and wrestling. We will be changing the Bloody Elbow content strategy, and will be producing MMA news and views with a different slant as we build the reader base’.

Graham Morris, GRV’s CEO, said: ‘We are delighted to be adding the Bloody Elbow brand to our existing portfolio of websites. This deal demonstrates that we are committed to a strategy of growing our business both organically and via acquisitions. We wish Nate and all his team the very best for the future’.

While that release talks up Bloody Elbow’s investigative reporting, much of that (and many other archives) have already been deleted, as ex-staffers noted on Twitter:


Wilcox wrote about this move in a post on the Bloody Elbow Substack site, blaming a Google algorithm change last August and resulting declining traffic and finances, but saying the Substack will continue with some alumni contributions:

By the end of January, we were hemorrhaging money and I had to tap out.

I’ll be keeping this newsletter going under a new name with contributions from the best Bloody Elbow alumni I can afford along with submissions from new writers and creators.

We’ll be offering paid subscribers a chance to choose our new name from four finalists. But that’s for a future email.

The dream of independent combat sports media is not dead, it just won’t be dependent on Google anymore.

I’ll be keeping this newsletter going under a new name with contributions from the best Bloody Elbow alumni I can afford along with submissions from new writers and creators.

And Bloody Elbow art director Chris Rini posted a video about this on Twitter/X:

“We have retained ownership of the podcast, Substack, and the YouTube channel. I believe I will still be posting on the Substack, we’ll find out about that. I want you to stay with the podcast, because The Vivisection is the most thorough MMA podcast in existence today regarding fight cards top to bottom. And I, Chris Rini, will be heading up a new show on the Bloody Elbow YouTube channel.”

So, some of the Bloody Elbow personnel are going to continue to be involved with this organization (which will likely have a new name) in some way, but details on just how many will be involved and what forms that involvement will take aren’t clear yet. But what is known is the deletion of those archives. And, given that many of the writers who had their archives deleted extensively covered serious MMA issues such as the soon-in-court fighter antitrust lawsuit against the UFC, that’s sparked some conspiracy speculation:

To those points, GRV Media does not seem directly associated with the UFC. They mostly run team-specific soccer sites. And there is logic to them buying a site with a known domain name and history, and the release mentions that “Logan Abner of WeBrokr.com advised on this deal”: Abner and WeBrokr are known players in these kinds of site domain transactions.

But the deletions are interesting. We don’t know the particular details of Bloody Elbow’s web hosting situation, but in most cases, there isn’t a significant cost to keeping site archives up if they’re not drawing extensive traffic loads. As Scott Nover explored in a recent Slate piece, though, archive deletion is becoming quite common around takeovers and layoffs, and the rationale often seems to be about technical concerns rather than liability:

The answer probably isn’t because of legal concerns, experts told me. You can imagine a scenario in which someone comes out of the woodwork and gets angry about a years-old piece and decides to sue. But “generally, deleting news archives wouldn’t eliminate liability arising from the published content (if you’re thinking of, say, potential libel or privacy claims), because the liability arises at the time of publication,” said Jonathan Peters, a media law professor at the University of Georgia. (In some cases, he said, it could reduce the amount of civil damages awarded if it’s seen to be mitigating harm.) David Greene, the civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, noted that it’s challenging to extract damages from a defunct company like the Messenger, and even if a business stays operational like Vice plans to do, the statute of limitations on defamation claims is no more than three years in any U.S. state.*

But there are technical challenges around maintaining a defunct website. Greg Lavallee, Slate’s vice president of technology, was kind enough to clue me in on those. There are innumerable problems with maintaining the original website—links, code scripts, and ad networks can quickly present security risks if not properly monitored and maintained. “It wouldn’t be expensive to maintain the content,” Lavallee explained. “It would be expensive to maintain functionality: logins, membership programs, commenting systems, anything that has any kind of user input or interaction.”

And trying to transfer archives from one domain to another is often even more difficult and expensive. However, Nover’s piece there goes on to note that it’s possible to download static archives of sites with free software like WebRecorder and then host those instead for  a “very cheap” price. It’s unclear why a solution like that wasn’t contemplated here, as that certainly would have diminished the conspiracy theories around UFC involvement here. And at any rate, it does look like a lot of solid Bloody Elbow work on serious MMA topics is gone, which is a loss for readers.

There looks to be a loss for readers going forward from this change, too. While some of this content looks to continue on a reader-supported basis on Substack, it’s not clear yet just how many jobs that will support, and what the pricing structure there will be. And it’s unfortunate to see this happen, especially just a year after Bloody Elbow looked to be saved by its sale to Wilcox and the work of many readers to help set it up as an independent site around SB Nation pulling support for it, and with Wilcox citing the challenges of being independent rather than part of SB Nation as part of the reason why.

As for what will go on with the new Bloody Elbow under GRV, well, the early results don’t seem promising. And some are wondering if the company’s “head of combat sports,” Tom Llewellyn, even exists. That’s perhaps especially interesting considering that his site bio mentions how “he closely follows fighters on X (Twitter) to uncover the latest news,” but his linked Twitter account only has one person he’s following, only six followers, and no posts.

Llewellyn’s LinkedIn does seem to suggest he’s a real person, though. But it has a listed goal to “extend my skills in video production/journalism to bring science to the general public through social media in an engaging and entertaining manner,” which doesn’t seem like what he’s doing with GRV right now. Still, a couple of his recent posts checked out as human-written per CopyLeaks’ AI content detector.

At any rate, we’ll see what happens with the new site and what Llewellyn does there. But it’s probably not going to be what many past Bloody Elbow readers are looking for.

[Bloody Elbow on Substack]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.