In June 2016, Dana White and UFC banned MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani for life after Helwani simply reported Brock Lesnar’s plan to fight at UFC 200 before the organization was ready to announce it. Though UFC quickly lifted Helwani’s ban amid backlash, White continued to trash the reporter for weeks thereafter.
With that event likely in mind that a collection of reporters announced on Wednesday a group called the MMA Journalists Association, the first professional association of media members in the sport’s history. Via the MMAJA website:
It is our hope that the association will succeed not only in promoting a high standard of ethics and professionalism among its members, but also in advocating for the interests of its members as they navigate working relationships with promoters, fighters, managers, and the many other professionals who populate the sport of MMA.
The association will establish a code of conduct for its members, as well as recognize exceptional work in both the sport itself and the media coverage of it via annual awards. It will also work to stimulate a productive fellowship among working professionals in the MMA media, rooted in the spirit of journalistic integrity.
Reporters in most major sports have some kind of professional organization, from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to the Professional Football Writers Association to the Professional Basketball Writers Association. As MMA continues to grow in popularity and prominence, it makes sense that its media members would want to organize as well, particularly in a sport where one body, UFC, has near-total control over athletes and events.
According to the MMAJA site, the group will soon hold elections for leadership positions but currently has a six-member Board of Directors, with USA Today’s Dann Stupp as president and Helwani as vice president.
Dana White and UFC may very well try to intimidate a reporter again in the future, but if they do, at least the targeted media member won’t be entirely alone.