Well known and respected journalist and author Jonathan Snowden has kindly given me an interview:
MMAUK: Could you give a brief overview of your career in journalism so far?
Jonathan: I never really intended to have a career in journalism. It’s something that just sort of happened. I started as a message board poster and blogger. In the days before UFC went nationwide on SPIKE TV, that was pretty much all there was.
Widespread interest in MMA brought with it outsider journalists, must notably a couple of refugees from the boxing beat. They had such a poor understanding of the sport, that some of us thought it was worth the time to help spread an alternate, more accurate narrative that paid the proper respect to MMA’s heritage and history.
ECW Press published Total MMA: Inside Ultimate Fighting in 2008. From there, my career has taken on a life of its own. Today I’m a senior writer at Bleacher Report and almost all of my major stories are published at CNN.com. It’s been quite a wild ride.
MMAUK: When did your interest in MMA start?
Jonathan: I was a freshman in college when UFC debuted in 1993 and we used to go to Blockbuster and rent the tapes whenever a new show came out. Later I’d go to the Japanese grocery store and rent Pancrase VHS tapes. So, I have been a fan forever.
What really took my interest to the next level was joining the Army in 2001. Army Combatives is essentially Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And, through rolling around and actually participating, I really came to appreciate the game of human chess being played on the mat.
MMAUK: The UFC has had a rough time in regards to PPV buys, what do you put this down to. Is it to simplistic to say that the UFC needs new stars like Lesnar, McGregor and Rousey to sell PPV’s or is it just that the masses don’t buy into the sport?
Jonathan: Certainly a star would be nice. The promotion has always been lucky enough to have a new one emerge as others fell off.
The main difference I see is that UFC stars used to draw people to an event and they’d be impressed with the other talent on the card. Stars built stars that way and pretty soon almost every show they put on was printing money.
Today, there are so many events that most shows, even the pay-per-views are lackluster. The talent on the verge of stardom isn’t being exposed to fans on the undercard of a Rousey or McGregor event. They’re being counted on to headline their own, smaller show. That’s had a long term effect on how UFC is perceived by fans, who can no longer count on getting their money’s worth.
MMAUK: Are there any fighters who could be real mainstream stars in the near future. You seemingly need a WWE style persona to get over as they say, in cage skills are not enough. Darren Till has a shot I feel, and maybe Paddy Pimblett from Cage Warriors, he’s only 23 and has personality in abundance, certainly one to watch.
Jonathan: Predicting stars is a tough business. After all, who would have guessed that the charismatic Anderson Silva would take years to catch on with fans while GSP, a less obvious superstar, would have been an almost immediate sensation.
The best thing UFC can do is listen to the fans and their instincts and push whoever captures the public’s interest as hard as they can.
MMAUK: Are there too many UFC shows? personally while I understand it’s about growing the sport, but I think it waters down the product I would prefer less including not as many PPV cards.
Jonathan: I’d like to see fewer cards. But, as TV revenue continues to grow, I don’t think that’s possible. We’re never going back to the old UFC, where most cards were stacked top to bottom. Instead, a top heavy boxing model seems to be the future.
MMAUK: The demise of Ronda Rousey was sudden when seemingly at her peak, why do you think this was? Was it a failure to evolve, other commitments getting in the way or something else?
Jonathan: MMA is definitely a sport that requires laser-focused attention. The moment someone starts contemplating their exit plan, they might as well quit on the spot.
MMAUK: Is the McGregor era almost over, has the money robbed him of the hunger. Like Rousey, time spent on doing other things means less time spent in the gym, not evolving or even staying what he was, will surely have an effect, and what’s your personal opinion on McGregor?
Jonathan: I love McGregor, both professionally and personally. He’s a lot of fun to watch and one of the smartest, most tactically sound fighters I’ve ever seen.
It’s too early to say whether he still has the hunger needed to maintain his dominance in the cage. I guess we’ll see!
MMAUK: Jon Jones is surely the biggest waste of talent ever. He seems oblivious that he needs to change.
Jonathan: I don’t agree. Jones is the among the most successful fighters of all time. I don’t see wasted talent there. He had a record setting run as light heavyweight champion.
MMAUK: What one thing would you change in MMA?
Jonathan: I’d like to see the fighters, who sacrifice so much, get a larger share of the revenue. Right now, UFC fighters make about 15 percent of the revenue they generate. I’d like to see that split creep closer towards 50/50 like other mainstream sports. The athletes deserve it.
MMAUK: Thank you so much for giving up some time for the interview.
Jonathan can be found on Twitter and is always entertaining @JESnowden