The 2017 MMA Journalism Report Analysis: Media Backgrounds & Compensation

In a series of stories over the next few days, we’re going to take a deeper look at the 2017 MMA Journalism Report and analyze what it tells us about the current state of affairs in MMA journalism.

If you haven’t perused the full report, you’ll want to take a look and maybe even download a copy for yourself, because it’s a vivid overview of how the media view themselves, how they view others and how they view the future of the industry. 

Tonight, we’ve got some initial thoughts on the backgrounds of media members who participated in the survey. 

Hard to Make a Living

Most of us always just assumed that MMA journalism doesn’t pay very well and that most who end up doing it do so because they are a fan of the sport and want to be closer to it.

That thought bears out in the data.

100% of respondents said they were a fan of the sport before they began covering it, while over 72% consider their coverage work a hobby.

That 30.8% of all respondents have zero formal journalism training should not surprise anyone. Journalism degrees are a rarity in many publishing fields these days, because the internet has removed many of those barriers that used to exist for getting your foot in the door. All you need now is talent and work ethic, or at least the work ethic to force yourself to improve.

It also helps a great deal if you’re willing to accept no compensation for your work.

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The reality is brutal : 34.6% of all respondents said they are not paid for their work, which means they’re working for free, and quite a few of them are doing so for mid-tier outlets you likely visit on a regular basis.

Of those who ARE paid for their work, slightly more than 75% make $35,000 or less per year, a much higher percentage than we assumed.

One truly surprising figure that sticks out: 5.8% of respondents claim to make between $50,000 and $75,000 a year. We have a good grasp on a lot of media salaries in the industry, and 5.8% in that compensation range is higher than we predicted.

Just over half of respondents said they are happy with the level of compensation they receive compared to their level of talent.

Another interesting figure: 81% said they currently work part time in MMA. That figure sounds accurate. The surprising number: only 63.5% of those part timers hope they can eventually turn it into a full time job.

One final note on the financial front. It is interesting that 38.5% of respondents pay their own way to provide coverage at live events. This is another indication that MMA journalism, as it exists in 2017, is heavily populated by fans of the sport who don’t mind paying (as a fan does) to attend and be a part of the circus.

The number of people who draw a respectable living wage while performing the duties of a full time journalist is highly limited, likely to just a handful of people at the largest outlets. It’s a cliche to say you do something because you love it, but in mixed martial arts, the saying is largely true.