Because the pen is mightier than the sword
“Do you watch the UFC?” That’s how I generally respond when people ask me what I’ve been up to lately.
No, I don’t fight in the cage. But for the last few years, I’ve made my living in the fast-paced, high-impact world of mixed martial arts (or “cage fighting,” for the unfamiliar) – and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing for a living.
My “career” – though I don’t think of it as a career, really – began in 2013. Prior to that, I was a hobby journalist in the sport. In 2013, I wrote a story about a former professional fighter, “Chainsaw” Charles McCarthy, who had recently started his own management firm for professional fighters.
He liked how the story came out, so he offered me a job, writing up short biographies for his, at the time, small roster of fighters. Believe it or not, I wasn’t initially interested in the work. I wanted to make a living as a journalist and thought this side project would just distract me from achieving my goal.
But I really liked Charles and, in journalism, it’s hard to come across paid work, so I agreed to write a few short pieces for him. That evolved into me writing press releases, which evolved into me doing paperwork (lots of paperwork), which eventually evolved into me becoming a full-time agent for Charles’ Guardian Sports Group, recruiting clients, tending to their various requests, finding them opportunities in the media… and, of course, tons of paperwork.
That brings me to my first piece of advice if you want to make your living in MMA. Be prepared to push through hundreds of pages of paperwork. Fighters are generally focused on training and what they need to do in the cage, as they should be. But behind the scenes, there are hours and hours of paperwork that need to be addressed. It’s all vitally important, but fighters often overlook that, so it regularly falls onto the laps of others. Contracts need to be signed, flights need to be scheduled, hotels need to be booked, medicals need to be done, and, when you fight for the UFC, they need hundreds of pieces of background information, right down to descriptions of each tattoo a fighter has. Anyway, Charles McCarthy is a mastermind in every aspect of the fight business and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities he gave me, and for the lessons he’s taught me. Between him and I, we helped Guardian Sports Group morph into one of the fastest rising management firms in MMA, with about twelve UFC fighters on our roster in our prime.
But by that time, I had grown tired of scaling mountains of paperwork and transitioned into more of a public relations role in the organization, handling Team Guardian’s social media and finding opportunities in the media for our fighters.
Thankfully, also by that time, I had built relationships across the industry and was able to spread my wings a bit. Aside from a bit of side work with Charles’ UFC fighters, I currently work in various PR capacities for CES MMA, Unified MMA, Saturday Night Fights, Top Game Management, Banzuke Athlete Management and with Jimmy Binns Jr.’s Team Binns. For a bit of context, CES MMA is the Northeast’s number one MMA promotion, Unified MMA is Canada’s number one MMA promotion, Saturday Night Fights is Saskatchewan’s number one MMA promotion, Top Game Management is arguably the East Coast’s number one management firm, Banzuke Athlete Management is one of Canada’s top management firms, and Team Binns is a growing empire in the fight game that’s going to continue to make a lot of noise in the years to come, both in professional MMA and boxing. In the words of Les Brown, one of my favourite motivational speakers, “I don’t say this to impress you, but to impress upon you what is possible when you work hard, smart and long hours to achieve your goal.”
I’m pushing my word limit, so a few more pieces of advice if you’re looking to work in MMA: Patience, especially when working with fighters, is key. Don’t leave anything until the last minute. It’s a very small world, so a good reputation is absolutely vital. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Under-promise and over-deliver. Also important, don’t forget to have fun and be grateful that you get to be a part of the greatest sport known to humankind.