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Luke Thomas on ‘reality’ of MMA media: ‘You have to attach yourself to power’

Luke Thomas says it is going to be a hard, long road up the ranks if you aren’t willing to play ball with the powerful entities in MMA media.

Luke Thomas has managed to carve out an important position for himself in the landscape of MMA media, but that does not mean he can advise others to do the same.

Thomas spoke candidly at length with Pull No Punches podcast host Shakiel Mahjouri. The Morning Kombat host elaborated on his disenchantment with the media, how the business model puts journalists in compromising positions, and also shared his advice for how to cope with grief.

“I don’t know how much ladder moving is possible, quite frankly. That’s just a reality you have to face,” Thomas said when asked how young reporters can navigate the waters of MMA media with integrity. “Dude, look around. If you want to get ahead in this business, generally speaking, you have to attach yourself to power. That’s the way to do it. There are ways to do it without it, but they are much slower, they are much harder, they are much longer, they are certainly a lot less grateful and rewarding. I don’t know exactly how people perceive me, but to the extent they perceive me as someone who has successfully extricated himself from that business model, I would humbly submit to you I would be much further along if I just played the game a little bit. Much further along.”

“It’s easy to blame the individual actors, although they should do better, but the reality is a lot of these companies are putting pressure on these guys based on the business model,” he added.

Thomas’ skepticism for the industry began a long time ago, but he wanted to give it a fair shake.

“I initially had it years ago when I was working for Bloody Elbow. I kind of thought, ‘it’s really easy to pot shot from the sidelines. Let me see what happens when you get into the game.’ To be honest, getting into the game, there is some real value to it. ... But in the end, the problem is — there are many problems — there is too much of that and not enough of the opposite,” he argued. “MMA media is so deferential to power. That power could be a very famous fighter, that power could be an institution, that power could be anything. Anything that has real sway and command of the industry.”

So why doesn’t Thomas be the champion he seeks?

“I’m having a hard time getting anyone to talk to me about anything. To really do that, you have to have access to reporting,” he said. “Secondly, and I wouldn’t mind doing this, I just don’t have employers who are really on board with this idea, I think to really do it you have to not be part of the traveling machine: the people who go to the Bellator shows, UFC shows, the media days. You have to be completely, and I mean utterly, divorced from that.”

“The way my job works, I’m not divorced from that. It creates some complicating factors about what expectations are put on me for content. I’m better situated than most, but I’m actually not all that situated to do it correctly. I try to be vocal where I can,” he shared. “In general, I need folks to talk and they don’t wanna. I’m not sure what to do about that.”

Thomas recently opened up on his Live Chat about the untimely passing of his mother. Responses poured in from fans sharing their own tragic stories and they did not go unnoticed.

“I had a bunch of people reach out to me after that episode. A guy lost his kid after four months,” he reflected. “Every friend that was murdered, the dad that died and everything in between. I think a lot of people are just walking around holding this resentment about the world without being able to talk about it.”

To that end, Thomas shared his advice for “difficult questions” about how to cope with grief.

“I had to go to therapy for a while after the tragic passing of my mother. No one is ever above having a real mental health professional give you some real guidance and expert health in navigating some of these situations,” he asserted. “I’ve been in the trenches on this one but I’m not an expert on dealing with human trauma.”

“The one thing I would just always say — and it’s not comfortable advice, but it’s the kind you have to at some point swallow and move forward on — most people in life eventually encounter, sometimes multiple times, they encounter these moments where life absolutely slaps the s—t out of you. It absolutely clobbers you in a way and brings you to a knee when you thought you could never be brought to a knee. It will keep you there a long time. Life is profoundly unfair,” Thomas continued. “You have to understand at some level that life is a difficult experience. You have to steel yourself as best you possible can, not to be hard of heart exactly.”

“I don’t mean to demean people who are struggling, that’s not what I’m suggesting at all because I’ve been there, but life will feast upon your weakness and eat you alive. You have to find a way to cope. Coping doesn’t mean not feeling, but it does mean being able to get up and go to work and be pleasant with others and find a routine,” he exclaimed. “You have to find a way to do that. Everyone has their own methods, to be clear. I’m not suggesting it’s some walk in the park — quite the opposite. But if you don’t develop the resources to take care of yourself, life will consume you. It will eat you alive.

“Find those ways. Find the way to stand on your two feet. Even if it’s literally just going through the motions. Keep the train on the tracks because if you don’t, trust me when I tell you, no one is going to for you and life will most certainly push you off of it if you let it.”

Wrapping up on a lighter note, but one just as honest, Thomas revealed the title Morning Kombat was not one he suggested or even necessarily liked that much.

“That was not the name I wanted for the show,” he confessed. “Everyone liked that one better than all my choices. It’s not my favorite to be candid, but I don’t hate it either.”

“I was going to go with something along the lines of ‘Headliners’,” he concluded. “I think my wife said it sounds like a 1980s cover band. Once you hear that, you can’t un-hear that.”