Luke Thomas reflects on his departure from MMA Fighting and celebrates those who are redefining the long-running website.
Thomas announced his departure from MMA Fighting in July 2019, bringing an abrupt end to two programs he anchored: The MMA Hour and MMA Beat. 2018 and 2019 also saw website stalwarts Ariel Helwani, Chuck Mindenhall, Marc Raimondi and Shaheen Al-Shatti migrate to outer outlets. MMA Fighting has bounced back well under veteran leadership and the enthusiasm of new employees, but some fans were concerned about the site initially.
“Of course, I was worried about the site,” Thomas said on the SBN MMA premiere of The Insiders (video above). “But here is the thing: I had some talks with people internally at the company. You gotta understand the whole business sports-wide is suffering from a lack of ad revenue. It’s not any kind of secret. If you just look at the place MMA Fighting holds at SB Nation and Vox Media, it’s a crown jewel for any number of reasons: traffic, ad revenue, whatever. You just knew it didn’t matter who subbed out, it was going to be a next man up scenario... There was no way I knew it would suffer in some of the more dire pronouncement. Obviously, a transition is never that easy. I looked into it that way but you gotta live your life for yourself. At the same time, I was comfortable when I had made my decision I was not sabotaging anyone’s career. All the people who were above me are all still there to proof of that. I think in the end it worked out the way it needed to.”
Thomas — who now has a deal with Showtime, while also continuing his work with SiriusXM — was hesitant to divulge in the specifics of his departure, aside from the obvious financial incentive.
“I got offered a brand new deal and I didn’t take it. It was a good deal, it was a great deal,” he expressed. “There was nothing wrong with the deal other than I got a better one and so I took it.”
Instead, the Morning Kombat co-host chose to shine light on the new squadron of talent at MMA Fighting.
“I really like what they’re doing now. I think it’s a new generation of talent. This guy Mike Heck over there, boy he’s doing a great job, isn’t he? He’s just unbelievable. Esther [Lin] and [E.] Casey [Leydon] are born winners.”
Don’t worry, he also shouted out just about everyone else at the site.
“What I’d rather say is I’m in a better place and I like that there is a new crop of talent that doesn’t have to sit under the thumb of me, and Chuck [Mindenhall], and Marc [Raimondi], and Ariel [Helwani]. It’s like the Supreme Court. You don’t get a seat until one of them dies,” Thomas expressed. “I know that it creates for a lot of headlines, ‘everyone just left all at once.’ One day we’ll tell the story, I suppose. But what I would rather say is I’m very impressed with their rebound and I’m so glad there is a generation of young guys and ladies who are doing great work.”
Timestamps are below for the video above.
0:41 - Most frustrating point to get across
4:11 - First impressions of Brian Campbell
5:48 - Creativity in MMA media
8:00 - UFC vs. fans vs. media
12:12 - How to help support fighters
19:51 - Departure from MMA Fighting
23:57 - The name “Bloody Elbow”
25:52 - Disagreements with Chael Sonnen, Brendan Schaub
28:26 - Making amends with Forrest Griffin
29:55 - Guilty pleasures
32:40 - Ranking Luke Thomas’ catchphrases
34:25 - Foreign Film recommendations
40:12 - Luke Thomas roasts Shak and The Insiders