This week I’m profiling one of the most popular personalities in the MMA scene in the UK: Bay TV presenter Jade Morris. In our conversation, we discuss her career covering the sport in her native UK and what it is like to keep up with UFC events all the way across the pond.
First, I’d like to say thank you for being my first international interviewee. Where exactly are you from?
No problem, thanks for having me. I’m from Liverpool in the UK.
So were you a ring girl earlier in your career?
Haha! The funny thing about that is it was completely by accident, I actually didn’t know I was going to be a ring girl. I was living in Sydney at the time and working in PR, so I thought I was there to promote an energy drink to the fight fans. They failed to tell me about the ring girl part and with TV cameras on me I just laughed and rolled with it. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m very clumsy. Thankfully I didn’t fall over but it was definitely a one off!
What first drew you to journalism and reporting?
You know, I was very lucky and pretty much fell in to it. I was in the middle of a meeting at the time and I started talking about the UFC and how much the MMA scene is growing in the UK. I just happened to be speaking to one of the owners of Bay TV which is a local TV station here in Liverpool and he was impressed by my knowledge on the sport and asked me if I would like to cover MMA for them and that’s how it all started.
Was MMA always the sport you wanted to focus on or was it more of a natural progression?
Definitely! I have always been a big fan of MMA, I grew up watching the likes of Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme so I became fascinated with mixed martial arts from a very young age. I also enjoy training and I do both Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai myself at The MMA Academy in Liverpool which is run by UFC Veteran Jason Tan.
Who do you admire in the industry and are there any reporters whom you try to emulate or take notes from?
I really admire Megan Olivi, I never thought that this role would be possible when I was younger and I think she has inspired more female journalists like myself to pursue a career in MMA. I really admire her work and I had the opportunity to meet her during the UFC 189: Conor McGregor v Jose Aldo World Tour, she is lovely!
I’ve read that at Bay TV you had to prove there was a following for the sport. Can you walk me through what that whole experience was like?
Yes, that’s true. Liverpool, well the UK in general is very big on football so I had to sit down with the owners of Bay TV and explain the world of MMA and how it is a growing sport here. I was so passionate about it that they decided to give me a shot so with that I marched in to an MMA gym in Liverpool and asked UFC Fighter Danny ‘Hot Chocolate’ Roberts for an interview ahead of his fight. The interview received thousands of hits and it all took off from there.
With MMA still growing as a sport, were you worried that if you couldn’t deliver that the sport wouldn’t get the exposure it deserved in the UK?
Not at all, we have some fantastic journalists who cover MMA here in the UK and we all work very hard to give the sport the exposure it deserves. It is a big family really and I feel lucky to be a part of it.
Several of the UFC’s biggest stars like Michael Bisping and Conor McGregor have gotten their start in British promotions like Cage Warriors and BAMMA, how is the experience reporting on these organizations knowing they could go on to international stardom?
It really is an incredible experience! I feel very lucky to be able to cover these shows and watch up-and-coming talent first hand. There are a lot of talented fighters both in the UK and across Europe so you will see plenty more of them making their way to the UFC through these great promotions thanks to the likes of Bisping and McGregor paving the way.
The most well-known fighter from the UK is obviously Michael Bisping and he has long been considered a pioneer for European MMA. Can you discuss what his level of popularity is like in Europe and the impact he has had on the sport there?
Absolutely! Michael Bisping has been representing the UK for over a decade now in the UFC. He is a real veteran of the sport and he has a lot of respect from UK fans. He is headlining the UFC London card against Anderson Silva and we will get to see a lot of UK fighters following in his footsteps and fighting on the card with him.
As a female reporter, do you feel you’ve had certain advantages when speaking to the athletes compared to your male counterparts?
You could argue there is an advantage as it is mostly an industry dominated by males so it is a change for the fighters. But you can also argue that it is a disadvantage, as a female journalist in this industry you have to prove a lot more that you know what you’re talking about so in a way it is a lot more pressure.
As an attractive woman, do you find that some of the athletes simply want to speak to you a little longer?
Well, with me I would say it’s more down to the fact that I am friendly and approachable. I take my interviews seriously and I work hard on them so I do get a lot of great in-depth interviews.
Your YouTube channel features you speaking to several fighters before and after events, what has been your favorite in your career so far?
My favourite moment of my career has to be interviewing Michael Bisping during media week at UFC Glasgow last year. It’s the first time I have ever been nervous doing an interview. I was suddenly very star struck when he walked in. He shook my hand and even with other press waiting he was very friendly and happy taking his time answering all my questions in depth.
I’m curious as to how much coverage MMA gets in Europe. How would you compare the sports’ popularity on television compared to football and other sports?
Football is huge over here so it will always get a lot of coverage but MMA is definitely growing in popularity. MMA has had a lot more coverage recently in the UK due to Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey. Many newspapers and media outlets are starting to take notice of the sport which is fantastic.
I think fans here in the United States take the fact that UFC events are scheduled on our time for granted. What is the experience like for you to watch the fights live in the early morning?
A lot of UK fight fans will know the struggle of watching UFC fights at 6am. You have to do it right; I have a system now I will start on cups of tea, then when it hits about 3am I switch to coffee… lots of it! I actually find it more strange when they come to the UK as we are so used to watching it at that time of the morning.
Before reporting, did you ever miss a big event simply because it was so early?
Never! I have always stayed up for the fights, I’m a big UFC fan and I won’t miss the fights for anything!
Is there a fighter or personality that you would most like to interview at this point in your career?
Oh definitely Dana White!
Finally, what are your career goals at the moment and what can fans expect to see from you in the future?
Honestly, my goals are just to keep working hard and providing great interviews for all the wonderful fight fans both in the U.S and the UK. Don’t forget to follow my twitter page @Jade001 to check out my latest interviews and 6am coffee ramblings!