Contributor: Nolan Howell
Mixed martial arts media is not unlike any other media in terms of quality. Some writers attempt to maintain the integrity associated with the written word, while others favor a more TMZ-styled approach where it is all about page views. There is money to be made and it often coincides with exploitation of steamy issues. For that, there is no grievance. Money is money and people make it however they can.
Much like the wild west of lore, MMA media is budding with few constraints. However, not unlike the days of gunslingers, there is the basic code that entails you to treat any individual lawfully and with human decency.
Unfortunately, for the niche within the niche that is women’s mixed martial arts, sex sells and a lot of mixed martial arts fans tend to only laud fighters that are hard in the cage but easy on the eyes. While many aim to focus on the sporting side of women’s combat, some are just aiming to make a quick buck off of sensational sexy headlines.
Eric Holden is an MMA reporter that specializes in sleaze. Whether it be pondering the sex appeal of Miesha Tate’s younger sister or attempting to inspire by compiling lists of women fighters stretching, it appears that Holden is not shying away from anything that will grab a few hits. That in and of itself is no problem.
What is perturbing is Holden’s interaction with interview subjects. Specializing in women’s MMA, Holden often gets interviews with regional level fighters to discuss varying topics.
Enter Cassie Robb and Stephanie Skinner. The openly gay engaged couple claim to have had some unpleasant encounters with Holden, where the reporter went past the boundaries of decency. In an interview with Promoting Women, the two revealed a series of messages between the writer and themselves where sexual comments were allegedly made. Holden decried the meaning and intent of these messages.
Holden has not denied the flirting aspect of the conversation, however, he has responded and claimed that Robb was compliant in talking about his “sexy lists” that he often posts. Holden also alleges that the conversation between the two was as friends, not in a media interview environment.
While that issue between Holden and the couple continues to make the rounds and heat up, other female fighters have detailed to us here at Undercard Superstar their disturbing encounters with Holden.
Famous for making the transition from cheerleading to MMA, Rachel Wray, had this to say about Holden;
“He can be annoying. Nearly every time I get on my Facebook, he immediately starts private messaging me! It’s so annoying I just ignore him.” Wray also stated that Holden made it clear how he feels about her place in WMMA; “He has made it clear that he thinks I’m sexy but that I suck at fighting!”
Wray not only took issues with the sexually-driven articles about herself, but about some of WMMA’s elite.
“After seeing what he wrote about Ronda Rousey, my idol and the face of women’s MMA, I was absolutely disgusted and offended. When it comes to this stuff, people can say whatever they want. I don’t care. But, when you go too far and harass someone you are writing articles about, that just goes against human decency. He should be exposed for that part of it. Mostly I’m just nauseated by that article he wrote about Ronda. It offends me more than anything he ever wrote about me.”
Wray reached this conclusion regarding Holden’s brand of journalism;
“I want to express that I never took any of his articles seriously. Had a more legitimate source posted the types of articles he posted about me, I would have been outraged. But, I never even knew he was an actual journalist. Never took him seriously.”
A female fighter who preferred to remain anonymous maintains that Holden has attempted to push past a professional relationship;
“He continues to hit on me after he knows I have a boyfriend I’m serious about because he’s asked me about him.”
Another woman who chose not to have her identity revealed said that Holden never made her uncomfortable in an interview setting, but did so outside of the interview environment. The woman claims that Holden made inappropriate comments about her body;
“He has said incredibly inappropriate things to me that made me really uncomfortable about my butt. I made sure to tell him to stop.” She also said her situation was very similar to the one Robb and Skinner encountered; That situation sounds super similar. He has made disgusting comments to me along those lines about wanting to take pics and if I lived there he would take them for free and I asked him to stop because it made me uncomfortable. He would apologize and do it again the next week. He would message me like 900 times a day to a point it got annoying.”
Amanda LaVoy, a HOOKnSHOOT and IFC vet, detailed her experience with Holden;
“He seemed to cross a line that he seems unaware of. I don’t think it’s malicious at all with Eric. I really think he just doesn’t get it. I am sure after this “don’t click” movement, it’s probably hitting home. I told him he needs to be more professional & sensitive.” Where others are more stern about the conduct of Holden, LaVoy takes a more forgiving approach, but offers warning for the future; “I would just add that I am not sure how I feel about trying to get rid of him without giving him a chance to move on and be better, but I am sure that he has crossed a line into unprofessionalism recently.”
Women’s mixed martial arts causes fans to draw a multitude of opinions. Some enjoy the fights, regardless of gender. Some see it as an inferior product.
Regardless of what women’s MMA is and women’s MMA isn’t, there is something here that most fans of combat sports will agree upon; if proven true, this sort of conduct belongs nowhere near any facet of life.
While temporary lapses in judgment are forgivable to an extent, repeated patterns of unprofessional behavior from men like Eric Holden and Brett Atchley should be noticed before permanent damage can be made to the sport and those who consider themselves a part of it.
-Nolan can be reached @nolanhowell.
-Images via fightergirls.com and Sherdog