September 2015. Nick Baldwin, a 15-year-old sophomore from Winnipeg, Manitoba, with two years of blogging experience on his self-created website decided it was time to reach big.
Fast-forward to today, Baldwin is a 17-year old high school senior preparing for life at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, while working as a mixed martial arts (MMA) writer and podcast host for BloodyElbow.com, a blog apart of SBNation’s network that currently sits as the fifth most popular MMA media outlet.
How did a high school student with only two years of amateur blogging experience land a role with a serious publication? Baldwin took some time to speak on how he landed his role, how his age affects his position in the MMA community and his future plans with MMA.
Dezmond Moore: What got a pre-teen Nick Baldwin into blogging for MMA, a sport regarded as one of the most deadly and vicious sports?
Nick Baldwin: Well, writing came naturally to me in school. I’ve always done well in English. It was my favorite class. My best grades came from English class, and when I was nine years old, I built a website. It was about this popular online game, Club Penguin. I would just write about news and things you can do on there. It ended up hitting around 30,000 page views, which is crazy because I was only nine years old. After that, I kind of just made websites for all of my interests at the time, and MMA kind of fell into that. I created MMAjr.co when I was 13 and was blogging on that for about two years, and I just stuck with it.
Moore: How did you get into MMA as a sports fan?
Baldwin: My dad. He’s been watching since the very beginning, probably UFC 1. I wasn’t born during the beginning of MMA or UFC. He would watch all the time and eventually it caught my eye, kind of like everything in life — you just follow your parents’ interests. As I got older, I got more intrigued. My dad enjoyed it, so how could I not? Around 2013 is when I started consciously watching and the UFC had some classic fights with Silva v. Weidman I, Henderson v. Pettis 2, Jones v. Gustafsson, and GSP v. Hendricks.
Moore: How did you start writing for BloodyElbow at 15-years old?
Baldwin: I wish it was a cooler story, but after writing for my own blog for two years, I felt I had enough experience to start writing for bigger platforms. I reached out to Zane Simon, the Associate Editor for BloodyElbow, to see who I could contact about a potential position. I didn’t really think I would write for them, but I knew I had nothing to lose. He gave me the email of Nate Wilcox, the Editor-in-Chief, and I sent him an email. Nate had me contribute to the fan post section for a trial process, then shortly after, he hired me. So, take chances, and you might get surprised.
Moore: What are some of the challenges you face as a 17-year-old in the MMA media world?
Baldwin: The obvious one is being taken seriously. It’s not a huge issue, but every once in a while I get a comment like, “He’s a kid, why does his opinion matter?” I’m lucky I haven’t had too many challenges regarding my age. With writing it’s hard to distinguish my age because I believe that my writing is strong. You can’t tell age through writing. With podcasting, it’s obviously apparent I’m young.
Moore: What is the process of writing for BloodyElbow?
Baldwin: Pretty much if you see it, you can ask to write it. There is a lot of freedom. I can write anywhere between 25-40 articles a month, as long as they are newsworthy posts.
Moore: Is MMA your favorite sport?
Baldwin: At this point, it has to be. Even without the writing and podcast, I dedicate so much time to watching it. Although, I enjoy watching hockey as well.
Moore: You’ve gotten to interview quite a few names in MMA, including champions Stipe Miocic, Daniel Cormier, Max Holloway and other notable names such as Rafael Dos Anjos, Stephen Thompson and even UFC announcer Bruce Buffer. Which has been your favorite interview?
Baldwin: I’ve had so many interviews. It’s difficult to choose. Some notable interviews include Stephen Thompson. He’s a great interview. Mitch Clark is a really good interview. Roland Delorme was my first-ever interview, so he’s up there for sure. Interviewing Daniel Cormier in person when the UFC came to Winnipeg was a really cool experience.
Moore: How do your friends react to seeing you interview and interact with huge MMA stars?
Baldwin: Some of my friends definitely find what I do cool, but I’m not sure they exactly understand it all. That’s probably because the sport I cover is MMA, which isn’t mainstream by any means. If I covered hockey, for example, and talked to a bunch of hockey stars, most people I know in real life would think of that as a bigger deal, I’d imagine.
Moore: Do you have a dream interview?
Baldwin: Mighty Mouse. I would love to talk with Demetrious Johnson for 20 minutes.
Moore: What has been your worst experience during an interview?
Baldwin: Definitely Ben Askren hanging up on me five minutes into the interview. I didn’t think I did anything wrong. I was definitely asking tough questions, and maybe I should have waited to ask those, but I didn’t think the substance of questions was anything bad.
Moore: What did you ask him?
Baldwin: He had a teammate leave one of the gyms he was cross-training at, and I just asked about the falling out between them, and then he hung up. The thing is most fighters I’ve come across are super nice, super down-to-earth people, but they also punch people for a living.
Moore: What is in store for Nick Baldwin’s future?
Baldwin: Right now it’s pretty clear. I graduate high school in less than a month, then I’m off to Ryerson University in Toronto. They have a great journalism program. The plan is to continue writing for BloodyElbow part-time during university.
Moore: What is your ultimate goal with MMA?
Baldwin: To make a living off being an MMA journalist. It’s a damn tough thing to do, so if I can be Ariel Helwani in 10 years, that would be amazing. I’m trying to lower my expectations, though. I don’t care about being rich. I do want to make enough money to live a nice life and be able to provide for myself and future family, but I don’t need millions of dollars. I’m willing to sacrifice certain things for a good job that I enjoy. We’ll see.
Moore: Any advice for the young kids that are looking to breakthrough in their passions?
Baldwin: It’s very important to not worry about your age. Treat yourself equally to everyone else. Fit in as much as possible. Don’t expect better treatment because you’re younger, but don’t expect to not get any opportunities either. Treat yourself like everyone else, and you’ll be successful. Just go for it. Go for broke. If you’re young, you have nothing to lose. Reach big. Pitch those ideas you have to the big guys. They’re not coming to you, you have to go to them.
Want to talk MMA? You can find Nick on Twitter at @NickBaldwinMMA.