MMA Journalist + Instagram Strategist Farah Hannoun is Empowering Fans Across Cultures
If you follow mixed martial arts on Instagram, chances are you’ve seen the work of MMA journalist Farah Hannoun. The owner of the popular account @UFCNewsAlerts, Hannoun has built a following of over 80K, while also working as a journalist who is covering the sport through writing and reporting.
With no backing of a major publication, Hannoun hustled to build a following completely on her own, all with the dream in mind of making it big in the MMA news world. She’s made a name for herself with her social media savvy, staying up at all hours and constantly being glued to her phone so that she could be the first to break the news on UFC-related content.
The Palestinian and current resident of Egypt is not only breaking down barriers for women in this field, but is bringing MMA to her home country, which is not exactly a hot-bed for martial arts. With all of her experience, expertise, and passion, we spoke to Hannoun in hopes of learning something from her hard work and dedication to her craft.
FFF: How did you get started as an MMA journalist? Where did your passion for combat sports originate?
FARAH: My brother got me into MMA. I grew up watching WWE because he did, which then led to watching MMA. That was around 2009/2010. I graduated from university with a degree in communicatio n and media arts in 2013, took a year off to travel, then started covering MMA in 2014.
I’ve always loved to write and because I grew up playing basketball, my intention was to cover basketball as a journalist, but there was something about MMA that I found so intriguing. It’s a fast-growing sport and isn’t big in the Middle East. I like a challenge and thought it would be very unique to be a girl in the Middle East covering MMA.
FFF: Have their been challenges to being a woman in the male-dominated space of sports journalism? If so, how have you overcome them?
FARAH: Thankfully, I haven’t really had any bad experiences. As a journalist or a reporter you try your best to get as close to the fighters to produce the best work possible, but as a girl I feel the need to keep my distance quite a bit. It’s not a necessity but I feel it’s a lot easier for the male journalists to approach the male fighters and vice versa. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s just the way I go about it.
I feel it’s a bit of a challenge for me being in the Middle East more than it is being a girl. I feel like I don’t get the respect that I deserve as a journalist because maybe I don’t write for a major outlet. I’m very thankful for the fighters that do give me the time and those who don’t, I sometimes feel they don’t think I’m worthy. It drives me though, you need to be rejected to make you grow and show you how badly you want something. You just have to keep pushing for it and put the time in.
FFF: Being that you're based in Egypt, what is the MMA scene like there? Are women fighters accepted?
FARAH: The MMA scene in Egypt is pretty non-existent, so it would be hard to determine whether it would be accepted. There hasn’t been an Egyptian breakout star in combat sports for me to make a determination of that, but I believe if there was, the country would embrace it.
Of course, you’ll have some judgmental people, but I’d attribute that to a lack of education or understanding. Women who excel in sports in the Middle East are breaking barriers and people will learn to embrace it sooner rather than later.
FFF: Even though MMA has become a very gender-equal sport, the coverage of the sport is still incredible male-dominated. Why do you think there aren't more women who are writing or reporting about the sport?
FARAH: I’m not quite sure why there aren’t that many women covering MMA, but I’m starting to notice a lot more up and coming female journalists. Big outlets don’t really hire many female journalists, so that could be a factor, too.
As the sport grows globally, I think more and more girls will cover the sport. It may be a little hard for me now but once I reach the ultimate goal [of being part of a major outlet}, I hope to inspire people and show all the girls out there that it can be done. You just have to be passionate enough and you’ll get there. Just put the time in.
The time difference [ between the US and Egypt] harms me a lot, but that is why I’ve chosen not to work a 9-5. I devote all my attention into this because that’s the only way I’ll get to where I want to be.
FFF: You've built a very successful Instagram account, @ufcnewsalerts, as well as your own platform as a writer + creator. Any tips for women who are looking to do what you've done or want to get started but don't know how?
FARAH: People have different approaches when it comes to starting out. Some go with the approach of covering smaller organizations and cover things that not many people talk about. I went with the opposite approach. Because there hasn’t really been a big MMA scene in the Middle East, I chose to cover the UFC. I did start out writing, but no one would read my stuff. I started with Instagram because I knew that people prefer looking at images over reading [articles].
Growing my Instagram account allowed me to build a fan/follower base, which has helped me a lot. It’s always been hard for me not only because of the time difference and staying up until 8am at times but because there was no local scene for me to cover. For about a year and a half I wasn’t Farah, I was ufcnewsalerts and when I built a solid follower base I started to introduce myself as Farah to everyone. That was a little challenging to make that transition.
I eventually gained their respect by interacting with my follower base and building my name as a journalist. It’s still a work in progress. I never had the big outlet to help grow my name. I had to find ways to grow it on my own. Just doing that little extra stuff: Covering The Ultimate Fighter guys/girls, announcing the fights of newcomers, things like that. Not just the superstars. I always try to pay attention and stay alert. I’ve honestly been averaging 4 hours of sleep and even when I’m supposedly sleeping, I’m on my phone keeping tabs. I can’t even go out for a meal or hit the gym without trying to keep tabs over everything. It’s become an obsession. I have to do these things because I’m already at a disadvantage. I don’t have access to anything in terms of events, fighters or gyms without traveling and the big time difference makes it really hard. I had to do these things to separate myself and excel.
To see more of Farah’s wisdom, content, and creation, make sure to follow her on social media and support her journalistic efforts. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, all respectively linked.