One of the greatest achievements of journalism is the ability to evoke emotion and compel action.

Effectively using the written word is a tremendous skill. For the thousands of people who read it, Chuck Mindenhall’s tale of tracking down TUF 1 alumnus Jason Thacker and documenting his lifestyle before and after the television series that redefined mixed martial arts painted a heartbreaking picture. A picture so vivid with detail and brutal honesty that it compelled me to start a GoFundMe campaign for Jason Thacker.

Now, in the aftermath of the campaign, which raised over $12,000, I’d like to share how this fundraiser has developed my perception of the MMA community.

When the GoFundMe page was first launched, I wasn’t sure what to expect. There was purpose but no formal means of delivering the donation. It was initially met with skepticism, and rightly so. In another scenario I might be the one decrying the effort ‘a scam by ‘some asshole’. Not in those words, but similar sentiments nonetheless.

With time and the support of influential figureheads including the editorial’s writer, Chuck Mindenhall, illustrator Chris Rini and noted MMA broadcaster Mauro Ranallo, word of the campaign’s legitimacy spread across social media platforms and MMA forums. As fans and fighters shared the link, donations and positive messages grew in stature and frequency. TUF 1 alumni Kenny Florian, Chris Leben, Sam Hoger and Lodune Sincaid have promoted the fundraiser, while the likes of Mauro, Bas Rutten and Paul Lazenby have also donated. News of the campaign finally reached Jason and his family. Expressing their appreciation, the donations will be gratefully accepted.

For me, the campaign itself represents a symbol of growth in the sport that we love. From its formative years on the fringes of society, MMA in 2015 is now an established entity possessing mainstream appeal around the world. In turn, a community of devout fans has developed around it – outspoken, generous and not afraid to pick up a fellow member of the circle when they are down. Gifts and kind words have come from all across the world including Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

It gives me great satisfaction to see journalists, broadcasters, fans and fighters alike unite to support a common cause and reach out to someone who, in their own way, helped put the sport on the map. Just as Josh Koscheck’s presence on The Ultimate Fighter represented a new career avenue for talented amateur athletes, Jason Thacker represented the heart and determination needed to fight, get back up, and fight again; demanding to fight a heavily favored Chris Leben to prove himself.

It is great to see members of the mixed martial arts community convert any anger and frustration they feel for Thacker into positive, tangible gestures that make a real difference. The response to this campaign has been amazing and serves as yet another reminder of the good people in and around this sport. I can firmly say that I am proud to be an inhabitant of this group, our MMA bubble. So should you.

Cheers to all. Thank you for your support.

Aidan O’Connor

  • David

    Nice article and very thoughtful of you to start and do this fund for Jason. When I first read JM’s article about Strangebrew like most I was moved. Then went and rewatched TUF1 episodes with Jason. It was with a different light I watched him on the show. I was mad, sad and angered how the producer manipulated him. I had a discussion with some MMA friends and one suggested he should take legal action against the producer for ruining his life. There have been so much civil actions for much less. However all of us agreed that Jason probably is in no position and could probably not be able to be put through trial with his mental state. I’m so pleased you did this Go Fund Me for Jason, however I knew nothing about it or I would have donated. Is there anyway to donate now as I’m sure this is going to get more inquiries since the Thankyou video has come out? Once again kudos to you