When the UFC 157 main event takes place at Anaheim’s Honda Center – the first all-female fight between Rousey and Liz Carmouche — ESPN.com reporter Maria Burns Ortiz will do her best to keep her usual yells and screams for her sister in check.
Ortiz, a Boston-based social media columnist for the ESPN website (she’s @BurnsOrtiz on twitter) as well as a contributor to Fox Sports Latino, was an editorial assistant at Sports Illustrated, a reporter at the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel and a stringer for the Associated Press. She had been covering soccer for ESPNSoccernet before she took her current assignment nearly two years ago. She is also an adjunct professor in the Journalism Department at Emerson College, used to teach a course on digital sports journalism at Tufts University and was the chair of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Sports Task Force.
Her plan Saturday is to stay engaged in a story she’s doing about UFC president Dana White and how the organization has capitalized on its early adaptation of social media. Meanwhile, her heart will be following Rousey’s pursuit of history.
“They say no cheering in the press box, so I’m either going to have to go sit and squeeze in with my mom or something else,” Ortiz told LANG reporter Brian Martin this week.
Ortiz, a married mom of two small kids, has not been able to see Rousey in a live MMA fight. Ortiz and their mother attended the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to see Rousey win her bronze medal in judo.
Ortiz said she’s been able to coach Rousey more on using social media, making her one of the more accessible female athletes in the world today.
“She’s at a point where she does pretty good,” said Ortiz. “Sometimes every once in a while, I’ll see something (she posts) and say, ‘Oh my goodness.’ Or my mom will call me and say, ‘Did you see what she wrote?’ ‘It’s OK, it’s OK.’
“I told her early on my big advice to her: Be yourself and just make sure you don’t say things that are really going to offend people or hurt people. Don’t say the same exact thing. Don’t give the same response. know, everyone starts out with, ‘I want to thank God …’ then every reporter is like, ‘I’m gonna turn my tape recorder on as soon as that stops.’ That was early on. Now I just kind of sit back and watch it.”
Ortiz has seen a social media explosion in the UFC, led by White, who often tweets comments about judges decisions and fighter’s performances. White started an incentive program for his fighters based on followers, percentage of growth and most creative. The bonuses range from $5,000 to $10,000.
“A lot of sports organizations, they’re trying to curb that or kind of scale back – ‘be yourself on social media, as long as you don’t step on any toes’,” she said. “The UFC has really given their fighters the green light: Build your brand. And it’s really been a huge asset in that front. The Twitter bonuses and all these kind of things, it’s not just good for the fighters but good for the UFC.”
And really good for her little sister.