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Women In Sports Interview Series: Marissa Rives, Program Director of SiriusXM’s Fight Nation

Marissa Rives has shattered the glass ceiling of sports radio to lead Fight Nation on SiriusXM.

The world of sports radio is an industry that is not an easy one to enter. Between long-tenured personalities, consistent format flips, and the dissolution of hometown sports talk, sports radio is a career that many are talked out of pursuing. Entering sports radio for women adds another layer of difficulties and roadblocks that continues today.

At SiriusXM, Marissa Rives has risen to new heights and broke through the glass ceiling of sports radio. Rives is the program director of the SiriusXM Fight Nation channel, overseeing the entire 24/7 combat sports channel, creating unique programming and managing talent and producers. She is also one of the first female program directors to lead a sports channel at SiriusXM. From its early beginnings as SiriusXM Rush, Rives has been the driving force in creating a go-to radio world for those who love MMA, boxing and professional wrestling.

Double G Sports was able to sit down with Rives at the SiriusXM offices in Midtown Manhattan to discuss her rise in the sports radio industry.

Marissa started at SiriusXM in 2010 as a part-time play-by-play board operator. This position consists of cutting highlights and putting live broadcasts on the SiriusXM airwaves. It’s a good start at the company for someone who wants to move up the ladder, which Marissa wanted to do.

“When I first started here, I was looking for any opportunity.

“The show that presented itself was a show called Fight Club. It was the only MMA show on SiriusXM. We did not have a channel dedicated to combat sports at the time, and they were just looking for some depth at the time. I was a wrestling fan as a kid. I grew up on the WWE, so I thought, ‘I love watching people fight, so I’m sure I can get into MMA.’ So I went in with no knowledge base at all about MMA. In time, I became the go-to person for producing boxing, MMA, and eventually overseeing professional wrestling as well once we launched this channel (SiriusXM Fight Nation) in 2015.”

The Birth Of SiriusXM Fight Nation

SiriusXM has the unique ability to create and deliver many different, uniquely-focus channels. While there are numerous sports channels on its airwaves, SiriusXM was missing out on a significant segment of the sports population in combat sports. While having shows about MMA or pro wrestling shoehorned on other channels was something, it was apparent that more was needed. Rives stepped in and took on the enormous task of starting an entire channel from scratch.

“At the time, there were three different shows in the realm of combat sports. Some would argue that professional wrestling is not a combat sport, but if you’re going to fit it in with something, I think it fits right there. We were all operating, but we were operating under a generic Sports Zone banner, so the first step was convincing the powers that be that we needed a combat sports channel. Luckily my boss Steve Cohen (Senior VP/Sports Programming) has always been very open-minded to the idea of launching a dedicated combat sports channel. It was just a matter of the right timing.

“At first, the channel was called SiriusXM Rush. When it first launched, we were bringing on writers that we knew to host shows. As time went on we dedicated more resources to the channel, expanded its programming and brought in higher-profile talent. The big change was when we rebranded the channel to Fight Nation. When we started, we were live six, maybe seven hours a day. Now we’re live 11 hours a day Monday-Friday, and we have weekend programming as well. I couldn’t be happier with the evolution of the channel.”

Women In Sports Radio

Women in sports radio is considered a rarity in today’s landscape. According to a study by Barrett Sports Media in 2016, out of 200 regular weekday shows in the Top 20 markets, only seven of the hosts of those shows were female. Rives not only hosted a show but leads an entire channel in a male-dominated sport like combat sports.

“I think it’s a mindset. Obviously, by the numbers there are less women in high ranking positions in radio, sports radio in particular than not and you can say the same thing about people of color. For me when I walked in the door, I said I’m in the door so no one could take that from me. I’ve always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I’ve always had something to prove. I’m in this building, and I believed in myself and said, ‘Ok, I’m just going to keep pushing, and I’m not going to let the fact that I am a woman be a reason that I don’t get an opportunity.’

You put a lot of pressure on yourself and a lot of women can agree that we have to hold ourselves to a certain standard and we have to almost outshine everybody to be in the conversation. I have always felt at SiriusXM that if I could do the work, I would get the opportunity. I never felt that being a female held me back. If anything, I felt that because I am a female when I performed at a high level, it made me stand out in the best way possible.”

Advice For Women Who Aspire To Get Into Sports Media

Marissa’s career at SiriusXM has been the quintessential story of someone determined to succeed and willing to work hard. She is the perfect role model for young women who are looking to get into radio as Rives is someone to look at as a success story in sports media.

“As difficult as I know it is out there for women in male-dominated industries, my biggest advice is always to go in like you’re supposed to be there, and like you’re meant to be there.

“I think the thing that has held women back is the way business is done as always been through a male scope. When women go into a male-dominated industry, they do business like a man because that is what is known. I am a very outspoken, aggressive, take-charge person. That’s just who I am, so I didn’t have to adjust much. But you shouldn’t have to be this type of personality to thrive in a male-dominated industry. Don’t feel like you have to be like them. Do the work, show the results and the other stuff will come. And always ask for what you deserve.”

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Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for DoubleGSports.com as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow DoubleGSports.com writer Jason Cordner.
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