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A New Chapter

I have been covering mixed martial arts since 2005 or so, to the best of my recollection.

At first, it was just something I did in my spare time to whittle away the hours while stationed at Fort Hood in the Army. Along the way, it somehow turned into my career, and I have been fortunate enough to do it full time since 2007.

I have attended the biggest and best events. I have interviewed the sport’s brightest stars. I’ve written a lot of things that I’m proud of, and I have written things I am not so proud of. I have made many friends along the way that I hope will stick with me.

Today, I’m announcing a new chapter in my life.

I have accepted a position as the Managing Editor of FloSports, a growing and exciting company in Austin. If you’re an MMA fan reading this, you’ve likely heard of FloWrestling or FloGrappling, but we also have track & field, softball, Crossfit and others. I will be overseeing all editorial operations for all FloSports properties.

Unfortunately, this change brings about another one.

I am leaving Bleacher Report at the end of March, and my mixed martial arts writing will be greatly reduced in the near future. You can expect me to contribute the occasional feature stories for Flo, but my day to day visibility in the MMA world will be far more limited.

I won’t be chasing news stories any more, which is something of a relief. But it also makes me just a little sad, because there’s nothing like getting a tip about something the world doesn’t know about, and then trying to chase confirmation in order to be the first to report it. It is a thrill, and I will miss it. But I won’t miss cold calling managers, fighters and other sources. Not even a little bit. Not even at all.

In short, I am stepping back from one world so that I can step forward in another. I will miss the day to day electricity and craziness that mixed martial arts provides. I have woken up each morning for the past decade and never really known what the day ahead would bring. It has kept me on my toes, and it has taught me so very much. I will miss it.

I must offer thanks, first and foremost, to Bleacher Report and my editor and friend, Brian Oswald.They gave me an opportunity at a low moment in my life a few years ago, and they have been a wonderful company to work for. The turnaround they have completed since the “dark days” of BR has been incredible to watch, and it has been an honor for me to participate in it.

They allowed me to write what I wanted, when I wanted, and people who work in this industry will tell you how rare a thing that is. They allowed me to explore the stories that interested me. And just last week, they promoted me to Senior Writer, which meant more to me than they will ever know. If this opportunity with FloSports hadn’t come along, I’d probably work for Bleacher Report until they wheel me out of the building.

I will be forever grateful for them, and especially for Brian, who was easier to work with than any other editor I’ve had. I have known Brian for almost a decade now. I hope to use some of the things I have learned from him as I move into my new role, and I am glad Brian will be a friend for the rest of my life.

To Jonathan Snowden: You gave me my first real opportunity in this sport, and then you helped secure a place for me at Bleacher Report. I am grateful for the historical knowledge you have provided for me over the years. You helped shape me and make me a better writer just by virtue of working alongside me.

To Matt Brown, my former editor at Heavy and another friend who will stick with me forever. Matt gave me my first full-time, salaried job in this sport, and he taught me so much about editorial processes and other things over the years. There is nobody better at creating and developing new businesses out of thin air.

To Megan Olivi, my longtime friend. It has been an honor to get to know you since the good old days, and to watch you grow and become the outstanding television personality that you are. I have been so grateful that you and Joseph allowed me to be a part of your lives.

I have to thank Dave Sholler and his team at the UFC as well. I have been a pain in the ass for them over the years, but they still treat me with courtesy and respect.

Maura Welp, who is no longer with the UFC, and Christian Hauser have been great points of contact for me. Chris Costello, Paige Berger, Ryan Grab, Chelsea Sullivan, Lenee Breckenridge, Matt Radmanovich, Prescott Miller and other team members have been valuable resources. Ant Evans and others have also been incredible.

To former UFC public relations employees Jen Wenk, Caren Bell, Rachel Trontel, Diann Brizzolara, a hearty thank you for everything you did to help me in the past.

Thank you to Dana White. Our relationship has taken a rocky and interesting turn over the past few years, but there was a time when Dana helped me greatly on a regular basis, and I appreciate everything he did. I hope he can understand that I’m just doing my job to the best of my ability as a journalist, just as I understand he is doing his as a promoter and protector of his company.

To the fighters who have allowed me to tell their stories. Joseph Benavidez, Miguel Torres, Daniel Cormier, Jon Jones, Conor McGregor, Tim Kennedy, Chael Sonnen, Miesha Tate and so many more: thank you for opening up to me, for answering questions that are often tough but occasionally dumb, and for allowing me to share a little bit of you with the world.

To my colleagues who have been friends and sounding boards over the years:

Ariel Helwani, a man who puts in countless hours of work behind the scenes in order to make it look effortless on screen: I count you as a true friend. I love your passion for your work and your love for your family. You deserve every bit of success you’ve had over the years.

To Ben Fowlkes and Chuck Mindenhall, two men who have set the bar for quality writing so high that the rest of us will spend years trying to reach it. And to Chad Dundas, who wrote the best novel I’ve read in years while also being one hell of a colleague.

To Duane Finley, a dedicated storyteller who I’ve had the pleasure to work with at multiple outlets over the years. I am so thankful that I met Duane, because he went from a colleague to one of my closest friends. He is likely the nicest person I’ve met in my life; every human on this planet should have a Duane Finley in their life. The world would be a better place.

To Matt Erickson, Damon Martin, Kevin Iole,Marc Raimondi, Shaun Al-Shatti, Steven Marrocco, Dave DoyleDann Stupp, and so many others who work their asses off and continually push the rest of us to do and be better.

And finally, I have to thank you, the readers. There are so many of you. You have read my stuff over the  years. You have offered support and criticism, often in equal measure. You have helped me refine my craft and become a better storyteller, and I would not be where I am today without you. I apologize if I ever got a little snippy with you on Twitter or elsewhere; I am far too sensitive sometimes. It is something I will continue to work on.

I’ll continue writing for Bleacher Report through the end of March. After that, you’ll find my occasional story on FloSports.

Onward.

 

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Ireland and Everton, Finally

Next month I’ll be traveling to Ireland for a story.

I’ll keep the details of the story under my hat for now. But needless to say, I’m thrilled to finally get the chance to visit Ireland. It is a place I’ve wanted to visit my entire life, and I’m very happy that I get to do so (and that the company is paying for it, to boot).

But here’s the best part: I’ll wrap up my reporting for that story on April 24th. Early April 25th, I’ll be taking a short (hopefully non-crappy RyanAir) flight to Liverpool. I’ll spend the day doing the Beatles tour and other things around the city. That night, I plan on meeting up with some of my Twitter followers for a few pints, as they say.

On Sunday morning, I’ll get up early. I’ll go to Goodison Park, home of my beloved Everton squad since the 1800’s. I’ll visit the official Everton store and buy some stuff. I’ll walk across the street to the iconic Everton pub The Winslow Hotel and have far too many pints. And then I’ll walk over to Goodison Park, hand them my ticket and walk inside to see Everton play Manchester United!

!!!!!

Needless to say, I’m thrilled about this trip. I didn’t know if I’d ever get to see Everton play at home, and now I do, and it’s happening in a month. I could not be more excited.

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What Am I Up To?

I haven’t written anything on here in awhile. That’s my bad. I could tell you that I’ve been busy, that I haven’t had time. But the truth is that I have had time. I just haven’t written.

When the breakup happened in August, I went through a phase where I wrote down my feelings. All of them. And at first, I published them here for the world to read. But then I realized that was probably a bad idea, so I put them behind password protection. I wrote for therapy and to make myself feel better. It was a suggestion from my therapist, and it worked to an extent. I did feel better after venting my feelings.

But then I realized I was probably oversharing. I also realized that my intentions behind the writing I did were something like: my ex will read these posts, and then she will get back together with me. It seemed so simple at the time.

Life is not so simple.

So I decided to stop letting everyone in the world read about my heartache. I kept talking to those close to me. I kept a handwritten journal. I kept seeing my therapist. And, wonder of wonders, I got better. I started focusing on my health and the food I take in. I turned daily visits to the gym into a habit. In doing so, I dropped all the way to 184 pounds. I started at 216 pounds in August. I’ve lost 10% body fat.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come. My body looks drastically different than it did three months ago. I have visible muscles, and I can feel strength I’ve never had.

I feel like the changes in my body are a visible reminder of the changes that occurred inside of me, too. I have gone through a lot over the past three months, but I came out the other side stronger than ever. I am happy and I smile and I laugh a lot. My friends have noticed the change in me, and that makes me happy. And I have made one new close friend, and I value her greatly.

I finished the Whole Life Challenge. That’s where the majority of my weight loss happened. Brandy and I tied for first place, and our team finished in the top 80 in the entire world. I enjoyed it so much that I’ll be doing it again in January.

Yesterday, I started a three week weight cut. It’s the same cut used by Mike Dolce when he’s helping fighters cut. My goal is to get down to 170 pounds by December 16. I’m going home for Christmas on December 17, and I’d like to be as small as I can possibly be. I also want to see what fighters experience when they’re going through weight cuts, because I feel like it will give me some perspective. And thus far, I feel great; I’m eating 100% clean foods, and I have tons of energy throughout the day. We’ll see how I feel on December 16 when I get ready to weigh in; for now, I am happy.

And that’s the thing. I’m happy. I have come a long, long way. There have been painful moments over the past three months. I am sure there will be painful moments in the future. But I know I’m equipped to handle them now.

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Heart Rate Variability Training

Today, I began taking my baseline scores for heart rate variability training. I don’t science or math very well, but at its core, HRV is a tool that gives you a good picture of your body’s readiness for difficult and intense training sessions on any given day.

The theory is that, once you have established your baseline HRV scores, you are able to wake up each morning and, using a chest-strapped heart rate monitor (I have a Lifetime Training bluetooth chest strap monitor), get a clear picture of how ready you are for training hard that day.

Green means you’re good to go and you can train as intensely as humanly (or Botterly) possible. Yellow means you should probably stick to medium-intensity training and stretching, while Red means your body is suffering a bit and could use a rest day.

The idea behind HRV is that you are maximizing your training time by training as effectively as possible. I’ve heard about HRV from various fighters over the years, but never thought to try it myself. That is, until a few days ago when I did deadlifts for the first time in four months. The following two days? They’ve been hell. I spent a lot of time in the sauna and spa, but only today am I truly feeling 100%. And that’s probably because I tried to keep on working on (after deadlift day) when my body needed a rest.

I’ve already been cautioned that I’m probably overtraining by the doctor, so this is a tool that will help me see how my body is functioning. Being able to use data and numbers (even though I don’t math) to see how my body is functioning has been a revelation for me, and HRV is going to be a big help.

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If you are happy, if you feel good about yourself, that means you have improved a lot. You can see progress when you are no longer afraid to say the truth, when you can say “I want this instead of that.”

Don Miguel Ruiz

Progress.

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