Mixed Martial Arts

My Favorite MMA Stories of 2015

I wrote a lot of stories in 2015. As of today, New Year’s Eve, I’ve published 153 stories for Bleacher Report this year.

It was a cool year for me, professionally speaking, because I was able to spread my wings a little more and delve into some long form stories. I went to Ireland in search of the real Conor McGregor. I spent five months reporting for a story on injuries and what the UFC is doing to prevent them in the future.

In short, I was able to do a lot of really cool things, and it was an encouraging year. I also wrote a few non-MMA things, but I’ll save those for another post.

Here is a collection of my favorite MMA stories from 2015.

Absolute Honesty Is Imperative from the UFC in Jon Jones Cocaine Fiasco (Jan. 7): The year started off with a bang after news broke that light heavyweight champion Jones tested positive for cocaine.

UFC and Reebok: A Detailed Look at the UFC’s New Athlete Outfitting Policy (Jan. 14): I obtained a copy of a document sent to fighters and managers that provided the first detailed information on the new Reebok clothing deal.

Conor McGregor, Next UFC 145lb Contender, Might Be UFC’s Biggest Star (Jan. 19): In hindsight, it feels easy to see McGregor’s rise to the top. But I had a hunch after the Dennis Siver fight in January that the UFC had something special on their hands. I was right.

UFC Must Take Drastic Stand on PEDs in Mixed Martial Arts (Feb. 5): After the test failures of Nick Diaz and Anderson Silva, I wrote that it was past time for the UFC to step up and take a leadership role in confronting PED’s in the sport. Thankfully, they did exactly that.

Josh Koscheck Earns Respect with Decade of UFC Competition (March 22): Koscheck, often a mercurial figure, deserves far more respect than he typically gets from MMA fans.

After Younger Brother’s Abduction and Murder, L.C. Davis Keeps Grinding (March 25): There are moments in this sport that aren’t always easy to write about. This was one of them.

UFC’s Decision to Strip Jones of Title Could Be the Biggest Moment of His Life (Apr. 29): I wrote that the UFC placing Jones on the sideline after his hit and run incident might be the best thing for his life and career. So far, it looks like I was right.

Even with Loss to Stipe Miocic, the Legendary Heart of Mark Hunt Grows (May 10): Hunt, a man who the UFC did not even want after the purchase of PRIDE, has repeatedly shown massive courage throughout his career. This was just another instance.

There Is Only One Ronda Rousey (May 12): Rousey, the biggest cultural star MMA has ever seen, is constantly compared to other athletes. I wrote that it’s time to measure her on her own merits.

Chris Weidman Won’t Back Down (May 22): He dethroned the greatest fighter of all time, but Weidman still has trouble earning respect from the fans. I spent nearly a week with him leading into his summer title defense against Vitor Belfort.

Outrageous Conor McGregor: His Irish Roots and an Improbable American Dream (July 8): I’m extremely proud of this one. I went to Ireland and spent time with McGregor’s family. I talked to dozens of Dubliners of all ages. And I shadowed McGregor as he prepared for UFC 189. I learned about McGregor’s devotion to The Secret and the Law of Attraction, and I discovered that he’s not exactly the national hero he’s made out to be. This was a fun one.

TJ Dillashaw, the Dominant UFC Bantamweight of the Future (July 25): I’ve been high on Dillashaw for years. This year saw him defend his championship and then leave his longtime home of Team Alpha Male. A fight with mentor Urijah Faber likely beckons in 2016.

The Trouble with Rousimar Palhares (Aug. 2): Palhares, the dirtiest fighter in the sport, was eventually banned for two years by Nevada. I wrote about it before that happened.

Justin Wren: The Big Pygmy Returns (Aug. 26): This one came out of nowhere, but it was such a pleasure to write. Wren is one of the best people in this sport. And the coolest part was getting feedback from former star of “The Office” Rainn Wilson.

Nick Newell – A Man in Full (Oct. 16): I was able to dig into the life of Newell, who was born with one arm. He retired shortly after this story was published.

The Cost: MMA’s Injury Epidemic and How the UFC Is Seeking to Fix It (Dec. 1): As mentioned earlier, I spent five months reporting on this story. It was a fascinating subject to dig into, and I did more interviews and research for this one than any story I’ve ever written.

The Legend of “Irish” Joe Duffy, the Last Man to Beat Conor McGregor (Dec. 31): I wrote this profile on Joe Duffy, who is about as different from McGregor as one can be.

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Mixed Martial Arts, Travel

Upcoming Travel Plans

Here’s what I’ve got coming up in the next month or so:

Nov. 18-22 — Las Vegas: I’m heading here for WEC 44, UFC 106 and all the festivities surrounding both cards. I’m very much looking forward to 106, even without Lesnar/Carwin on the card. I’ve also got a bunch of camp visits planned and will be doing video interviews with a bunch of fighters. Hopefully I’ll have the will power to stay away from the slot machines for most of this trip. I think I can. I think I can.

Dec. 4-6 — Las Vegas: Back to Las Vegas for the Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale, featuring Kimbo Slice vs. Houston Alexander. I normally wouldn’t cover smaller events like this one, but Kimbo fighting automatically makes it a big event for our readers and thus a big event for me.

Dec. 11-13 — Memphis: Heading here for UFC 107, with a main event of BJ Penn against Diego Sanchez. This card will be fun, despite the fact that the one fighter I really wanted to see (Todd Duffee) is off the card with an injury. Still, I’ve never been to Memphis, so this will be exciting.

Dec. 18-20 — San Jose: Going to northern California is always fun. This will be for the Strikeforce event featuring a Cung Le/Scott Smith main event. I covered my first Strikeforce show last weekend (Fedor/Rogers in Chicago) and had a good time. The Strikeforce folks are first-class people and they run a good operation.

Dec. 30-Jan 3 — Las Vegas: Yes, another Vegas trip. I’ll be attending the World MMA Awards and UFC 108. There may be a family vacation to Vegas mixed in here somewhere, which means I could ultimately end up being there for 10 days. Not really looking forward to that prospect, I must say.

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Mixed Martial Arts, Travel

Recently Traveled

Here’s where I’ve been recently:

Dallas: Made this road trip for UFC 103 in September. I was busy the entire weekend and wasn’t able to do or see much. Besides, what is there to do in Dallas? Dallas sucks.

San Antonio: Another road trip, this time for a WEC event. I ended up doing a “Man vs. Food” tour, where I tried a 4 pound cinnamon roll and the Four Horsemen burger. The burger is covered with Ghost Chile peppers, the hottest pepper in the world, and it was ridiculous. Just a bad decision all around and one that I immediately regretted. There was a silver lining, however. My dad loves hot sauces. LOVES hot sauce, the hotter the better. I got home from San Antonio and immediately ordered him a bottle of Dave’s Private Reserve 2009, a limited-edition hot sauce made with pure ghost chile pepper extract.

The girls and I gave him the hot sauce the day before his birthday. Knowing my Dad like we do, we just KNEW he would take the hot sauce and pour a few drops on a cracker or chip to test it out. Sure enough, he did just that, despite our warnings. Everything looked fine for about five seconds, and then the heat kicked in. He turned red, started sweating and immediately went to the fridge to pour himself a large glass of milk. We finally found something hot enough to bother my dad, which I consider mission accomplished.

Los Angeles: Went here for UFC 104 in September. I met up with Anthony and had a great weekend. I’m not really a big fan of Los Angeles, but it’s certainly an interesting place. I stayed at a small (but really nice) hotel in Beverly Hills. Also saw Johnny Depp walking around by the Staples Center. Oh, and I saw the world’s largest “Thriller” dance, with thousands of people all made up like characters from the Michael Jackson video. That was fun.

Chicago: Just got back from this trip for Strikeforce. I like Chicago. It’s a nice town. I ate some great pizza, but didn’t do much else as I was busy all weekend.

Upcoming trips: Las Vegas (four times between now and January), Memphis, Virginia and San Jose.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Petruzelli/Slice Under Investigation

Franklin McNeil, who is generally viewed as an idiot by other members of the mixed martial arts media, has the scoop.

I truly don’t think anything official is going to come of it. Florida has already stated that they believe no wrong-doing occurred (even though it did), and they’re simply opening this investigation to get fans to stop calling and sending in official complaints (good job in getting that .pdf out there, Jared!). They’re not going to put any effort into this whatsoever.

It doesn’t matter. The damage has been done. When folks like Jim Rome start talking about you fixing fights, you’re going to be viewed as guilty. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t guilty in the least; people are going to assume that you are. And while seeing EliteXC as a company fold was something that would have given me a perverse pleasure before Seth Petruzelli “shocked the world”, now it’s just something that needs to happen. Companies that give mixed martial arts a bad name shouldn’t be allowed to do business.

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Mixed Martial Arts, UFC

The Fight Was Fixed.

I couldn’t care less what Alexis Antonacci says: EliteXC paid Seth Petruzelli to keep his fight against Kimbo Slice standing, where Kimbo had a much greater chance of winning the fight. I know this to be true because I’ve been hearing it about Ken Shamrock for weeks now, that ProElite was basically paying Shamrock a large sum to keep the fight standing and box with Kimbo. Petruzelli confirmed in a Monday interview that ProElite told him they’d “make it worth his while” to keep the fight standing. ProElite likely put immediate pressure on Petruzelli and he retracted his statement, saying that his words were taken out of context.

These words were not taken out of context. I heard the interview myself, and there is no mistaking Petruzelli’s meaning. He was offered extra money to stand and box with Kimbo, which was perfectly fine with him. While forcing Ken Shamrock to stand and box would likely end up with Shamrock unconscious on the mat, Elite didn’t take into account that Petruzelli is a much better fighter than Slice.

So while this may not technically be “fixing a fight,” it most definitely is influencing a fight, and this kind of crap has to be dealt with. Mixed martial arts already has a tough time overcoming social obstacles, and a crooked company and a crooked commission will only serve to reverse the progress that Zuffa and the UFC have made over the years. This obviously needs to be looked into by an independent commission, because the idiots on the Florida boxing commission and CBS certainly won’t admit any fault.

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