UFC

A Whirlwind 24 Hours

Last night, I was fortunate enough to be able to break the news that Conor McGregor will move up to lightweight to challenge Rafael dos Anjos for the title at UFC 197. Also on the card is Holly Holm defending her belt against Miesha Tate.

The process of news gathering is an interesting one, and it has always fascinated me. I first heard about the UFC 197 plans on Sunday. I knew it would be difficult to get enough confirmation to run the story, or at least enough confirmation where I would be comfortable doing so. Usually I rely on the standard double confirmation process, but for such a major story, I wanted to make sure I had more than enough confirmation. In the end, I waited until I had five sources confirming the story, and the fifth one was the one that cemented it.

The story, as expected, went crazy on social media. It is always fun putting something out in the world and then watching fans of the sport lose their minds on Twitter and Facebook. But this one reached far beyond the MMA bubble. It was referenced by SportsCenter. It was trending worldwide on Twitter. As of right now, my initial breaking news tweet has nearly 1,300 retweets, which is obviously far more engagement than I’ve ever experienced on Twitter. And I have been on Twitter since nearly the birth of the site; in my former job, I was a tech writer covering startups, and Twitter was one of the companies I covered.

SportsCenter referenced it, for goodness sake. That will likely never happen again.

Tonight, I am tired. I’ve done almost two dozen radio shows today to discuss the story. It was tough to sleep last night with all of the excitement. But these are the moments we live for, the moments where the work we do actually goes out and has an effect on the world, even if it’s relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. I have never been more grateful to be able to do the job I do, to be paid well for it, and to live my dream of being a writer each and every day. I am beyond privileged and thankful.

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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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Travel

Off to Montreal

Out of all the cities I’ve visited in my years covering MMA, I’d have to say that Montreal is my favorite. And it’s not even close, really.

The “old” part of Montreal is incredible, with businesses and entertainment spots dug out of the ground underneath very old cobblestone streets. It feels like what I imagine an old European town feels like.

I also love the food. Schwartz’s is this tiny hole in the wall place, but they’re world famous for their smoked meat (brisket) sandwiches. I’ve been to Montreal a handful of times, but it wasn’t until my last trip in November that I actually went to Schwartz’s. It was life-changing. Not really, but you get the point. It’s an incredible sandwich, and I’m pretty sure I’ll hit it up at least twice this week.

I’m headed back to Montreal today, and I’ll be there through Sunday. I’ll post blog entries and photos on here, for the 2-3 of you who are still reading this on a regular basis.

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UFC

Dedication

I love my job.

I want to get more immersed in what I do, and there’s no reason I can’t. I have nothing but time, nothing but space and freedom to get better at what I do.

It’s time to stop being lazy. Not that I’m lazy in a general sense, but in a specific, mixed martial arts-related sense.

I’m not waiting for 2012 to start, because New Year’s resolutions are ripe for the breaking. I don’t think I’ve ever made a promise to myself on January 1st that I didn’t break by January 5th.

I’m telling you right now that 2012 is going to be a banner year for me personally, and a gigantic year for HeavyMMA. We’re going to continue doing things that nobody else can do, but I’m personally going to step my own game up and start producing the kind of stuff I wanted to produce back when I spent time poring over a Notepad file on my laptop instead of going to class like I was supposed to.

It’s time to change the game. Or, to keep changing the game.

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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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