Happy New Year! Now that the pleasantries are officially out of the way, it's time to get down to brass tacks, and by brass tacks I mean Part 2 of my Journo To Journo feature with Jonathan Snowden. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.
*A big thanks to my partner in crime/co-host, Iain Kidd for the transcript help.*
Iain Kidd: Give me your thoughts on the mainstream media coverage of UFC 168, especially Anderson Silva's leg breaking.
Snowden: You know, I haven't really seen all that much. I know there was a time.com article that was pretty critical of MMA, but I think a lot of times we kind of live in our own bubble here. We just take for granted that this is acceptable, but there are probably huge swathes of the population for which this sport is just never going to work. They don't like it, they don't like the idea of it and they certainly don't like the idea of someone's leg snapping. It kind of feeds into the idea they have in their mind about what MMA is.
I think that in some ways, there's a lot of truth in these articles that everyone hates so much, like the one that came out of Australia and some of the stuff out of UFC 168. There's a lot of truth buried in the criticism. Everyone's like, ‘Oh, that person's just ignorant!' That's not always true; people can know a little bit about the sport and still kind of find it disgusting and inappropriate, or feel like it's diminishing the culture. Those are legitimate viewpoints. I would never want to silence those viewpoints, because I understand them and I think they're appropriate. People are entitled to that reaction, because it really is people fighting in a cage, and you have to expect that it's not going to work for everybody.
Iain Kidd: What do you think the chances are that a UFC champion fails a drug test in 2014?
Snowden: Well, I think Vitor Belfort will beat Weidman, so I'd say the chances are pretty good that there will be some drug related shenanigans with a UFC champion in 2014.
Iain Kidd: What was your favorite piece of writing in the MMA media in the past year?
Snowden: Probably the couple of hundred things I wrote, and then... stuff by other people. I don't know. It's kind of strange, because people ask me that a lot, ‘Who are you favorite writers? What do you like to listen to?' The truth is that I don't have as much time as I would like to read other people. There are some things I do read; I still find myself going to BloodyElbow.com a lot, that's one of the few sites I venture to.
Iain Kidd: We interviewed Kid Nate recently, and he was talking about you. To my ears, he was very complimentary, but some people on twitter saw it a different way. Did you read or hear the interview? What was your thoughts on it?
Snowden: Of course when someone mentions me, you know how it is, you get a bunch of emails and texts, ‘Hey, did you see what so and so said about you?' So it came to my attention. I didn't get a chance to listen to it, though.
He and I are in communication fairly regularly, so it's not like we're bitter enemies or anything. We definitely had our ups and downs, that's for sure. At its best, I don't think I ever had more fun than when I was writing for Bloody Elbow, so it's definitely a time I recall fondly. There was also times where we struggled a lot, so I can see why he would have the feelings of, ‘I miss that guy, but I don't'
Steph Daniels: That's not really what he said, we just got the, ‘I miss the fun I had with that guy,' not the, ‘but I don't' part.
Snowden: I thought I remembered reading in the transcript, ‘I don't know if I would hire him back.'
Iain Kidd: He said something more along the lines of ‘Snowden was very controversial, and I'm not sure that's a position we'd want to replace,' but about you personally, he was complimentary.
Steph Daniels: Yeah, he never said anything about not hiring you back, it was that he would never want to replace what you brought to the table.
Snowden: [Laughs] That's probably a good thing in some ways. We definitely spent a lot of time talking about how to offer something different from what other people did. Everyone has their certain area they specialize in, and there was a huge opening in the MMA space for opinion work, and we delivered that. I'm pretty proud of how we did that. A lot of people think it was really calculated in a way that it never was. It wasn't that we were trying to manipulate the audience, it was more that we would push each other to write about our most absurd opinions, and everyone has absurd opinions, but most people are smart enough not to put them out in public all the time; we never necessarily had that filter, so sometimes things did get interesting.
Iain Kidd: What's your one favorite memory from Bloody Elbow? What was the one thing you got away with there that you enjoyed doing that you couldn't get away with in todays landscape?
Snowden: Oh boy... There's a lot of things that I probably couldn't get away with now. In the kind of work that I do, I think I still sometimes either benefit or suffer from the reputation I built years ago from the kind of really opinionated stuff that I used to do. People still think that's what I'm doing, for better or worse.
Obviously the article that I think I'll always remember is the Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin article I put out immediately following that fight. I still find people bringing that up now, years later. I work for an entirely different site and it'll still come up in the comment section of random articles, ‘This is that idiot who didn't like Lesnar vs Carwin!' That was by far the biggest response to anything I ever wrote on Bloody Elbow.
That was fun especially because, of course, I ended up being so right. It was pretty sweet vindication. Not that I was wishing for those guys to fail, but the fact that they both did in just the way I described was pretty fun. I enjoyed that article for years afterwards.
I think that people maybe intentionally, or unintentionally, misread a lot of what I wrote. I never said that I didn't enjoy that fight, or that it wasn't a fun thing to watch. Those are two distinct things; whether something is technically proficient and whether I enjoy watching it are two different things.
I was often asked, ‘How could you not like that fight? It was so amazing,' and yeah, it was. I loved it. It was fun to watch at the time, and I never said it wasn't. What I said was, ‘Wow, one guy is scared to get hit and the other guy has no gas tank,' and that was true. People have such a myopic viewpoint so often; they can only see one thing, when there's multiple things happening. All of that stuff was true.
Steph Daniels: Before you kind of had this reputation as an MMA troll, but you're generally seen as one of the top journalists in MMA now, alongside names like Ben Fowlkes. What has that transition been like?
Snowden: That's very kind of you. I think that not everyone has embraced that idea yet, based on some of the comments I see. I definitely still pay a price in some ways for things I wrote as far back as 2009 and 2010. My path was so unique. The very first thing I wrote besides message board posts and real straight up troll stuff - I was an internet commenter and message board guy, that's how I started - was a book about MMA. I kind of took this weird path, where I wrote this history of MMA and then I somehow got hired to write controversial blog posts. Normally that's not the path you go.
I've been left and right and all over the place; I've done a little bit of everything, and I'm not even sure I'd say that one thing was better than the others; it's all fun. That's ultimately why I do it; because I enjoy it and I like to give people something to think about, whether it's a bold opinion for people to agree with or disagree with, or providing information the way you guys do when you talk to an orthopedic surgeon, or Iain delves into the numbers and business side; I like to give people that brand of information as well.
It's all about kind of creating a smarter base of MMA fans, and part of that is me learning stuff along the way. I really relate to the people who read these articles and the people who love this sport as fans, because I wasn't a professional journalist who decided to become an MMA writer because boxing was failing or something like that. I was an MMA fan who got into this because I love this sport, so I feel like I'm coming from a very similar place as most of the readers, so I try to give people the kind of stuff that I would want to read. That's what it comes down to.
Iain Kidd: Here's a big one, do you think Anderson goes down as the greatest of all time, or does Fedor go down as the greatest of all time?
Steph Daniels: Fedor!
Snowden: [Laughs] I think in every article at Bleacher Report has ended up devolving into that conversation, and the truth is that some guy who is two or three years old right now is going to go down as the greatest of all time. Everyone that's competing right now is in the pioneer stage, we're still developing the sport. These guys are going to be heroes and legends for a long time, but I don't think that there's anybody that thinks the best baseball player is some guy from the 1880's; that's just now how it works.
In the long picture, a hundred years from now, neither Anderson nor Fedor will be considered the greatest of all time. For me, I'll always have a fond spot for Fedor, and the reason is he had more ways to win than Anderson Silva, who was always going to be reliant on his stand-up game. He had some success from the bottom on occasion, but Emelianenko could do everything; he had fast hands, the punching power, the judo throws, he wrecked people from the top with probably the best ground and pound we've seen in MMA, and if you happened to take him down he could submit you from the bottom. Overall he was just such a complete fighter. To me he's always going to be the greatest.
Steph Daniels: He had that mystique, that Russian killing machine mystique.
Snowden: Yeah, and that's kind of like the bonus, right? Not only did he have all these skills, but he did it with this stoic expression on his face. You had all of these times where it looked like things were going so horribly for him, like the Kevin Randleman fight where he got dropped on his head; everyone in the crowd reacted the way Ronda Rousey and her camp reacted to Anderson's leg breaking, it was like, ‘Oh my God! Fedor just got dropped on his head!' He didn't even seem to notice. That's the kind of thing that makes him a legend. Then you add in stuff like he wears funny sweaters and he eats ice-cream cones and stuff like that; just the little things that made him so special to follow. It was just fun to watch.
Iain Kidd: Ah, you're both wrong. It's Anderson! That Forrest Griffin fight, to me, is just the defining moment of any fighter, ever. Anderson Silva goes up a weight class to fight the guy who was just the champion, and not only beats him, but embarrasses him worse than anyone's ever been embarrassed in a ring or a cage before. It was art. It was beautiful.
Snowden: Don't forget the real correct answer is, of course, BJ Penn. We're all a product of our times. Some people are coming onto the scene now who became a fan in 2007, and they're never going to have the same emotional attachment to Fedor that we do. It's different when you watch it on tape; you already know what's going to happen and there's not the excitement of the moment. You know he's going to beat Kevin Randleman. You know that's going to happen, but when you're watching it in real time, you're hit with a whole different level of emotion and it's just a different experience. There's something to the idea of us all being products of the time we were the biggest fans, and those are the ighters we're going to latch onto whether it makes intellectual sense or not. We're going to have emotional ties to those guys and those moments.
Steph Daniels: Pride's 2006 NYE show when Fedor fought Mark Hunt, and Mark Hunt had him down on the ground for eight solid minutes, and for like six of them he had that arm in serious trouble, then Fedor submitted him off his back. That was amazing.
Snowden: Yeah, and he submitted Mark Coleman off of his back to; the guy could just do everything. He got old, as fighters do. He had those brittle hands that kind of limited him both psychologically nad physically in his later years. I hate the idea of judging a fighter based on their last fights; I think that's stupid, and it's unfortunate that people fall into that trap. You know someones going to judge Anderson Silva based on these last two fights when he was 38 years old. There was probably some idiot out there judging Muhammed Ali based on how he looked against Larry Holmes when he already had Parkinson's disease. You can't do it that way. You have to take in the whole picture, and I think what someone did in their prime years counts for more than what they did when the gas tank was mostly empty and they were chugging on fumes in their final fights. Those just don't matter as much.
Steph Daniels: Were you a little excited there for a moment when the rumor that Brock was coming back to fight Fedor was around? I knew deep down it wasn't going to happen, but it didn't stop me from hoping. Were you also hoping against hope?
Snowden: Of course I was hoping. If you asked me if I wanted to see Fedor fight again, or if I wanted to see Brock fight again, I would say no. They're retired, they're done. If you bring those guys together though? All of a sudden I'm like, ‘Where's that going to be? How do I book my flight? When is this?' There's something about those two names, and if you put Randy Couture in there it would be the same situation.
That was the fight we all wanted to see, and even though those days are long gone, there's a small piece of me that will always want to see that fight. They could be 70 years old, with Fedor in Siberia somewhere and Brock Lesnar having never left Minnesota in several decades, and if someone started a rumor about that fight I would still be intrigued. They could do it like Scott Ferrozzo vs. Tank Abbot 2 in someone's back yard and I'd still be interested.
Steph Daniels: Just do it in a Stary Oskol playground.
Snowden: I would fly them into my back yard. We could make this happen, just let those guys know I'm open to the idea.
Iain Kidd: Let's get a drunk Mirko Cro Cop refereeing, like he did during those fights in his yard in Croatia.
Snowden: If I'm hiring a special referee, it will always be Shonie Carter, just in case there's a double knockout; you just have to have that covered.
Steph Daniels: If you were to make one bold prediction for the year of 2014, what would it be?
Snowden: I think that when 2015 starts, we will have a whole new set of champions. No one who is a champion at this moment will still be the champion at this moment in 2014. Every belt will turn over at some point during the year, that's my bold prediction. I'm not saying they'll necessarily lose, but something will happen, like Ronda Rousey will quit and make movies, or Jon Jones will move to heavyweight. Something will happen and we will have all new champions.
Steph Daniels: That was very futuristic. You're already projecting to 2015, I want something for 2014, buddy! [Laughs]
Snowden: I'm encompassing the whole year!
Steph Daniels: I'm looking for something like Dana White won't be president anymore, he'll be booted in 2014.
Snowden: Well if that's what you think, then my bold prediction is that Dana White will be president! [Laughs] Ok, my bold prediction then, is this. In 2014, the UFC will announce a comeback fight between GSP and Anderson Silva. They will announce that before the end of the year. That will be the return fight for both men.
You can follow Jonathan via his Twitter account, @MMAEncyclopedia