What a journey this has been.
If you don't know by now through my social media or recent podcast announcements, this is the end of my time as a member of the Bloody Elbow staff. Starting next week I will be taking on a new role at Field Gulls, which is the SB Nation team site for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. I have worked simultaneously at BE and Field Gulls for just under six years, but this new position makes me a Vox employee and not a contractor, so by default I've unfortunately had to depart my post at BE after just a shade over ten years with the world's premier online karate magazine. As much as I love MMA and combat sports in general, football is my number one sport and this was an opportunity that, while presented suddenly, was one I could not turn down.
It still feels surreal that this is happening. I've been a part of this staff since my late teens through the back-end of my 20s, and this little section of the world wide web has meant so much to me beyond just earning a living. I will greatly miss working with our awesome staff, especially our Editor group of Anton Tabuena, Zane Simon, Karim Zidan, Tim Bissell, Tim Burke, and of course our fearless leader Kid Nate (whom I must stress is not to be blamed on this occasion!). We've been a tight-knit bunch and every editor has concurrently been with BE in some capacity for going on seven years. That level of continuity isn't commonplace in this business and I believe it's been hugely beneficial to the community as a whole.
It's most appropriate that this is in the fanposts, because that's where myself and many others over the years have eventually made our way onto the Bloody Elbow staff. Ten years ago, the editors ran a fanpost contest and the best entrants were approached for a position on the writing team. My entry was what I thought was a news item about B.J. Penn vs. Rory MacDonald headlining UFC 152. It was a Rian Scalia tweet back when he wrote for Liver Kick, and I (and evidently other MMA sites) interpreted that tweet as confirmation it was a main event. Turns out I was wrong, but I guess the structure of my write-up was enough for Tim Burke to reach out to me, and eventually I (along with Chris Hall) got a spot on the team.
I've definitely taken the unconventional route to a career in sportswriting. I'm a high school graduate but I did not attend university, I've never taken a journalism class, I just had a defunct blog I started at 14 that was otherwise filled with ill-informed, immature takes. I was also active in the fanposts and comments, with a mixture of serious takes and a lot of satirical pieces. As I matured and I got to observe and learn not just from Burke, Anton, Nate, etc. but Brent Brookhouse, Dallas Winston, Fraser Coffeen, and many other great BE alums of yesteryear. They were instrumental in improving my writing and verbiage, understanding the ins and outs of our daily site operations, and generally improving my combat sports knowledge. That's the type of learning -- and I love to learn! -- that I find more valuable than what can be taught in a formal classroom setting.
Eventually I made my way up to Associate Editor, which has been my job description since 2015. That year -- never mind that's when the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl -- was a real turning point. Stephie Haynes brought me into podcasting, which I had no prior experience in, and it's through podcasting that I learned how to better verbalize my thoughts, as well as conduct interviews with fighters and other prominent figures. It took me a bit to grow comfortably into that role -- you wouldn't believe how many re-takes I needed -- but doing the podcasts opened the door for local, national, and even international radio appearances and guest spots on other shows. I doubt any of that would've happened without Stephie, and I'm so grateful. We forged a great partnership that's withstood the absolute worst and most appalling moment in the site's history, and continued on with the delightful Victor Rodriguez.
I've been blown away (in an appreciative manner!) by the general public's response to news of my departure. Even with my longevity in the combat sports industry I've always considered myself on the periphery of MMA media (and I personally prefer it that way). I don't and will never claim to have the superb investigative journalism abilities of Tim Bissell or Karim Zidan or Steven Marrocco, the business analysis and knowledge of John S. Nash, the captivating ability to tell a longform story like Shaheen Al-Shatti, the interviewing prowess of Nick Baldwin or Shakiel Mahjouri, or possess the technique breakdown expertise of Connor Ruebusch or Ed Gallo or T.P. Grant or Patrick Wyman or Coach Mike Riordan, or paint a perfect portrait of this crazy sport like a Phil Mackenzie editorial. What I hope is beyond questioning is my dedication, passion, loyalty, and versatility, which is good enough for me.
I'll still be lurking around in the comments, active on Twitter (and heckling Burke and Anton in particular), and I'll surely have the odd podcast cameo here and there -- I'm still the voiceover guy, after all -- but for the first time in over a decade I'll be consuming MMA and boxing shows strictly as a fan and not as a paid observer.
The door is not slammed shut on me returning to this industry, but one thing I know for sure: other sites may pay more, offer more perks, provide greater mainstream visibility, but there's no other combat sports site I would work for other than Bloody Elbow. This was a great place before I was hired, and will continue to be a great place without me. It has been an honor and privilege to work here, and an unforgettable experience that will have a lasting impact on my life.
Just remember that I'm still in the same virtual building, but in a different bureau.
Thank you, everyone.