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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General

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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Fitness

Belated Health Update!

I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile. I guess I’ve settled into a routine, and with routine comes overlooking things like updating my blog about my routine. But I need to make an effort to update this more often, or at least settle into the habit of writing once a week, because I have some very cool things coming up over the next few months and I’ll want to write about them. More about those when I can lift the veil of secrecy.

So, health. As you might remember, I started this fitness/nutrition odyssey at 216 pounds and 34% bodyfat. Today (I weigh in each and every Sunday, and only on Sundays), I am 178 pounds and 19.7% bodyfat. I used to wear size 38 jeans, and now my 34’s are so loose that I’ll probably need to buy 32’s soon. My bench press has gone from roughly 115 pounds to (an estimated) 190 for one max rep, though I am not entire sure that is accurate since I haven’t maxed out yet. But I did four sets of four reps yesterday with 165 pounds, any my trusty little iPhone app tells me that means I can probably do one rep of 185 without killing myself.

More importantly, I can see drastic changes in my body. Like, huge. My shoulders are developing. My back is gaining a nice v-shape. My pecs are, well, pecs, as opposed to the boobs they used to be. My legs are stronger from front to back and top to bottom.

And I’m not the only one who can see the changes. When people who haven’t seen me in awhile see me now, they usually react. Two days ago, a buddy of mine said “dude, where’s the rest of you?” And on the same day, another said “how much weight have you lost, about 60 pounds?” And while that is flattering, I’ve only actually lost 38 pounds. But I am also aware that 38 pounds is something special.

But my weight is no longer my driving goal. My ultimate goal now? Get my bodyfat under 10%. Once I get there, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it there. That takes a lot of work. It’ll take a lot of work to get there. But I want to get there at least once, just to be able to say I did it. I started at 34% and as of today I’m at 19.7%. Another 9.8% shouldn’t be too difficult. And my trusty app (BodySpace from Bodybuilding.com, and seriously, it is the best) says I should be able to get there by January at the pace I’m going. It would be nice to be under 10% for the summertime. That won’t happen this year. But I can tell you that, where I’m currently at, I won’t feel stupid taking my shirt off at a pool this summer. Correction: I won’t feel stupid taking my shirt off at a pool, so long as I’ve manicured my chest hair into something tolerable.¬†

Here’s what I’m currently doing to try and achieve those results.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that I wasn’t recovering from lifting the way I needed to. I was so sore, in fact, that it made me want to not work out. And that was not acceptable, so I started doing some research and talking to smart people, and that research and those smart people told me I probably needed to up my daily intake of carbs and protein. Before, I was really only getting my carbs from veggies, because I avoided grains like a good paleo boy should. But something wasn’t working, and so I took their advice. And my sister was doing the macro thing and experiencing good results, and the people at my old Crossfit gym in Katy are doing the macro thing and experiencing good results. So I figured, yeah, I’ll give this a shot.

So I measured my current bodyfat and weight lean muscle mass using the InBody machine at Lifetime Fitness (an awesome machine if there ever was one). I calculated my macros and figured out my daily targets for carbs, fats and protein. I started eating with the intention of coming as close to those numbers as I could, and I came close. Within two days, I noticed that my post-workout soreness was dramatically reduced. I could tell that I’d worked out, but I wasn’t confined to the couch in agony.

Changing up the diet meant adding grains back into my meal plans, which I did in the form of English muffins as an afternoon snack. Because, let’s face it, English muffins are delicious. I toast them and top them with 1 tbsp of fat free strawberry cream cheese.

I also wanted to start getting a majority of my targeted 2,034 calories in before dinner, to help with recovery and so that I’ve burned most of the carbs by the time I go to bed. For breakfast, I do a bowl of oat bran with 1 tbsp of Justin’s honey peanut butter, a small handful of blueberries and a few drops of liquid Stevia for sweetening. I also do one cup of green tea with no sweetener and 16oz of black coffee.

Lunch is where I get most of my calories, carbs, etc. I work out mid-morning nearly every day, and so I want lots of fuel for my body. I typically make something I’m calling my “power salad,” which consists of: 8oz chicken breast, kale, cucumber, avocado, quinoa and a touch of Trader Joe’s cilantro salad dressing. It has roughly 900 calories, lots of carbs, fat and protein.

For dinner, I go lighter: usually either a chicken breast or thigh and some veggies.

My snacks throughout the day are apples, string cheese, carrots and the aforementioned English muffin.

As far as supplements go, I take 5g of BCAA 45 minutes prior to my workout and then another 5g halfway through my workout. After the workout, I do a protein shake. That’s it. No more supplements.

The workout program I’m doing is Marc Megna’s AMP program, which is both awesome and the devil at the same time. It’s “aesthetics meets performance” and is an 8-week program designed to make you look good while also increasing functional strength. I am starting week 6 tomorrow. I love this program.

That’s about it, I think. That’s a full update on my quest, along with everything I’m doing to get there. I don’t know if it will help anyone else out there, but if it does, I will be glad. Because, look: if I can do this, anybody can. I have spent an entire lifetime not doing anything remotely physical or healthy. Over the course of six months, I have changed that quite drastically, and changed the rest of my life in the process. If you’re out there and thinking about starting something like this, or thinking about getting your health in order, I just have one thing to say: Just. Do. It. Go to the gym and do it. Right now. Don’t put it off. Because if you put it off for a day, you can easily put it off for over 20 years like I did.

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movies

My Top Ten Films of 2014

I do this at the beginning of every year: I post my list of my favorite films from the previous year here on the blog. And then, almost immediately, I change my list. I change it 50 times. And that’s what will happen here: I’ll post this list, and then I’ll change it 50 times between now and the Academy Awards. I know this because I’ve already changed this list twice in the last hour.

Some notes: I haven’t seen everything yet. Still have to see Foxcatcher, Unbroken, Cake, Under the Skin, Still Alice and a few more. Once I see them, I’ll update my list. But I’ve seen most of the best films from 2014, so it’s time to rank them.

Here we go.

1. The Theory of Everything
2. Birdman
3. Boyhood
4. The Imitation Game
5. American Sniper
6. Interstellar
7. Chef
8. Wild
9. Nightcrawler
10. Gone Girl

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