By In Social Media

Colby Covington Knows What He’s Doing

Colby Covington is perhaps the greatest Rorschach test in the Ultimate Fighting Championship today. Fans of his see him as a Making America Great Again patriot dunking on the nerds and virgins of the world; detractors see him as a corny caricature who thinks being annoying is the same as being alpha. Some love him for his toughness and tenacity in the cage, while others loathe him for his inability to finish fights. Regardless, people seem to love and hate him for the same reasons, and whatever you think of him probably says a lot more about you than it does about him.

This gives Covington a veneer of complexity, but in reality, he’s one of the most straightforward and simple fighters to understand. He’s an astute observer of what makes fighters successful, both in and out of the cage, and he has dedicated himself to realizing those traits to the fullness of his potential…

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By In Social Media

Ingredients of a Rebound

Ideas become cliché for the simple reason that they are, in essence, obvious, so while phrases like “you either win or you learn” or “it’s only a loss if you don’t learn anything” are rightfully met with yawning indifference, they are still basically true. Mistakes and failures are inevitable, whether in the cage or the cubicle. What matters is not avoiding those failures but squeezing them for whatever nuggets of wisdom we can get out of them.

At UFC 240 in Edmonton, Alberta, on Saturday, Cris Cyborg and Max Holloway demonstrated what they learned from their previous fights: A little bit of patience can go a long way…

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By In basketball, essay

Basketball Taught Me How To Live

It happened again one night when my fiancée and I were walking home from work. One second we were side by side, mid-conversation about our days, and suddenly she was alone in the darkness. I dropped abruptly, as though I’d been hit by a sniper. Andrea took a few steps before noticing I was on the ground behind her. I was holding my right ankle and biting back curses into muffled groans.

It wasn’t my first sprained ankle. The pain was familiar, the procedure instinctive. I untied my shoelaces, then retied them extra tightly to put pressure on the impending swelling. I pushed myself upright and took a few cautious steps, finding the pavement with my heel before rolling the rest of my foot flat to the ground. I limped and hobbled the rest of the walk home. We looked like an elderly couple whose wish to return to their youth had been granted, but were still stuck in the fragile habits of old age.

There was no reason for the accident, and there were no mitigating circumstances. The pavement was smooth—no cracks or uneven surfaces, no loose rocks or tree roots breaking up the concrete. Nor was darkness an issue. Between streetlights, headlights from passing cars, and the insomniac fluorescence beaming out of storefronts, I could see just fine. I have only the boring excuse of physical frailty. I’m 30 years old…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Two Ways To Be Number Two

Memory is seldom kind to second place. Google “second place sayings” and a litany of familiar sentiments emerge. Second is the first loser; no one remembers who came in second; either you’re first or you’re nothing. These are harsh ways to think of those who are better than every single person except for a single person.

The way we think about individual competitions is binary — there is a winner and at least one loser — so we tend to scale up that Boolean framework to encompass an entire field of competitors. It doesn’t matter if winning a silver medal means you beat 100 people. Silver is only as significant as the loss it necessitates. This is compounded in MMA, where number twos abound. Sometimes the number two fighter in the division is actually the number one fighter, but he or she simply hasn’t had the opportunity to prove it yet. Assuming the champion is in fact the ichiban, it’s still not entirely clear how to determine the second best. Is it the loser of the most recent title fight? Depends on who lost and how. While only one person can claim the number one spot in a division — or two if the Ultimate Fighting Championship thinks slapping an event with some interim gold will yield some increased green — any number of fighters, from proven veterans to untested prospects, could make the claim that they are the second best. You’ll be hard-pressed to hear anyone vocalize that, as second is the first loser, after all…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

A Zombie Realized

Losses are typically more educational experiences than wins. If you win a fight, it may be because you fought well or because your opponent didn’t, though usually it’s some combination of the two. If you win because you fought well, there isn’t a whole lot to learn from that; it’s just a single display of skills and strategy against a single opponent on a single night. With some obvious exceptions, it’s hard to extrapolate much from that other than “keep doing what you’re doing.” Yet if you lose, even if your opponent excelled, there’s always something to learn, some nugget of insight to apply and improve upon for the next time.

Chan Sung Jung’s win against Renato Carneiro at UFC Fight Night 154 on Saturday in South Carolina was especially unenlightening. He didn’t just win; he won in under a minute, absorbing exactly zero strikes in the process. On top of that, it was only his third fight in the last six years, as he was sidelined with injuries and compulsory military service. In an increasingly competitive 145-pound division, it’s hard to figure out where “The Korean Zombie” fits. Blitzing “Moicano” in 58 seconds, impressive as it was, doesn’t make it any easier to know where he stacks up in the Jenga tower of the featherweight hierarchy. Losses, however, hold more secrets, and Jung’s four big-league Ls say a lot…

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