By In Mixed Martial Arts

An Ode to the Undercard

Ever since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship event in 1993, part of the inherent allure of mixed martial arts has been rooting for the underdog. This is not endemic to MMA—it goes back at least a few thousand years to David flinging pebbles at Goliath—but it is built into it in ways that are prevalent. Thanks to Royce Gracie’s scrawny feats of badassery, no other sport is as organically defined by smaller competitors defeating bigger ones.

However, cheering for the underdog is not solely a matter of betting odds, though that is its most obvious manifestation. To my mind, cheering for the underdog means cheering for the fighters of whom less is expected, the fighters who elicit less fanfare and attention in the run-up to the fight. The underdog-house, so to speak, is more commonly known as the undercard. The further down on the card you go, the bigger the underdog.

This expanded definition is not just a result of my affinity for the term “underdog-house,” fun as it is. There is also a demonstrable justification for it. Not only do the low-rung fighters typically make a literal fraction of what the headliners make, but they also get a lot less performance bonus love. For the Average Joes on the rise, that extra $50,000 is both a substantial multiplication of their fight purse and a perpetually unreachable achievement…

Read more at Sherdog

Read more

By In Mixed Martial Arts

Low Hopes for McGregor’s Redemption

It wasn’t long ago when the MMA world seemingly hung onto every word flung out of Conor McGregor’s mouth. Witty retorts at press conferences became viral memes, Twitter jabs became top news stories and his wildest ambitions were trash-talked into reality. No one fought like him, no one was paid like him and he made sure everyone knew both of those facts every time he had a mic in his face. The only thing more insatiable than his propensity to talk about himself was the general public’s desire to hear him talk about himself.

McGregor was not the first to drop good one-liners—at pressers or online—and he certainly wasn’t the first to pursue a cross-combat superfight, though admittedly the Randy Couture-James Toney fight is about as comparable as Proper Twelve is to Yamazaki. What made McGregor different, however, was how he transcended the sport. His rise to stardom was a perfect storm of merit and fortune. His run from 2013-16 was sensational, no doubt, but it also occurred while the rest of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s biggest stars faded rapidly from sight. Ronda Rousey retired ignominiously; Brock Lesnar’s brief return was a forgettable win that became a forgettable no-contest after his post-fight urine melted the test cup; and Jon Jones oscillated between legal trouble, USADA trouble and off-and-on performances in the cage. McGregor was arguably the biggest star in the sport even with those three in the mix, and in their absence, he was undoubtedly the face of MMA to the wider sports-viewing audience.

Yet things started to change after the “Money Fight” with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August 2017…

Read more at Sherdog

Read more

By In Best of year

Quality Reads from 2019

Throughout the year I read a lot of stories online, posting my favorites on Twitter and Facebook at the end of each month (or, more accurately, somewhere between the beginning and middle of the following month).

Here’s a year-end list of my picks, whittled down to the stories that stood out the most.

The Decade Comic Book Nerds Became Our Cultural Overlords by Alex Pappademas, GEN
Deep-Sea Mining and the Race to the Bottom of the Ocean by Wil S. Hylton, The Atlantic
Alienated, Alone And Angry: What The Digital Revolution Really Did To Us by Joseph Bernstein, BuzzFeed

We Are Living in Hideo Kojima’s Dystopian Nightmare. Can He Save Us? by Gene Park, Washington Post

He Never Intended To Become A Political Dissident, But Then He Started Beating Up Tai Chi Masters by Lauren Teixeira, Deadspin
The Glass Floor is Keeping America’s Richest Idiots at the Top by Michael Hobbes, HuffPost
Bong Joon-ho is Weaponizing the Blockbuster by Inkoo Kang, Slate
True Ghost Story by Tim Kreider, Human Parts

Donald Trump Is Not Going To Let This Hurricane Thing Go by David Roth, Deadspin
Malcolm Gladwell Reaches His Tipping Point by Andrew Ferguson, The Atlantic

The Anthropocene is a Joke by Peter Brannen, The Atlantic
The Adults In The Room by Megan Greenwell, Deadspin
Dear Gun-Rights Advocates: Hey, Congratulations! by Tim Kreider, GEN

Manly Wedding Rings for Tough Guys Who are Dudes by Dan Brooks, The Outline
I Was a Fast-Food Worker. Let Me Tell You About Burnout by Emily Guendelsberger, Vox
An Epidemic of Disbelief by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The Atlantic

Why Should Immigrants Respect Our Borders? The West Never Respected Theirs by Suketu Mehta, The New York Times
The Man Who Was Upset by David Roth, The New Republic
Redemption Songs by Krish Raghav, Topic Magazine

Teenage Pricks by Alex Pareene, The Baffler
The Night the Lights Went Out by Drew Magary, Deadspin
The Pink by Andrea Long Chu, n+1

I Get One Last Lent With My Mami. I’m Using it to Learn Our Family’s Capirotada Recipe by Gustavo Arellano, LA Times
They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To by Albert Burneko, Deadspin
Why We Spend Our Brief Lives Indoors, Alone, and Typing by Tim Kreider, Medium

The Making of the Fox News White House by Jane Mayer, The New Yorker
As pigs await slaughter, strangers offer water, love, and comfort to the doomed by Gustavo Arellano, LA Times
After the Tsunami by Matthew Komatsu, Longreads
Psycho Analysis by Andrea Long Chu, Bookforum

Student Debt is Dragging a Whole Generation Down by Anne Helen Petersen, Buzzfeed News
What the Crow Knows by Ross Andersen, The Atlantic
The Trauma Floor by Casey Newton, The Verge

Impeach Donald Trump by Yoni Appelbaum, The Atlantic
You Can’t Get There From Here by David Roth, Deadspin
The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives by Robert Caro, The New Yorker

Read more

By In Best of year

Some Things I Wrote in 2019

I was going to say that 2019 was weird, but I’m getting the feeling that every year from here on out will be weird in distinct yet similar ways.

This past year was one of the most stressful and multiply frustrating ones ever. At the same time, it was easily my most professionally successful year. I wrote the best, most diverse work of my career thus far — which I suppose isn’t saying much given the fact I’ve only been doing this for five years but at least I’m moving in the right direction — and wrote for more publications than any other year.

As always, all those words would have been relegated to a blog or stuck ricocheting around in my head if it weren’t for the editors who helped me and the readers who validated their help.

So without further ado, here are Some Things I Wrote in 2019.


Basketball Taught Me How To Live
Human Parts, July
–An essay about basketball, the impermanence of youth, death, and my crappy ankles.

The Weight of Departure
Talking Writing, September
–An essay about tropical storms, illness, and the tension between moving on and leaving behind.

From K-pop to HI-Pop
Ka Wai Ola, October
–An essay about what the Hawaiian music industry can and shouldn’t learn from the success of K-pop.

Climate Change is Sabotaging the World’s Most Dangerous Canoe Race
GEN, November
–An essay about how climate change is affecting the Molokaʻi Hoe.

Away Games
The Under Review, December
–An essay about life and basketball in Korea, and what it means to be home.

Sherdog Column

Man, Myth, Legend
–On Cain Velasquez and the necessity of believing in your own delusions.

Owning the Narrative
–On how commentators affect our perception of fights, and how “moving forward” and “Octagon control” are empty criteria for scoring fights.

Words of War
–On how the Conor McGregor-Khabib Nurmagomedov beef exceeded the ordinary ugliness of promotional trash talk.

It Is What It Is, and It Is Beautiful
–On how the ugliness of the sport can sometimes be equalled by the beauty to which it is capable of ascending.

13 Ways of Looking at Fighting In One Week
–Probably my favorite column of the year, where I take a page from Wallace Stevens to look at how ridiculous MMA is.

MMA’s End Game
–On the complicated nature of deciding when to end a career.

Following Fear
–On the role of fear in fighting, and how it fuels some and leads others to self-destruct.

Cutting Losses By Cutting Winners
–On the contradictory messages the UFC sends to fighters about winning.

Why Do We Interview Fighters?
–On why most fighter interviews are pointless.

Cub Swanson and the Moment He Needed
–On how Cub Swanson, who was often on the losing end of other fighters’ big career moments, finally had a big moment of his own.

If you enjoyed this, I did the same thing the last few years.
Some Things I Wrote in 2018
Some Things I Wrote in 2017
Some Things I Wrote in 2016

Read more

By In announcement

Molokaʻi Hoe essay selected as Longreads Best of 2019: Sports Writing

I was surprised, humbled and grateful to discover that my essay, Climate Change is Sabotaging the World’s Most Dangerous Canoe Race, was selected by Longreads for its Best of 2019: Sports Writing category. The editor who chose it, Matt Giles, wrote:

Since 1952, the Molokaʻi Hoe — otherwise known as the world’s most challenging canoe race — has annually enthralled 40,000 competitors off the coast of Oahu, but as Stinton explains in this deep-dive, the Molokaʻi Hoe is threatened not by modernity, analytics, and improved training but by climate change. It’s an angle I have long thought about, specifically how the planet’s warming will affect the Bonneville salt flats, and this piece succinctly explains how the overall warming of the waters through which the course flows could cause this race to forever be delayed — and with that, the impact on the culture and heritage of its competitors.

Every year I look forward to reading Longreads’ Best Of lists, and it’s crazy to see my work included on one.

Another 13 stories were chosen for the list. Check them out here.

Read more