2016 was a strange year to say the least. Headlines abounded of political shocks and scandals or celebrity deaths, and nobody could say for sure how true any of those headlines were since we all got our news from Facebook.
Still, it was a productive year for yours truly. I wrote a lot, and I appreciate everyone who has taken time to read my work. Here are the 10 pieces I feel most proud to have written in 2016, with a few thoughts looking back on them. I assure you none of it is fake news.
March 7, Sherdog
Conor McGregor and the Death of Imagination
Conor McGregor had built an aura around him. He captured the UFC’s featherweight championship via spectacular dominance, and became one of the sport’s two biggest stars ever along the way. Then he was unceremoniously and, frankly, embarrassingly defeated in his first fight of 2016.
March 9, The Classical
Away Games: A Dispatch from the Korean Basketball League
I had already been living in Korea for over a year when I first went to a professional basketball game. The sense of newness and excitement of living in a foreign country had mostly subsided, and the shitty parts – like cold weather – were still shitty. Then I went to a Korean Basketball League game.
Jong Il from Yang Pyeong
Jong Il had recently moved from his home in the countryside to Seoul. A day spent catching butterflies and dragonflies in the park causes him to reflect on what he kept with him, and what he didn’t.
May 2, Sherdog
The Costs of Control
Dana White claimed the secret to the UFC’s success has been to incentivize fighters with performance bonuses while keeping guaranteed pay low. “If you were guaranteed to earn $37 million, guess what you’re gonna do? Not much.” Can’t argue with that logic, right?
August 22, Sherdog
Mixed Martial Artistry
The rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz was a truly great fight. But its greatness was not just that of an exciting fight; it connected in a more essential way.
October 10, Sherdog
A Beautifully Weird Twisted Reality
Mixed martial arts is strangely alluring. Its youth as a sport means there’s an absence of the polished professionalism in other major sports leagues. The type of people who makes a living inflicting violence on others is inherently a different set of psychologies than other professional athletes. And yet for all the ridiculous, absurd and downright bizarre aspects of the sport, it can also simultaneously be beautiful. Enter Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping.
November 4, Harvard Review Online
Book Review of Annie Dillard’s “The Abundance”
Pulitzer winner Annie Dillard is inimitable. Her writing is beautiful, hilarious, bizarre and familiar all at once. “The Abundance” is a collection of essays spanning across decades, and it shows how her voice is as unique and vital now as it ever was.
November 14, Sherdog
Politics, UFC 205, and What It Means to Fight
The first two weeks of November were quite possibly the most 2016 moments of 2016. Donald Trump won the presidential election, Conor McGregor headlined one of the biggest UFC cards in history – at Madison Square Garden, no less – and my parents came to Korea to visit for a few days. It was a time of complex ideas and emotions pulsing within and around me, and ironically it was the dumbest and simplest of them all that helped me recalibrate.
December 12, Sherdog
A Fighter Forged from Conflict
Where we’re from can powerfully inform who we become. To understand interim featherweight champion Max Holloway, who has become one of the toughest and most technical mixed martial artists on the planet, you have to understand what life is like in his hometown of Waianae.
December 15, The Classical
John John Florence and Surfing’s Hawaiian Homecoming
When John John Florence became the World Surf League champion, it was the first time a surfer from Hawaii had done so in over a decade. It’s strange to think that the place that invented surfing has gone through such a long drought on the competitive circuit, but a closer inspection explains why – and why John John’s win is so important.
I can’t say enough how much it means to me that anyone at all reads what I write. So many editors, publishers and writers have motivated me, guided me, and inspired me to continue chasing this silly dream of mine, and every single person who has read my work has helped me get closer to achieving it. I appreciate all of it, more than I can adequately express. 2016 was a good year, and I’m proud of everything I wrote, but I know there is much work to be done in 2017. I’ll keep working.