Punches, kicks, and joysticks: The world of MMA enters the Twitch-verse

MMA is a brutal sport with some insane consequences. One slight, wrong movement could result in you being knocked out or having the air choked out of your lungs. Oh yeah, or your arm getting broken.

Example: MMA: UFC 205-Weidman vs Romero

So if you’re a fighter, you probably are on edge for a good portion of the day, whether you’re in training camp for a fight or just going through your daily gym seshes. So what do you do to kick back and relax during your free time?

You stream video games.

Yep, it’s officially my new favorite oddity in the sports world. MMA and video game streaming were first linked when current-flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson’s Twitch channel started to gain traction. More and more people started to watch him play games, and now his Twitch channel has gained him almost as much popularity as his fighting career has. It’s at the point where Johnson has stated publicly that he’d like to become a full-time streamer once his fighting career ends.

mm

Here’s a quick bit of Mighty Mouse’s channel:

Rage of a Champion

While Twitch doesn’t release subscriber numbers officially, Johnson still is close to amassing 100,000 followers… which is a lot, and a substantial amount for someone who just does this thing part-time.

But Johnson isn’t the only one who spends his time on the popular gaming website. Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, as well as Max Holloway, Rampage Jackson and Dennis Bermudez all have their own twitch channels, listed below:

Rampage Jackson’s channel

Chris Weidman’s channel

Max Holloway’s channel

Dennis Bermudez’s channel

rampage.jpg

Is there an actual reason given for so many high-profile fighters entering the Twitch world? I don’t know, but also I really don’t care. From my personal experience, it allows fighter’s personalities to shine a little more than they would normally and it provides a wonderful platform for them to connect with their fans.

So as far as this anomoly goes, it seems like it’s a win-win situation for every MMA fighter who decides to dive deep into Twitch.

Advertisements

Is Demetrious Johnson Now the Greatest Of All Time?

UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson isn’t one for the limelight. He’s a family man, who casually enjoys training, drinking beer, and streaming video games on his popular Twitch channel.

But after last night that spotlight on him may be unavoidable, with his second round submission victory of flyweight contender Wilson Reis, a blackbelt in BJJ. The win for Johnson (26-2-1) was monumental for the 125-pounder, as he officially tied Anderson Silva‘s UFC record of 10 straight title defenses.

If you’re looking for a comparison to this accolade from another sport, there really isn’t one. A string of maybe three title defenses is impressive, let alone 10. It’s a true anomaly in modern MMA.

Regardless, now the discussion arises as to whether “Mighty Mouse” is the greatest to ever do it. He’s got the record, he’s got the title defenses… but can a 125-pound flyweight really be the greatest fighter the UFC has seen? In the heightened world of controversy and character that the likes of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey have brought to the sport, can a quiet, family man be the one that goes down as number one?

And what about George St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, and Jon Jones?

Well, there is no concrete answer. However, the case for Johnson as the pound for pound greatest to ever do it is strong. Just look at how he wins his fights. At his core, Mighty Mouse is a true mixed martial artist, rather than specializing in one martial art. He’s similar to a “jack of all trades, master of none,” except he can tame anyone who is a master of their craft.

Let’s take last year’s fight with Henry Cejudo. Cejudo is an olympic gold medalist, and one of the most naturally athletic men to ever walk into the octagon. From the second he stepped into the cage when he met Johnson, Mighty Mouse dismantled him, and he even did it from the muay thai clinch (AGAINST AN OLYMPIAN!). Johnson wins the fight by mauling Cejudo with knees to the body, ending the fight within four minutes.

Then last night he faced a BJJ black belt in Reis, and ends up taping him out with an armbar after outwrestling him for two rounds. You really can’t make this stuff up.

The way that Johnson meets his opponents right where they excel and dominates them is uncanny. There is nobody else in the sport who does it.

With all of this said, the case for Johnson as the GOAT is a strong one. But here’s the thing: he doesn’t care. He’s one of the few fighters in the sport who has not let his success go to his head, and still sees what he does as a day job. So call him the GOAT, or don’t, because at the end of the day Mighty Mouse is still just going to put on his gloves and go to work everyday.

Let the Bandwagon Fan Live

It’s the worst thing you can be called in sports. No, it’s not a sore loser, and no it’s not a *****… it’s being called a bandwagon. It’s a word that cuts like a knife and seems to take away any value from your fandom. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Two years ago during the 2015 NHL Playoffs, I found myself with a roommate who loves hockey and an absence of my beloved Boston Bruins. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not the world’s biggest hockey fan, but playoff hockey is arguably the most entertaining spectacle in sports. So with no team that actually held my rooting interest in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I decided to kind of latch on to whatever team held my fancy. If I’m going to watch all these games, I may as well have a rooting interest. So I fell upon the Tampa Bay Lightning – a team from arguably the least likely hockey state, but somehow managed to have one of the most electric teams I’d ever seen. So guess what? I started to cheer on the Lightning. They were good, and I enjoy watching sports played well… sue me.

The Bolts made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to fall to the Blackhawks, four games to three. Now I’m not going to pretend I felt the same feeling I did during the two Patriots losses to the Giants in the Super Bowl, or the Celtics blowing the 2010 NBA Finals, but I still felt something. For a month, I had committed myself to a team and become dependent on their success. And since that day, I haven’t thought much about the Lightning.

So while that anecdote may have been long winded, I basically want to say that the bandwagon fan should not automatically be ridiculed. Here’s my case:

Sports are at their core an entertainment product. Fans get so heavily invested in their teams and the city that they represent that they seem to forget the point of it all in the first place – money. That’s right, every player, coach, executive, and owner is just doing their job and trying to make money. It’s a hard reality to accept, and one that I wrestle with on a weekly basis, but it’s the truth. So if this is the case, what’s the point of telling someone they aren’t allowed to cheer for the team that entertains them the most? Let’s take the Golden State Warriors for example. The past three seasons have been incredible for Dubs, including an NBA title and Steph Curry owning almost every shooting record in the book. The team is downright awesome to watch play. While it’s strange to see so many people in North Carolina now with flat-billed Warriors snapbacks on, and evangelizing about how Steph Curry is North Carolina’s native son even though they didn’t know Davidson was a college before he arrived, I get it. These people support this team around the country because they love watching them play basketball.

If you’re a Sacramento Kings fan and you see this exponential number of new Warriors fans, it’s obviously going to tick you off. “These people have no loyalty to a team,” you might say as a high and mighty Kings fan. But here’s the point: that person’s status as a fan doesn’t affect yours. If you love the Kings, then you should love the Kings because that makes you happy. If someone wants to starts cheering on the best team in the NBA because it gives them joy, then god speed.

Part of my privilege to write this article is that I’m a fan of generally successful teams. I don’t go through the constant struggles of say a Cleveland Browns fan, or a Minnesota Twins fan, but that was just the luck of the draw of being born to a Bostonian father. So I’ve never really had the need to be a bandwagon fan, but that still doesn’t remove the fact that as a kid I rabidly cheered for Mike Vick on the Falcons, or the Kansas City Chiefs with Priest Holmes. I even had a Peyton Manning jersey growing up. I don’t regret it either. At the end of the day, the only person a fan has to prove something to is themselves. Sports drive people crazy, and I feel this is one area where we as a society can just ease up. Let the bandwagon fan live.

The Unbreakable Record

Last night Russell Westbrook completed his season long mission that was originally thought impossible – the Thunder guarded achieved his goal of averaging a triple-double for the season. He also is one game away from having the record for the most triple doubles in an NBA season.

Lets take a moment…. In 2017 we are talking about a point guard who has done this. A feat so immaculate that we as a society just presumed Oscar Robertson would be the only one ever to do it. Well, now we have to rewrite the record books to include the eccentric point guard.

oscar.jpg

A year ago, NBA fans would discuss Robertson’s record as untouchable, and they should have been right. But the perfect circumstances for Westbrook came along to put this type of season together.

But I don’t really want to talk about triple-doubles. Westbrook going bananas this season on the stat sheet got me thinking: is there any NBA record that is still unbreakable?

And no, I’m not going to talk about Wilt’s 100-points in a game record. I think somebody can break that record. Yep. You read that right. Somebody CAN break it. If Kobe Bryant can score 81 points in a game, and Devin Booker can drop 70 last month, then I can’t say that I believe Wilt’s 100 points is untouchable. Now, this doesn’t mean I guarantee it will be broken, I just think the door is wide open.

wil.jpg

Speaking of Wilt, he also has the record of 72 percent field goal average throughout a season, and averages 50.4 points per game one season. Nope… that’s still not the record I’m talking about about.

Drumroll please.

The unbreakable record is…. Wilt’s average of 48.5 minutes per game throughout a season. This record is not only unfathomable, but unattainable in the modern NBA. First off, the game is only 48 minutes now, but even if the record was just 48, no player could even scratch the surface of this record. A player would have to play every single minute of any game they are involved in for the entire season. Not only would this physically destroy with the current NBA schedule, it’s a record that is undesirable. Points are sexy, and even playing a lot of minutes is sexy, but playing all the minutes is gag worthy.

wilt.jpg

The league has completely moved away from the possibility of this record even being broken. So it will stay. No player will average 48 minutes per game in an entire season. I can firmly say that. The other Wilt records? Astronomically high, but not untouchable.

So while Russell puts his names among the all-time greats this season, always remember that there is one accolade even more impressive than what he has accomplished.

My National Championship Night

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to house 200 people in our four bedroom home… but hey, it’s the National Championship game.

Myself and my seven roommates decided to host a viewing party for the game, and as I sit here writing this today I don’t regret a thing. HOWEVER, at the time I felt a little flustered. I’d be lying if I told you I remembered much of the first half, outside of a few plays, as I found myself way too preoccupied with getting everyone into our house and settled.

You see, we originally planned to host our party outside and project the game onto our house, but Mother Nature had other plans. One single look at Weather.com made our 100-plus person guest list seem a tad bit ambitious, but we persevered.

By game time, every inch of our walls and aged hardwood floors were covered by sweaty bodies with Carolina blue shirts and jerseys pasted to their bodies.

The ceiling is the roof. Lock In. Get Into It. A myriad of fake Aliexpress UNC jerseys. Every bit of UNC apparel was represented well in our home.

So again, the first half happened. The Zags looked the better side and led most of the half. At halftime moral wasn’t low, but it definitely wasn’t high.

Then the second half whistle blew. I was done with my hosting duties for the night: A lady named Carolina was calling my name. I jumped, I screamed, I questioned the refs, I felt my stomach start the ache. With two minutes left, I stood in the back of our TV room and doubted.

“This is just like last year.”

Then, the final minute happened. Once again, I wish I could have told you what transpired on the court, but the seven rows of people jumping up and down on their feet restricted that. All I knew was that UNC was about to win. Thirty seconds in real time later, it happened. The final buzzer sounded, and the North Carolina Tar Heels were redeemed.unc2.jpeg

Every single guest in our house rushed to the nearest door, with Franklin Street in their sights. I directed traffic, kind of like a runway attendant, and watched the hordes fit through the small doorways.

But that’s one of the problems with hosting: you have to clean up. So when everyone had left, me and three of my housemates threw everything into one area, turned on the appropriate lights, and locked up.

Then we ran faster than the speed of light. After what felt like five years, we reached Franklin Street. Now, I’ve been in NFL stadiums, NBA arenas, and MLB fields, and I’ve never seen more people in my entire life.

I’ve never said I love you to so many people. I’ve never high fived so many people. I’ve never ever hugged a stranger harder. It was magic.

I’ll just say it: I hugged someone so hard that their sweat filled shirt was like a juicer on my forearms. Gross, but true.

It was pure elation. Thousands of people from all around the country, heck all around the world, coming together for their one similar passion. Men hanging from telephone poles, fireworks going off, couches being lit on fire – it was madness, but the kind you can’t help but grin ear to ear over.

We were crammed, but not one single person complained. We were one, one voice, one body, singing Tar Heel praises.

IMG_0125

All because a group of college-aged kids won a game. I will never argue with someone who finds sports inherently silly. That’s fine. But after tonight, allow me to just ignore it. There isn’t another thing on this planet that brings people together like I saw on Monday night. All for a University. All for each other.

 

 

 

 

The Best Shot of March

All week on UNC’s campus, one man has had the spotlight. With one shot, Luke Maye etched his way into North Carolina history as he sunk UNC’s game winner against Kentucky in the Elite Eight with 0.3 seconds left on the clock.

He was applauded by his team, his school, and national media as a whole.

But his shot wasn’t the best of March.

The best shot of the month took place in its waining hours, and it ended the longest winning streak in college basketball history.

On Wednesday, in the final hour of March, Morgan Williams hit the best shot of the month, and likely the entire year.

Her last second heave sent her Mississippi State Bulldogs into the National Championship game, and gave them one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.

The smallest player on the court (5-foot-5), making the biggest shot of the year. UCONN’s 111 game winning streak, suddenly gone.

While the Bulldogs ended up falling to South Carolina in the National Championship game, this play will likely never be forgotten.

It will go along with all the other highlights of clutch shots hit over the years, but this one will always be special. This single flick of the wrist ended an almost 3-year long winning streak.

It was the perfect shot for the perfect occasion. It is March Madness personified.

 

It’s Okay To Not Know Everything

I have a confession.

For the longest time, whenever someone would reference an athlete, regardless from what sport they play or team they are on, I would nod my head and add a little my two cents on the player.

[Insert any random player from anything]

“Oh yeah, he’s definitely got some upside.”

“I love watching him play.”

“I mean, I’m not sure I’d say I’d like watching him play, but he’s definitely got talent.”

In half of those situations, probably even more, I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ve either never once watched that player, or heard their name before.

Lets go back for a second. As a youngster, I think I knew everything there was to know about sports. The Chargers third string quarterback? Got it. The pinch-hitter for the LA Dodgers? I could tell you in an instant. Head football coach at Louisiana Tech? Come on, give me a harder one than that.

charlie.jpg

Every morning I would sit at my kitchen counter and consume as much Sportscenter as I could. During our time on the computers in elementary school, I would spend all my time on ESPN.com researching rosters, scores, stats. Basically, I had a lot of time to kill.

When you are as obsessed with sports as I was, it’s easy to know all about them. It consumed almost my every thought.

However, growing up changes that. You have less and less free time, and every step up you take in school is a sacrifice to you hobbies. The older I got, the less I could keep up with the 24/7 sports world.

Flash forward to current day, when my free time is at an all-time low. At this point in my life, I have to make a very conscious choice I what content I want to consume – and sometimes it isn’t sports. That has led to the reason for this post.

I don’t need to know everything.

It took me until college to realize this, but upon self reflection I feel like it has set me free. And while this could correlate to knowledge in general, I’m specifically talking about sports.

For example, I know people who carry on empty sports conversations just doing their best to try and sound smart on things that they have no idea about.

Player A is really good (even though I’ve never seen them play). This guy will get drafted over this guy (even though I only watched one of their games). Heck, even most sports talk TV is based around this.

When it came down to it, I prided myself on trying to keep up with everything, and it’s impossible. A big fear of mine was answering a question with, ‘I don’t know’. I always assumed that since I want to turn sports into a career, that I needed to know every minute detail.

“Hey Evan, what do you think about South Carolina’s chances against Gonzaga?”

“Honestly, I’m not too sure. I haven’t really watched either of them too much this season.”

To whoever is reading this, stop believing that you have to know everything. You don’t, and you’ll be much happier when you admit it to yourself.

At the Buzzer

I can’t imagine how it feels.

I just can’t.

As I watched the finale of Wisconsin and Florida‘s date in the Sweet 16 on Saturday, I had no idea how to relate.

My basketball playing days sadly ended at the conclusion of my ninth grade year of rec ball, but that final game wasn’t necessarily one of the lowest moments of my life. I hope.

So when Chris Chiozza sprinted down the court with four seconds left and hit a 3-point floater that Tony Parker could only dream of to crush the heart of the entire state of Wisconsin, I couldn’t relate.

The Shot

What do you think about when the ball is in the air?

What does your body feel like watching that ball go through the net?

If you’re on the winning team, it’s probably an electricity that you feel like your palpable body can’t contain.

But if you’re losing, you probably want to shrink smaller than anything in the world… curl up into a ball until the end of time.

If you’re a senior, how do you cope with knowing that was it? Your whole career, done. Four years reaching their completion.

Once again, I’ll never know. Being a fan is one thing. I know from experience (what’s up UNC fans) that there’s an empty feeling after that, but I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be on the court.

When you reach the locker room, how do you react? Do you throw a tantrum, or sit and sulk in what I can only imagine is a feeling of melancholy?

The key is that I don’t know, and none of us do. The wildest of endings provide the wildest or reactions and I refuse to believe I’ll ever experience that in that way.

And that’s why sports are such a wonderful storytelling tool. We watch a perfect, undetermined narrative taking place in front of our eyes, and then spend hours afterwards thinking about it and how we would have done it in those shoes.

I’ll say this: I’ve thought more about what it must have been on that court last night than I have about any film I’ve seen so far this year. I think that says something.

Ryen Russillo “Rant” on Change in Sports is Spot On

Yesterday on my favorite sports radio show, ESPN‘s Russillo & Kanell, co-host Ryen Russillo took some air time to give a type of “rant” that his former co-host Scott Van Pelt was known for.

This may seem like homework, but I encourage all readers to listen to his rant. It’s starts at the 9:06 mark of the link below and only lasts a couple of minutes, but please try and listen to it before reading on. Spoiler: it’s really good.

You finished? Okay.

Right off the top, Russillo hits on a major point that every modern sports fan should be self-aware of: “We are obsessed with change.”

His follow up examples of that charge are also spot on, and provide a real argument to the major problem plaguing sports fans in the modern day.

No sports fan is happy anymore. No matter what is going on the world today, with some of the best talent we’ve every seen across every spectrum of the sports world, we want more. And we all want it (and when I say we I’m referring to individuals) is these sports to cater more to our personal needs, and even when they do we still aren’t happy. At that point we are already thinking about what we change next.

Here’s my favorite two points in this rant:

-If the College Football Playoff Committee expands the playoff to eight teams, it will only be a matter of time before people start clamoring for 16. If you want an example of this, just look at the steps before it. When the NCAA had the BCS in tact, fans begged for a playoff system. After years, they finally got it… and what do they do? Start complaining that four teams isn’t enough.

– If the MLB changed from 182 games to 160 or from nine innings to seven, nothing would change. Exactly. Russillo nails it on the head when he proposed that nobody is going to start watching baseball because it now takes 2 and a half hours instead of three. It’s an argument made to encourage people to make baseball more interesting and “watchable” but at the end of the day it will change nothing.

The gist of the whole rant is that all of this change is lateral if we aren’t willing to be satisfied with the outcome. If you want something in sports changed, and it does, then you need act on that change rather than move onto the next thing that you would like fixed. Russillo calls it a “selfish” culture, and it is. Minor tweaks in sports are great, but lets not lie to ourselves and say that most major sports leagues are doing fine and would continue to do so if they didn’t change anything again.

UNC-Duke Gets a Third Chapter

This isn’t supposed to happen.

Well, in theory it’s absolutely plausible that it’s happening, but let me embellish a little bit. Tomorrow, UNC and Duke will meet for the third time this season in the ACC Tournament semifinals.

We don’t deserve this, and the basketball gods know this. Remember the stress of every UNC-Duke game over the last couple years? Down to the wire games with immense amounts of drama and tension – so much so that both sets of fans are only allowed two meetings a year to keep themselves sane.

For UNC fans, one heartbreaking loss at Cameron Indoor and then a scrappy return win at the Dean Dome wasn’t enough. The universe decided that it needed it one more time.

So tomorrow, in what will be a much tamer setting than the previous two games, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels of Tobacco Road will clash heads for one last time this season (probably).

It only makes sense, to be honest. In a season where both teams got their respective wins on their home court, it feels like there is still something to be decided this year. Neither UNC nor Duke fans felt like they had a real claim to the rivalry as the regular season ended. Sure, North Carolina can rely on recency bias, but it’s also hard to erase the memory of Grayson Allen draining seven threes to upset the Tar Heels a little over a month ago.

So it’s destiny, then, that these teams meet once again. Berry vs. Allen, Kennard vs. Jackson, Hicks vs. Tatum, Roy vs. K. It’s perfect poetry, and the most anticipated semifinal game since 1980 (Do you believe in miracles?)

Tobacco Road is a never ending path, destined to guarantee two stopping points every year. Consider this a small branch off of the path; it’s still as much a part of the whole as anything, but feels a little out of place. Will students rush Franklin for a UNC victory? Probably not. Will Duke students camp out in tents outside of the Barclays Center tomorrow? Most definitely not.

But still, this game has the most significance. An ACC title – that’s history. That’s something that cements a team in history, in the upper echelon of college basketball. So tomorrow’s game may not be one for all the marbles, but it’s absolutely worth a few.

So to the delight of college basketball fans around the world, let’s watch these teams do battle one more time.