Thursday, December 12, 2019

Closing the book on 10 years of face-punching

It’s been over a year since I last stepped in a mixed martial arts cage to compete.

I never shared publicly that it was always my intent for that fight on November 30, 2018 to be my last. I had decided it was in the best interests of me and my family to compete one last time and hang them up--win, lose, or draw.

I’m not sure why I never told anyone this. Maybe I was worried that my team would feel less invested in me. Maybe because I didn’t want that mindset going into the fight. Maybe I was just afraid to admit it. 

I’ve still never once said out loud the words, “I’m retired”. I've only ever said that "I don't have any plans to compete." It is too much finality to admit.

A year ago, I had a great training camp going into my fight, and I lost. I made a single mistake against an excellent fighter and was punished for it.

I am not a gifted athlete, to say the least. I'm neither particularly strong, nor fast, nor flexible, nor coordinated. I don't have great muscle memory or kinesthetic learning. I've been a bookworm and a computer nerd all my life. Never played on a single school team in any sport.

All I have ever had in athletics is tenacity and discipline. I worked hard. I tried to learn everything that was relevant about strength and conditioning, nutrition, sleep, recovery, striking, wrestling, jiujitsu, and everything in the middle. The only reason I became halfway good at MMA was because I was obsessed. I refused to half-ass anything. I only ate the “right food” at the “right time”. I guarded my sleep with vigilance. I took ice baths in the middle of a Canadian winter. I scoured the internet to learn about mobility, conditioning, supplements, and how to throw better knees in the clinch. I had private sessions with boxing coaches, wrestling coaches, BJJ coaches, MMA coaches, S&C coaches, mobility coaches, hypnotherapists, sports psychologists, physiotherapists, and more.

My athletic inferiority drove me.  

Even though I started late (at age 30), MMA came along at the right time for me. I needed MMA as I was leaving the world of professional poker. Obsessing about optimal 3-bet ranges and river thresholds was replaced by head kicks, knee taps and triangle chokes. I needed to start from new and find inspiration.

Sometimes I had the size advantage; sometimes I didn't.

These days, of course, inspiration comes from my daughter, who turns 2 soon. Being a stay-at-home dad is a totally different grind from being a fighter or a poker player. Watching her little brain develop and discover the world around her is a completely different challenge. It might not offer the adrenaline rush of walking out to a cage fight or being all-in at a WSOP final table, but the reward is, hopefully, a toddler, a girl, a young woman that is proud to call me her dad.

I was never a star in this sport. Never the best in the world or the country. My best rank was #7 in Canada. The sport will not miss me; I was an insignificant footnote. But I can be proud of a lot of things. I fought some tough opponents. My last two opponents are a combined 5-0 since fighting me. I can be proud that I worked to give 11 opponents the best version of me possible on that day. I can be proud that whether I won or lost, I never quit. 

I leave the sport without lasting physical injury. My brain is intact and my joints more or less work the way they’re supposed to. A lot of people in this game aren’t so lucky. I never took performance enhancing drugs. I don’t think that makes me better than anyone else, but since surveys indicate that 50-80% of fighters believe other fighters on them, I mention it.

Like with my poker career, one of the more awesome things about MMA was that I got to train and fight all over the world: Vancouver, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Phuket, Manila, Bali, Brazil, and Korea are among just a few of the places I was lucky enough to be punched (or elbowed) in the face.

In the same way that I still appear at the WSOP ten years after my poker-playing prime, I don’t see myself leaving MMA entirely. I go to jiujitsu 2-3 times a week, and I enjoy being around fight camps. I like to think I have a mind for the game, and I would still love to be around the sport in some capacity or another. I’m not sure I was ever a technical enough fighter to be a coach, but I can offer help where I can. I would enjoy doing content around the sport.  If there’s a promotion out there looking for commentary, I would do that in a heartbeat. 

But I don’t think anything will ever change the fact that I will keep wishing I were the man in the arena instead of the man behind the scenes. I loved fighting. It was fucking awesome, and I miss it. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Deleting Facebook: A Small Act That Feels Big

I just deleted Facebook.

It felt so scary, so permanent. Even though I backed up all of my data, and even though there's a 30-day "change your mind", it seems like such a big deal.

And that led me to examine why it was such a big deal. Why in spite of how shitty Facebook behaves as a company and what a massive time-sink it is, that it took me so long to do it.

Why so many people have told me that they want to delete Facebook, but just "can't", because there are too many people on there with whom they want to stay in touch. How many private groups they just can't do without.

When you stop to think about it, it's incredible how much Facebook has managed to integrate itself so wholly in our lives. To many people, deleting Facebook feels like cutting off a limb.

Even the most introverted of us crave human connection. We embrace connection. And Facebook has used that desire to prey on us. Facebook knows us better than we know ourselves. It knows what we will read, and click on, and whose posts matter most to us. It continues to track our web browsing long after we've left the site, so that it can get more information on us and sell us more crap and polarize our views even further.

I've known all of this for a long time, but I still couldn't pull the trigger on deletion. Why?

Facebook has designed a system where you think you can't do without it. People don't text or e-mail any more, they use Messenger. Instead of message boards, BBS, or Reddit, they use Facebook Groups. Facebook Marketplace is quickly replacing Craigslist. And of course, Facebook and Instagram are by far the most convenient way for people to share photos and media to friends and family.

Deleting Facebook feels like severing connections to many people you think you have no other way to contact.

And yet it’s worth trying to break the cycle. There are so many platforms on which you can connect to people. But if you don't use them, you yield that control (and the control over your own brain) to Facebook.

Oh, but you say, "I like Facebook. I like seeing my friends' baby photos and cat videos and their athletic accomplishments and life successes." You can still get those things without Facebook. You just have to work a little harder at it. Yeah, that might mean helping Grandma figure out Skype or e-mail. Rough.

I’m sure I'm going to miss some stuff from deleting Facebook. I’ll be slow to get certain news about my social groups, and connecting with some people will be a bit less convenient. But I think I’ll gain a lot more time and sanity, and I’ll also be doing my own small part to shift power away from a corporation that I think behaves in a pretty shitty way. I’ll do my best to reach out to those people I usually communicate with through Facebook and send them emails and texts instead.

An aside: what pushed me over the edge

It's incredibly ironic, but the thing that finally pushed me over the edge to delete Facebook was an Instagram post, specifically this one.

Earlier last week, members of the Backyard Meat Rabbits group received a message that the group has been deleted after being reported by another group that promotes raising rabbits as companion animals called House Rabbit Society.⁣ ⁣ ⁣ For animals that fall into both companion animal and livestock status like rabbits, goats, and chickens conflicts often arise.⁣ ⁣ ⁣ Should the sensitivities of a companion animal group deprive members of a voluntary group engaging in an educational exchange about animal husbandry of an opportunity to connect and learn?⁣ ⁣ ⁣ Moderation has it's place, but when does it cross the line into censorship?⁣ ⁣ ⁣ Lauren, @whitehoofacres, investigated this incident and reports how these deletions only serve to create more misinformation and hysteria regarding livestock production.⁣ ⁣ ⁣ Read more on my blog. Link in bio.⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ #regenerativeagriculture #sacredcow #sustainablefarming #sustainableagriculture #community #farmcommunity #compassion #backyardrabbits #rabbitfarming #censorship #bettermeat #raiserabbits #knowyourfarmer #farmers #farmtofork #farmlife #foodindustry #livestock⁣ ⁣
A post shared by Diana Rodgers, RD (@sustainabledish) on

The Backyard Meat Rabbits group was a wonderful group of truly helpful rabbit-lovers. And yes, most of them raised rabbits for meat, but they were truly interested in rabbit health, happiness, and well-being. They slapped the "Meat" label on it to gate-keep those who were offended by discussion of animal slaughter. They understood that even people who eat meat often didn't want the nitty-gritty details of how meat actually gets to the dinner table.

The Backyard Meat Rabbits group was such a good group that I remained part of the group even after I gave up my own rabbitry.

Yet Facebook deleted this group due to "community standards". Really? Less than 1% of the world is vegan, yet the community has decided that a meat group fails to conform to community standards? How does this happen? (Rodgers has a theory that has something to do with PETA becoming a major shareholder in Facebook.)

So yeah, while it sucks to lose access to private groups, if Facebook can arbitrarily remove those groups, then what the fuck are we all doing using them for our private groups??

So in summary:

They collected my data and sold it. I complained, but ultimately did nothing.

They manipulated me and hijacked my brain. I complained, but ultimately did nothing.

I realized that I was wasting way too much of my time on the site, but ultimately did very little.

They decided what content I should see. I complained, but ultimately did nothing.

It took the removal of a group of helpful, selfless people brought together by a shared interest for me to finally act.

It shouldn't have taken me this long, but late is better than never. The internet's best features are that it brings people together and that it allows for diverse points of view. If we hand it over to those who want to break people apart and heavily control the discourse, then what is it good for?

(A side note on the comments - yes, i know that you can't comment on this blog without a Facebook account. I'll fix that. In the meantime, there's Twitter and e-mail...)