On October 21st, 2007 — six years ago today — a snot-nosed MMA blog called CagePotato.com took its first breath, and for the most part, nobody gave a damn. The entire writing staff for the site’s launch consisted of one person, a young magazine-industry refugee named Ben Goldstein (that’s me). My professional credentials consisted of the following: I was a casual fan of the UFC, I had been laid off from a lad-mag called Stuff a couple months earlier, and I needed a job. Any job, really. So, when a friend of a friend named Jonathan Small* called me one day and said he was looking for some warm bodies to launch a few dude-oriented websites for Break Media (now Defy Media), I jumped at the chance. After all, the rent was due.
Though many long-time fans of CagePotato know the site’s history in its broad strokes, few know the details behind its launch. I was hesitant to talk about my personal background in the early days of the site’s existence, because I didn’t want to be exposed as a MMA noob, which I totally was**. Before CagePotato launched in 2007, I hadn’t written a single thing about MMA, and I had never managed a website. I had interviewed actresses and reviewed books, done features about hurricanes and porn stars, but the world of MMA blogging was completely foreign to me. Still, I enjoyed the sport, recognized that it was growing in popularity, and figured I had learned enough about short-form entertainment writing from five years of magazine gigs to make a snarky blog about MMA a modest success. Incredibly, I was right.
The first post I ever published was this Aftermath-type recap of UFC 77, the event where Anderson Silva TKO’d Rich Franklin for the second time, and Tim Sylvia picked up his final win in the UFC. At that point, most of what I knew about MMA came from Wikipedia, but the basic ball-busting tone of CagePotato was present from the beginning. An excerpt:
“…Sylvia did nothing to change his image as a boring fighter who relies on his size to win matches. But you gotta feel for the dude; it can’t be fun to get booed at weigh-ins, and to have Brandon Vera explain to the crowd after the fight, “he’s a nice guy once you get to know him.” Vera, it should be said, didn’t look too impressive against the Maine-iac, was responsible for most of the clinching that made the fight so dull, and should probably give up the ice cream and drop down to light heavyweight.
The middleweight championship bout between Franklin and Silva was a lot more action-packed, but ended much the same way as their first meeting, with Franklin eating knees until he hit the mat and the fight was stopped (this time at 1:07 into the second round). Franklin looked outmatched from the start, and was nearly knocked out by a punch at the end of the first round but was saved by the bell before Silva could take full advantage; as soon as Franklin started stumbling to the wrong corner, it was obvious that this one would be over soon. In fact, Franklin was so dazed after the fight that a member of his team had to remind him to wish his wife Beth a happy birthday during the post-mortem with Joe Rogan. She turned 30, by the way, and I’m sure it was the best birthday ever.”
I published three other articles that first day: A throwaway calendar post about other (mostly) MMA-related events taking place that week, a post about Tito Ortiz’s upcoming appearance on Celebrity Apprentice (in which I made CP’s first-ever “Tito Ortiz has a large head” joke), and a story about Brock Lesnar signing with the UFC. (“Stay tuned for the details of EliteXC’s imminent signing of “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and Superfly Snuka.”)
That evening, I left my office (i.e., the desk I had in the tiny Lower East Side apartment I shared with my then-girlfriend, who’s now my wife) and attended a press conference at the Ecko headquarters in which Fedor Emelianenko announced his signing with M-1 Global. I don’t think I spoke to a single person except for the guy who was serving drinks at the makeshift bar, but I felt like I was on my way to taking the MMA media world by storm. I mean, shit, here I was among people who actually covered the sport (including Ben Fowlkes and Jim Genia), and I was blending in. Nobody shouted “NOOB!” and threw me out a window. MMA was in its infancy, crazy shit was happening every single day, and this was going to be my life.
Things change, as they always do. Eventually, I realized that publishing whatever I felt like publishing and being an “MMA insider” were mutually exclusive propositions. CagePotato was banned as a UFC media presence, and the crazy shit that used to happen every day now happens far less frequently. But I still show up to work every day because I love this job, and because we still put out content that I’m proud of. After six years, the site has built its own mythology, its own vocabulary, its own history with various sub-eras, some more successful than others. The only constants have been me and you.
So happy sixth anniversary to us, and thanks to all of you who continue to read what we write. If you have any fond memories of CagePotato you’d like to share today, please do so in the comments section.
* The name “CagePotato” can be credited to Jonathan Small, who was Break Media’s editorial director at the time. I was pushing for “MMA-Hole,” but Jon insisted on the “couch potato” pun. I didn’t really like it at first, but it’s sort of grown on me, I guess.
** During my first week on the job, I emailed a UFC PR employee asking who the best contact would be for PRIDE-related interview requests. PRIDE, of course, had been dead since its purchase by Zuffa seven months earlier. A real fan would have known that bit of information; I guess I had missed that line on PRIDE’s Wikipedia page. Oh, and here’s another good story…
Early into CP’s existence, a UFC PR flack emailed me offering a few minutes on the phone with Dana White, who was doing the media rounds to promote the gigantic ‘Octagon’ coffee-table book. I said I’d love to talk to Mr. White, and asked the publicist when he’d be available, and should I call him or would he rather call me, etc., all the usual logistical questions I had learned from my magazine days. The PR flack never responded. A few hours later, I’m walking down the street to get a sandwich from my corner deli, and my phone started ringing, with a Las Vegas number popping up in the screen. I didn’t answer, partly because I didn’t have my tape-recorder on me to do an interview on the spot, and partly because I thought it was kind of unprofessional for an interview subject to just call you when a time hasn’t been confirmed. I mean, do they expect you to just wait by the phone? That’s not how it works, dude. My time is valuable too, you know. So I got home, and listened to a voicemail from Dana White himself, who mumbled something about the Octagon book and an interview. I called the number back and got voicemail. “Ah well,” I thought. “I’m sure he’ll call me back eventually.” And he did — three years later, when he was threatening to fuck me up.
I really should have kept that voicemail.