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Ten Unrelated Thoughts About Running a Mid-Level MMA Blog — A Goodbye Letter From BG

(Author’s note: Please listen to this song while reading the column below. When it ends, listen to it again.)

By Ben Goldstein

1. I was 26, I had just gotten fired for the first time, and I was scared about making rent in New York without a job. A guy I sort of knew hired me to launch a blog about MMA for a media company based in Los Angeles. It was more money that I was making as a low-level editor for a low-level men’s magazine, and I could do it from home. Seemed like a better plan than unemployment.

2. My God, that was over seven years ago. George W. Bush was president. MMA was “the world’s fastest growing sport.” Everything seemed possible.

3. Running CagePotato was the greatest job I ever had because I could write what I wanted without being edited or censored. Developing a roster of like-minded outlaw-writers was a blast (see list of thank-yous, below), and the job helped me discover talents I didn’t even know I possessed. Plus, working from home meant I never had to use an office bathroom stall next to a co-worker after lunch. Some of you don’t understand what a luxury that is.

4. Running CagePotato was the hardest job I ever had because it was the first time I had genuine responsibility in my professional life. I was judged for my site’s performance, and people depended on me showing up every day. Sometimes, I got yelled at.

5. There was the time the New Yorker mentioned us, and the time our name showed up on Lights Out, and the time we were threatened with legal action over a photo caption, and every time something like that happened, I realized that people were paying attention. It’s an incredible feeling, and it never got old.

6. Speaking of photo captions, I’ll miss writing photo captions.

7. Of course, the CP experiences I’ll remember the most are the ones in which I actually left my desk: Invading the UFC Fan Expo in Boston with ReX13 and Viva Hate, where we shut down an entire corridor of the convention hall with our punch machine. (Thanks Pat! Thanks Bruce!) Partying in Toronto with Mike Russell and Brian D’Souza and Bern and Stefan and AgentSmith and everyone else. Road-tripping to a Bellator show in Mount Pleasant with Jason Moles. Watching Fedor knock Brett Rogers’s head off from press row, and trying to stay professional about it, while inside my head I was like HELL YEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! Even the times I just took the subway somewhere else in Manhattan to interview Urijah Faber or Carlos Condit or Randy Couture. Those were good days.

8. My departure from CagePotato concludes the most important stretch of my adult life so far, and I haven’t finished processing my emotions about it, which are intense and conflicting. I’m sad to leave my own creation, I’m scared about the uncertainty of my future, and I’m completely thrilled to take a break from caring about MMA, at least temporarily. More than anything, I’m thankful I had the chance to do something that mattered to people. And I’m thankful to have covered the sport during 2008-2009, when MMA was at its peak level of excitement and insanity, before it all started to fall apart.

9. CagePotato wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I like to think its existence was necessary. I launched the site with the goal of creating the most entertaining MMA site on the Internet. Along the way, the goal evolved into something much greater — truth-telling, exposing bullshit in all corners of the industry, saying what others couldn’t get away with saying. Whatever happens to the site, please don’t let this spirit die out. Pick up the mantle, continue the fight without me.

10. Everyone who ever wrote for CagePotato — or who even read the site on a regular basis — deserves my sincere gratitude. But of course, there are a few people who are worthy of additional thanks. Here they are, loosely arranged in chronological order…

Jonathan Small, who hired me in October 2007 and came up with the name CagePotato. (I’m still on the fence about it, but I guess it’ll work for now.)

Keith Richman, who allowed Jonathan Small to hire me, and supported CagePotato’s existence for over seven years. I owe you one, Keith.

My wife Rachel, who allowed me to work out of the bedroom in our first apartment, and the kitchen in our next apartment, and the space between the dining room and the living room in our next apartment, and in what would have been a nice guest bedroom in the house that we live in now, and who has been admirably patient with a husband who is always at home and rarely in presentable condition before noon. When I started writing this farewell column, I went into my Gmail and tried to find the earliest references to CagePotato, but I got distracted reading through my wife and I’s old email exchanges from like 2007-2008. Just a couple of shmoopy twenty-somethings in looooooove. We weren’t married yet, and this thing was our greatest joint responsibility. What a time to be alive. Reading our old emails was the most enjoyable part of putting this all together. Rachel, I just fucking love you to death. None of this works without you.

Ben Fowlkes: The best sparring partner a writer could have. Everything that happened on CagePotato pre-BF was just prologue. The official launch of the site, in my eyes, happened when Fowlkes came on as a staff writer in May 2008, and started putting out work that was just as madcap as the posts I’d been writing, but much more polished and thoughtful. His success in this industry was inevitable, and I’m so grateful for the two years he spent on CP. There’s no way the site would have caught on in those early days if not for Ben Fowlkes. He set a bar that every CagePotato writer who followed him aspired to reach. And then when he left, CagePotato sucked, and nobody even went there anymore. The end.

Doug “ReX13” Richardson: Defender of the realm. The only CP staff writer immortalized in a video game, and the guy who first suggested that maybe we should cover Bellator once in a while. I remember our first date at that gay barbecue joint like it was yesterday. Love and bro-hugs forever.

Chad Dundas: CP’s first weekend editor and MMA’s most vocal cheating-advocate. A man who really knew how to bury an event, back when a garbage UFC card was actually a rare occurrence. As he wrote in his own farewell, “I think this website fills a valuable niche in our dark little corner of the web. Somebody’s got to point out when the people in this industry say ridiculous shit, wear ridiculous T-shirts and marry ridiculous porn stars. That somebody, as far as I’m concerned is CagePotato and I hope it continues to fill that need long after we’ve all grown up and taken part time jobs at major corporations.”

Mike Russell: The Gusbuster. New Dad. The only one in our crew who knew how to produce a podcast and use Photoshop. My co-pilot during CagePotato’s peak of popularity, in terms of site traffic. I’m sorry things didn’t end well. You deserved better.

Brian J. D’Souza: Having Brian’s writing on the site — not just Shill ‘Em All, but also his great one-off columns like this and this — is probably the closest that CagePotato has come to being a respectable journalistic enterprise, worthy of actual awards.  When I was in Toronto for UFC 129, Brian and I met up for lunch, and he told me something I’ll never forget: “The UFC doesn’t like you because they’re afraid of you.” I’d never thought about it like that. Brian made me realize the power of outsider MMA media, and why outlets like CagePotato can be dangerous forces for good. Giving brilliant, uncompromising writers like Brian an outlet to speak freely means more to me than any other professional accomplishment in my life.

Seth Falvo: The inspirational true story of an American hero who started out as a commenter and became a CagePotato staff writer and master of pro-wrestling analogies. A legitimately talented reporter when he wasn’t bartending.

Chris Colemon: Still my favorite caption in CagePotato history.

Jared Jones: The Prince of Darkness. My evil henchman. An unreliable screw-up (and possible Satanist?), and yet he was the only person I trusted to keep an eye on the site when I was on vacation. Probably the funniest writer CP has ever had, in terms of LOLs-per-paragraph, and certainly the best at expressing the crushing absurdity of our collective situation. You haven’t seen the last of our professional relationship. Jared and I plan to start a band together in the spring.

Matt Saccaro: In all my rapturous praise of this man I forgot to mention how much I loved the first FoodPotato column and his hilarious Martial Arts Fail of the Week series. I will take you up on that magic ice cream offer the next time I’m in New York, brother.

Alex Macris: Archon, The Final Boss. The only time we met in person, it was during a week-long blizzard in North Carolina that I think he might have been responsible for, somehow. An enviable mind. Thanks for your encouragement and patience.

That’s all for now, Potato Nation. I wish things had worked out differently in some ways — stories for another day, perhaps — but I’m incredibly proud of what we all accomplished together, and the impact we made in the grimy, insane world of MMA. When all is said and done, I never broke my balls for anyone, and I never subscribed to Fight Pass. I can live with that. It’s been an amazing ride, you guys; time to get on the next one.

Follow Ben on twitter @goldsteinraw.

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