Josh Samman, as remembered by the Bloody Elbow staff

On October 5th, 2016, UFC middleweight Josh Samman passed away at a Florida hospital, days after he was placed in a coma after he…

By: Mookie Alexander | 7 years ago
Josh Samman, as remembered by the Bloody Elbow staff
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

On October 5th, 2016, UFC middleweight Josh Samman passed away at a Florida hospital, days after he was placed in a coma after he was found unresponsive in his apartment. Samman was just 28 years old.

Samman was not just a talented mixed martial artist, he was a phenomenally talented writer. In March 2015, he joined the Bloody Elbow staff as a feature columnist. His name is on the website’s masthead as an author. Over the next several days, we will be re-featuring several of Samman’s articles on the front page, and also showcase his fanposts from when he first joined Bloody Elbow back in 2010.

Today, the Bloody Elbow team shares its fondest memories and interactions with Josh Samman, including how much he meant to all of us as a fighter, a writer, a friend, and as a person.

Nate Wilcox (Bloody Elbow co-founder): (In the audio player below, you can listen to Nate’s thoughts on Josh Samman in his interview on The Luke Thomas Show)

Zane Simon: I don’t remember the first time I got to talk with Josh. It was probably on one of his infrequent guest spots for our UFC breakdown shows, not the kind of thing that stands out especially in my memory. But, I remember the last time I got to talk with him, face to face – or as near as you can get with an entire country between you. He sat down with me in early August, not much more than a month before word broke that he’d been found in a coma. Not much more than a month before he passed away. I wanted to talk about Combat Nights, which of course meant we spent a lot of time talking about him. We talked about how things were going right now. What it was like not just to fight, but to run your own show. We talked about how losing had set him back, and about his plans for the future. It was clear that Josh had plans for the future.

Josh was dedicated to the sport of MMA, to growing it, to improving it. He wanted to give fighters a place to improve and challenge themselves, to work transition from an amateur career to being a professional. To give them the kind of platform he missed working through the regional Florida MMA scene in the mid-2000s. Talking with him, it was clear that being someone that people could turn to, that people could rely on meant a lot to him. He was someone who made it a priority to be there for others. It’s something that bled through into his written work as well. He was a remarkably introspective writer, opening doors to his life and to his mind for others to look through. He gave his personal life to people who would never know him personally. Considering his struggles, his inner demons, that was an unbelievable gift.

I only got a few chances to work with Josh over his time here. But since our last conversation I’d begun to realize what a mistake that was. Here was someone who not only had a great deal of knowledge and experience to give, but was there to listen and take in whatever you had in return. I’d barely scratched the surface of that relationship, and I can’t help but regret it entirely now.

Connor Ruebusch: Though Josh and I didn’t communicate frequently, I felt like we were friends. I scouted his last three opponents for him, and had a few long talks on the phone about strategy and preparation. He was a smart guy, but he tempered that intelligence with open-mindedness. He was more than open to advice from someone whose only real qualification was a lot of time spent watching fights. I remember, the night before his last fight, he told me to yell at him if he shot for one takedown against Tim Boetsch. It wasn’t part of the gameplan. Sure enough, he shot for that damn takedown 15 seconds into the fight. It was a frustrating loss for him, but I think there’s something admirable in the way he fought. Josh never backed down from a challenge, and no amount of smart gameplanning could convince him, in the moment, that he couldn’t drag this big barbarian to the ground. It didn’t work out, but that’s fighting, and Josh was a fighter.

One of my fondest memories of Josh comes from the first time I ever met him. We–Josh, Dallas Winston, and I–were reviewing the first meeting between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler and trying to re-score the bout on a second viewing. Discussion of the pivotal fifth round quickly turned into an argument. How should takedowns be scored? I remember Dallas saying that takedowns don’t really do damage, and I disagreed. Much to my glee, Josh sided with me. I was a little starstruck; I went overboard.

What followed was an utterly pointless argument between Dallas and myself. I inadvertently hit Dallas with a subtle “do you even trane, bro?” and he hit me back with a well-deserved accusation of meat-headedness. I remember it fondly both because we all laughed about it afterward, but also because Josh, who had gladly participated in the argument when it first began, quickly tried to back out and calm things down. He was so obviously uncomfortable, but we were clueless at the time, too determined to win the silly squabble for . . . I don’t know, internet bragging rights? And Josh did his best to ease the tension with a few winning smiles and lighthearted remarks.

That he didn’t immediately drop out of that video call says a lot. The fact that Josh, a professional fighter with an impressive UFC win under his belt, deigned to talk shop with two online MMA geeks was proof of his character. He was humble and more than willing to hear anybody out, be they fighters, fans, or–worse–members of the MMA media. Not long after that he began contributing some of his own writing to the site, and that was special. He was a talented, introspective writer, with a gift for making the innermost workings of a fighter’s mind known to whoever cared to read, or listen.

He will be missed. He is.

T.P. Grant: I remember Josh Samman as a member of the the Bloody Elbow community. He was a commentator who put his regional fights in the FanPosts and turned into a talented writer with insightful, well thought out pieces. Josh was always willing to chat, always wanted to hear feedback on his work. He was a genuinely good person in a sport where that isn’t required or necessarily even encouraged. Josh’s life seemed to be one struggle after another. His rise to the UFC was nothing short of inspiring. I was never more excited for any fighter than when he came back to knock out Eddie Gordon. It was his moment of triumph, his moment of defiance against the all of his adversity and demons. It will forever be the moment I remember when I hear the name Josh Samman.

He will be missed.

Tim Bissell: I didn’t know Josh like some people here did. We exchanged a few brief messages, but nothing notable. He was kind. I was familiar with his work, though. A lot of which I revisited after his passing. It’s brave. It’s smart, it’s revealing and informative, it’s enjoyable, and it has a great style to it. His ‘Last Ride’ piece on taking his dog to get put down had me in tears, full legit tears yesterday. Everything I hear about him tells me he was a fantastic person to spend time with and to work with. Considering how much pain Josh had in his life, it really says a lot that he was able to leave people with so many positive opinions and memories of him.

I wish I’d gotten to know him better, but not as much as I just wish life had worked out a lot different for him. His presence and potential will be missed in the sport and the media, but that’s nothing compared to how much he’ll be missed by his family, his friends, and those here who were able to make a real connection with him. To those who knew him well, my thoughts are with you.

Stephie Haynes: Josh and I became good friends via social media and our many phone calls, texts, emails and interviews over the last three or four years. He was always available for whatever interview requests or projects I might have going on, all the way down to my “Cooking with Fighters” segments and “Fighters Predict UFC Events” specials. He was a generous person with whatever he had to offer, be it his advice, his time or the kind, encouraging words he frequently gave, unsolicited and seemingly out of nowhere; words that let you know he was definitely paying attention.

He was frequently there when I needed a pick-me-up, and would often see me post about something that frustrated or upset me, immediately following up with a text, tweet or Facebook post meant to console or empathize with me. He knew I was a fan of his music (the man had great, untapped singing talent), and left me videos of him playing his guitar and singing his latest cover tune.

I could go on and on, but I already know my stories aren’t that unique, because Josh was an incredible human being, and he treated everyone like they were the most special person on earth. It’s a rare quality, and not one I’ve seen in many people. I’ll miss Josh terribly, not because he was the greatest fighter, promoter or writer (for the record, he was marvelous at all those things). I’ll miss him terribly because he was the greatest at making everyone feel like they were important and a cherished friend. He made us all feel like we were great, too. RIP, brother. You’ll be missed by so many with stories just like mine.

Mookie Alexander: For our newer readers, Josh Samman has been a Bloody Elbow community member since August 2010. This was a solid 3 years before he ever made it to TUF and eventually got his UFC contract. In effect, the BE community was able to follow Samman’s pre-UFC career through his writing and through video footage of his fights. He was the Double Punch Guy and the community took to him so quickly, which really tells you everything you need to know. At the time, he wasn’t a staff writer, so everything was done in the fanposts section, and it was always received extremely well. You would be hard-pressed to find an instance where a commenter acted out of line when it came to interacting with Josh (and vice-versa), and that’s something that spanned 6 years, and it cannot be stressed enough what a beloved figure he was.

As a fighter, you couldn’t help but root for him. The Double Punch had me hooked from the start (even if, as I recall, Dana White wasn’t a fan of it), and I was so excited to see him use it on TUF. In the UFC, his KO of Eddie Gordon is one of my favorite finishes ever.

As a writer, he was outstanding and hugely inspirational. He was thought-provoking with his opinion pieces, his fight predictions/breakdowns, snagged several interviews with the likes of Roy Jones Jr, Luke Barnatt, and Jeff Novitzky, and was just so well-read and incredibly intelligent when it came to discussing anything in the fight business. He was must-read (or must-listen) every single time.

What made Samman’s writing so excellent is how well he could paint a picture. Very descriptive, immersive, and really captivated an audience beautifully. You can see it in his early fanposts, his Fight Week chronicles, his autobiography, and it was all fascinating to read.

When he formally joined Bloody Elbow’s staff last year, it was a seamless transition. He was so friendly, joked around plenty, praised and promoted the works of others, he helped us, we helped him, and he was genuinely thrilled to be a part of the team. His contributions and insights as a UFC fighter were invaluable, and his journalism skills were superb. When Josh had content coming out, you knew it was going to be great, whether it was for us, FloCombat, or

I’ve copy-edited several of Samman’s BE features. On Christmas Day last year, I set up part 2 of his terrific Fight Week series for UFC on FOX 17. He’d reached out to me privately about whether it was worth publishing it on Christmas. I can’t remember what I replied back but we’d ultimately agreed to set it up to run on the 26th so that’d would receive more eyeballs. On a more humorous note, he’d made a few typos misspelling Jeff Novitzky’s name in a feature interview. I hadn’t brought up that I’d edited those errors, and he later DMed me on Twitter to say “Thanks for correcting my countless spelling errors of Novitzky’s last name lol.”

Josh was a man whose personal troubles and tragedies were well-documented by himself in his book, but as you’ve seen over the past few days, nobody could say a bad word about him. Whether it’s from us, to other MMA journalists, fans, fighters, you name it, he left a lasting impression on everyone.

I am deeply saddened that we’re here talking about Josh Samman in the past tense. It is heartbreaking that he’s gone from us at such a young age, and he will be missed dearly. My condolences to his family and friends. The world has lost a great human being.

Dayne Fox: Being one of the newer members of the writing staff, I haven’t had much personal interaction with many members of the team. Unfortunately, Josh is one of those whom I have never had personal contact with. Clearly I can’t add a story about him, but I have watched him as a fan and have enjoyed the articles that he wrote on Bloody Elbow and for the UFC. The man was skilled in both fields and it’s a shame that we will no longer be able to enjoy his talents that he loved to share with the world.

Perhaps it isn’t appropriate of me to be writing something for someone I didn’t personally know. However, I do believe I speak for many others who didn’t have one on one contact with him either when I say that Josh did touch our lives in some way. It happens all the time in the sports world. We get to watch these athletes careers unfold before our eyes and in a way, we feel as though we do know them. While Josh didn’t achieve the popularity of a Conor McGregor or Georges St. Pierre, it speaks volumes about how great of a guy he is that so many in the MMA community have stepped forward to declare how he touched their lives and how much they will miss him. I wish I could have gotten to know him, as one can never have too many good people in their life. More than anything though, I pray Josh has found peace and comfort and that his loved ones might find it as well.

Tim Burke: Of course Josh was a great fighter, as that was his chosen profession. Josh was also a great person, as everyone here that has had personal interactions with him can tell you. I echo those statements – even for a guy as busy as he was, he always made me feel like I had his complete, undivided attention whenever I talked to him. That might seem insignificant, but it’s not. It’s a rare quality – one I value in people very much. He really listened. He didn’t just wait for his turn to talk.

More than anything though, I want to talk about his writing.

Right from his very first fanposts on Bloody Elbow a long time ago, he was able to capture my attention with his words. As he worked at his craft, he became even better at painting pictures, eventually getting to the point where he was offering one of the most unique perspectives on fighting that I had ever seen. His “From The Inside” series was truly captivating, and did a little to change me as a writer and as a fan of MMA. His Ode to Nick Diaz really made sense. His fight diary before UFC on Fox 17 gave real insight into fight week through the eyes of a combatant. His final series, and final post for BE, baring his soul and conveying the complexities of defeat – it’s hard to read at times, but it’s unflinchingly real.

His book – it took a truly brave man to write his book. He once said that writing, like fighting, is very public and opens you to scrutiny and criticism. Well, his autobiography was about as open as a person can be. And it’s a credit to Josh and his skills that his story received nothing but praise. As it should have, because it’s one of the few books I’ve ever read that actually made me feel so much.

That ability is clearly something that runs in his family. One of his family members left a very touching comment in our post about his passing, and it personally cut me deep. I just wanted to thank that person for those kind, heartfelt, and encouraging words.

Like everyone here, I’ll miss you Josh. You left a lasting impression on me as a writer and a person. If you could read the comments on our posts, you’d understand that I’m not the only one you did that to. Not even close. My condolences go out to your family, friends, and loved ones.

Phil Mackenzie: Back when I had been working on BE for less than a year, Josh reached out to me on twitter out of the blue, told me how he enjoyed one of my pieces and asked me if I’d like to collaborate on something. As someone without a lot of self-confidence, this was genuinely sort of shocking- what’s the cool guy doing wanting to write something with me? It made my week though. Josh would keep in touch over social media and he’d often have the time for kind words, despite being a pro fighter, a promoter, and a writer and many other things besides. He did so much that you forget how damn young he was. As so many have said, it seems like he made these kind of small but significant connections everywhere he went.

He was infinitely curious about every part of MMA, and life in general. He was interested: in every side of promotion from the mechanics of putting on a show to how TV production works; in the training; in his own unflinching personal trips into the psychology of winning or losing; in the financial and the regulatory side; in people. I’d say that kind of holistic insight is rare but it’s really just unique. One of a kind.

You know he would have changed MMA if he’d stuck with it. Then again, maybe that kind of curiosity was so big that it would’ve drawn him somewhere larger than our small sport. It’s unspeakably sad that we’ll never know where it would have taken him.

Paul Gift: The first time I met Josh in person is what really stands out. UFC Fight Week 2015. The weekend was coming to an end on Sunday but Josh’s work was just getting started as he was fighting Caio Magalhaes in the TUF 21 Finale that night. My wife and I were eating lunch at Grand Wok and in walks Josh.

We’d talked online a bit, but I had to say hello. I walked up, extended my hand, and he looked like he was ready to greet a fan. “Paul Gift” and “Bloody Elbow” came out and his face absolutely lit up. He jumped up, invited my wife over, and just went off about anything and everything other than him getting locked in a cage for war in a few hours. His genuine interest in us, our weekend, me, the BE team we’ve never met before was overwhelmingly apparent. Not one mention of his fight, nerves, needing time to focus, unless I brought it up.

After that, we’d talk on the phone about MMA business and not one time was he unavailable. No matter what the topic, Josh was down, ready to help, anything that could possibly improve the sport in some small way.

I remember not having the best impression of Josh early in his TUF season. All I can say now is thank god for open minds. Turns out Josh was one of the most genuine, caring people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the sport.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Karim Zidan: I never got to meet Josh in person but his personality resonated and radiated through our interactions online. I remember when he reached out to me shortly after I began writing features for BE. He complimented my work and said he looked forward to reading more in the future. I was stunned by how humble he was, how human he was. There was no tone of superiority, no emphasis on his own talents, just a selfless compliment with no purpose other than to please its intended recipient.

To say I was touched would be an understatement.

Just a few months later, Josh got in touch again to talk about longforms. He simply wanted to pick my brain and determine how he could compile his incredible fight stories into a single longform feature. BE had plans to make it happen.

It sadly wasn’t soon enough.

I remember discussing Josh’s heartbreaking memoir when he asked for an Amazon review. It may not have been our final interaction, but it remains my strongest memory: We talked his life and what we shared in common. I told him that he was courageous to produce such a powerful book and was talented enough to make a difference, not through fighting, but through writing. I meant every word. He seemed so appreciative to hear how his life touched my own.

“If you ever need anything at all, please feel free to reach out.” he told me. I know he meant it too.

Even though he likely affected many, many others, the fact that the entire BloodyElbow staff can recall a special relationship with Josh is a testament to the kindhearted, beautiful soul that he truly is.

I am forever inspired by you, Josh. Rest in peace.

John Nash: I used to tell Josh I would be cheering for him to lose. The reasons I gave him were numerous: I hated his youth, resented his talents, despised his good looks, was envious of his abs, and, most importantly, thought it was unfair that he could not only fight but also write better than me. He laughed and told me he fully understood. It was obviously a joke, but one grounded in reality. He really was a more talented writer than me.

I realized this fully when he first shared his autobiography with the staff. As good as fighter as Josh was, and having reached and won three fights in the UFC proves he was in the very upper echelon of the sport, he was even a better writer. To me it seemed obvious his future lied outside the cage. And it would be a bright one.

I communicated with Josh on a semi regular basis, almost always work related. Whenever some big change was unveiled in the sport, be it with sponsors, drug testing or whatever, I would hit him up for his take as a UFC fighter. He was more than happy to share it. When I was working on longer investigative pieces he would help by offering suggestions as to who he thought would be willing to speak to me about the subject. In return he sometimes asked for advice on how to conduct an off the record interview or my opinion on how something, from a legal perspective, would impact the industry. Apparently for the longest time he was under the impression that I was an attorney or a full time professional journalist. Or maybe he knew better and it was his way of pulling my leg? Either way, he always acted as if there was something I could teach him even if that the reverse was probably closer to the truth.

Josh was a person that was proud to be in the UFC and immensely liked the people who worked there. At the same time he was dedicated at being as good as reporter as he could be, one that saw his place as helping grow the sport and inform the fans. It wasn’t a gimmick job he was using to improve his profile in the UFC, it was just as much his profession as that of MMA fighter. When he interviewed Jeff Novitzky, a person Josh particularly liked and respected, he asked me to go over his questions to make sure he didn’t miss anything important. He wanted to be sure he asked the right questions, even if they were tough questions for a high level executive in the promotion he was signed with to answer. This was because he wanted to make sure he was doing his job as a reporter right.

It’s sad looking over our correspondence. Sadder still that the last email I sent him was from the day before he was discovered unconscious and I’ll never be able to see his reply.

Lewis McKeever: I didn’t have the relationship the above BE team members had with Josh, but just one online interaction with him was enough to get a feel for his character and integrity. I reached out to Josh for help with a non-MMA related issue and was shocked to see him reply so soon.

Things didn’t work out, but Josh was willing to help and that gave me an insight into his selfless nature. I believe you can get a feel for a person’s character with even the most brief interaction, and Josh came across as a humble, genuine and honest young man.

Despite my limited interactions with Josh, the news of his passing sent chills down my spine. He was a phenomenal writer and seemed like a genuine, honest and caring person. I’m sure he is at peace with his girlfriend now.

To somewhat rephrase what MMA Fighting’s Chuck Mindenhall said: The world lost a damn good one in Josh Samman.

Nick Baldwin: Josh and I interacted sparingly; I only reached out to him a few times. And after hearing about the news, I instantly regretted not talking to him more than I did. During our interactions — including one interview — however, I felt a connection. Josh treated everyone, including strangers, as his best friend, proven by some of the above stories. Not everyone does. In fact, very few people do. That’s what was so great about Josh. He was so personal. So smart. So kind.

He had so much going on in his life. He fought for the UFC professionally, promoted his own events, recently published his own book, wrote for as well as two other websites. He was a busy man.

Yet he still made time for everyone.

Finally, he was an inspiration for everybody. He’d been through a lot. He toughened it out. He survived the worst. He didn’t give up.

If you’re having a tough time in life, think about Josh Samman. If you’re at the lowest of lows, think about Josh Samman. He made it; so can you. There’s light at the end of every tunnel.

Thank you, Josh. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to talk with me. Thank you for stepping inside the cage for the world’s entertainment. Thank you for writing your memoir. Thank you for your brilliant pieces on BE. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for everything.

Josh truly was one of the good guys in this sport. He will be dearly missed by not just the BE team, but the entire fight community and beyond.

RIP, my friend.

Anton Tabuena: Josh was already commenting and writing fanposts on BloodyElbow since the sites’ early days. A lot has changed since then for everyone in the site, but I am truly glad to be able to witness him grow from that ‘double punch guy’ in the community, to a talented UFC fighter and one of the best writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

I used to interact with him for quite a bit through the years of working together, and while most of it was obviously work or MMA related, he really made quite an impact. Like many of the staff halfway across the globe from me, I never actually met Josh in person, but I still considered him a friend.

I had two running jokes every time I get to interact or talk about Josh. Since he grew out his beard and hair, I tried to crack as many Jesus jokes possible, while also knowing what he thinks about structured religion and the like. I was even pleasantly surprised when I saw one of those lame inside jokes make it to his book, when he sent me an advanced copy for feedback.

He warned me before reading, saying he hoped I wouldn’t judge or change how I viewed him. The effect was actually the complete opposite. It was brutally honest, well written and just heartfelt and emotionally charged. I read a lot, but I have yet to find one novel that makes me feel that emotional and connected to the writer. Instead of ‘judging’, his entire story just added to what I already knew and admired about him.

The second running joke I used to bring up a lot was much like what Nash shared. I kept saying how it’s unfair how he can easily beat up the collective BE staff, but still somehow managed to be a way better writer than I could ever be. I also expressed how I hated that he was a far better singer, writer, promoter, and businessman too.

He was mature and intelligent beyond his years. Apart from all his gifts and talents, like most here have already attested, Josh, more importantly, was a genuinely nice and down to earth human being. He truly inspired me in many ways. That impact and memory, even for someone who wasn’t really ‘close’ in the traditional sense, will last. I honestly still wish I skipped one of those jokes and just said all that directly instead.

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About the author
Mookie Alexander
Mookie Alexander

Mookie is a former Associate Editor for Bloody Elbow, leaving in August 2022 after ten years as a member of the staff. He's still lurking behind the scenes.

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