In January Vox Media laid off Bloody Elbow founding editor Nate Wilcox on fifteen minutes notice. The editorial team was stunned and had no idea what this meant for the future of the site.
After a week of radio silence, we were all given our termination notices. At this point we still weren’t sure what would happen to the site that we had been working on for years; a site that fulfills a solitary and crucial role in the combat sports media landscape.
There were times that we thought the lights would simply be shut off and that we would all have to go our separate ways. Though, despite how down we got about that prospect, ‘Kid Nate’ told us to hold out hope.
And, to our surprise, Vox proved he was right to be so hopeful. Soon after they made the decision to get out of the Bloody Elbow business, Vox informed Wilcox that they wanted to keep the site alive and allow the community to thrive (just somewhere else).
This meant that they were letting Wilcox acquire the site from them so he could run it as an independent enterprise. In response Wilcox set up BE Publishing LLC and made the deal with Vox to purchase BE (for a very reasonable price) along with all it’s associated social media accounts. It should be noted that, in doing this, Vox turned down at least one offer from a third party to purchase BE (a very third party we’re sure would have taken great pleasure in gutting us).
Once it was clear that Vox would support BE’s drive to independence, Nate realized this was going to take a lot of work. And that we were going to need a lot of help.
At BE we pride ourselves on being able to cover MMA and other combat sports like no one else can. But web developers we are not.
Nate put out a public call for help and, among an army of bot responses, a few individuals revealed themselves who would later form the team that would craft the new Bloody Elbow and enable the migration of our entire archive from our past home.
It’s not hyperbole to state that these individuals both saved BE from losing an integral part of the site’s history and ensured we didn’t spend weeks or possibly months offline (which could have been a death sentence).
What makes what happened here special is not just that these individuals are so good at what they do, but that their motivation was to save the site they loved. ‘The Tech Team’, as we’ve dubbed them, are Bloody Elbow readers and community members who reached out to Nate and said they wanted to help.
The Bloody Elbow Tech Team:
- Jonathan Chan, solution architect and lead developer
- Casey Cannon, project manager and QA
- Tim Lee, designer and front-end coder
- Terence Pek and Jonathan Teo, back-end developers
- Freddy Damani, SEO consultant, WordPress/Gutenburg training and content compliance.
- Kris Guzman, support engineer
Each of them, other than Teo who was roped in by Pek, saw the news that their favourite site was under threat and were immediately convinced that they wanted to save it.
“Bloody Elbow has been my MMA home base for more than 10 years,” said Jonathan Chan, managing partner of Lexikeet Learning LLC which is based in New York .”I love its pioneering and raw journalistic spirit, as well as its past and present contributors’ drive to report on what matters to them most, while still doing justice to the mainstream topics that drive clicks and prestige.
“When I first heard that Bloody Elbow was being released from Vox (and potentially shut down), I was incredibly bummed. I considered it the possible end to my combat sports fandom, given the industry’s already slow descent into over saturated parity and madness (Power Slap, anyone?). The moment I saw Kid Nate’s post requesting assistance, I immediately enlisted. The opportunity to put my completely unrelated professional experience and skills to use to ensure that the new Bloody Elbow hit the ground running was an absolute no-brainer.”
While I think I always appreciated it, hearing that something I cherished may no longer be available made me reflect on just how different my mindset regarding the world of MMA would be were it not for the often thankless toiling that the crew at BE went through over the yearsCasey Cannon
Cannon, a New York-based project manager for a regional not-for-profit Health Information Exchange, had also been reading Bloody Elbow for around a decade.
“While I think I always appreciated it, hearing that something I cherished may no longer be available made me reflect on just how different my mindset regarding the world of MMA would be were it not for the often thankless toiling that the crew at BE went through over the years,” he said. “The site’s closure was initially the final nail in the coffin for my MMA fandom, and I didn’t mind the idea of leaving the sport behind.”
“Then a few days later BE got back on their feet and announced they weren’t done fighting yet,” continued Cannon. “The intent was to build a new independent platform, and they happened to be looking for project management support to make that happen. I figured I could probably only help in a small way, not having worked on this type of industry before, but if there was anything I could do I felt compelled to. BE doesn’t just serve content that I enjoy: it reports on critical industry topics that see almost no attention, such as the egregiously low revenue share that fighters receive – something that BE applied hard numbers to.”
“To hear about its imminent fate is soul-crushing to say the least and as a fan I would love to help out whichever way I can. So when Nate was looking for help putting together the new site I reached out to him and next thing I know I’m part of the ensemble.“
“I have been reading BE daily for over ten years to the point where it becomes second nature,” said Lee, who works as a UI/UX designer for a subsidiary of one of the major automotive companies in Tokyo, Japan. “To hear about its imminent fate is soul-crushing to say the least and as a fan I would love to help out whichever way I can. So when Nate was looking for help putting together the new site I reached out to him and next thing I know I’m part of the ensemble.”
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Pek is a full-stack web developer and an adjunct lecturer who teaches games and web development in Singapore. He enlisted his former student Teo, who wasn’t familiar with BE, to help him save a blog he’d been reading since 2012.
“I loved Jack Slack’s breakdown articles, and followed him here,” said Pek. “I never left (despite disagreeing with some of their opinion pieces) because I could not find another site that was as concise and informative as theirs. My reason for volunteering my services is less than noble — BE is a site that has enormous reach, so I just wanted to put my stake in the pie, y’know? It is not everyday that you get to work on a website with half a million views daily.”
“I was taking a month-long holiday across Europe when the opportunity popped up, so I did not think that I could handle the project alone. Hence, I roped Jonathan in to help me. We were (and still are) already working on a few projects together, so I trusted his skill and reliability.”
Damani, who owns a communications agency in Edmonton, AB, Canada and has worked for some of Canada’s largest health, medical and research organizations, has been reading BE since 2007.
“It’s been an integral part of my MMA fandom, and checking the website has become part of my daily routine,” he said. “I love the community, and the fact that there is a focus on long form articles that cover aspects of MMA that most others don’t. When I found out that the BE website was in danger of closing down (and read Nate’s post seeking help, I immediately reached out. I knew that I could help in some way. and I thought it was very important to keep such a unique publication, and MMA community, alive.”
“Once I realized I’d need to start robbing liquor stores in order to afford UFC pay-per-views, Bloody Elbow became my only window into the MMA world. When Nate posted a request for development help, it was truly a no brainer to see if I could contribute. Hell, it was practically obligatory.”
Guzman, a full stack designer/developer based in Connecticut, has also been reading BE for at least a decade. “Once I realized I’d need to start robbing liquor stores in order to afford UFC pay-per-views, Bloody Elbow became my only window into the MMA world,” he said. “When Nate posted a request for development help, it was truly a no brainer to see if I could contribute. Hell, it was practically obligatory.”
Wilcox was awed by the tech team’s responses and their willingness to work on the ‘New Bloody Elbow’ project.
“This might be the most humbling part of the whole New Bloody Elbow experience,” said Wilcox. “From the time my managing editor Anton Tabuena, who has been instrumental in the new site’s design, suggested we put a call out to the BE community for tech help it’s been quite a trip.”
“But watching them, strangers all when this started, coalesce into a truly amazing tech team that’s been hitting its marks every single day, working together smoothly with no egos or bullshit and pulling this off has been one of the most amazing and gratifying experiences of my life.“Nate Wilcox
“First I was blown away by the skills and resumes of Jonathan, Tim, Kris, Terence, Casey and Freddy, their passion for Bloody Elbow and willingness to help,” he added.
“But watching them, strangers all when this started, coalesce into a truly amazing tech team that’s been hitting its marks every single day, working together smoothly with no egos or bullshit and pulling this off has been one of the most amazing and gratifying experiences of my life.
“The strength and commitment of the Bloody Elbow community is an awesome thing.”
“Adversity brings out the best in people when the cause is just, and it has been a privilege to witness this firsthand as the Bloody Elbow community has risen to the occasion,” said Chan when asked about his experience working on the project.
“The Bloody Elbow writing and editorial staff has had to take on a lot of extra work while tackling a mountainous learning curve on top of their regular duties. Every member of the small but highly skilled design and technical team is a die-hard combat sports as well as Bloody Elbow fan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team jell and execute so quickly, with no egos in the way.
“We’re just a group dedicated to make the new site the best it can be in true collaborative fashion, so that all of us can continue reading and participating in the Bloody Elbow community. The community itself has pounced on the opportunity to support the survival of Bloody Elbow through generous donations and Substack subscriptions. Last but certainly not least, I can confirm that nobody works harder on behalf of Bloody Elbow, its staff, and its community, than Nate Wilcox.
“The number and caliber of people, including seasoned MMA voices who have long moved to other outlets, who have jumped in to assist with no hesitation is a testament to Nate’s integrity, loyalty, and longtime dedication to an industry that has not always loved him back.”
“A project with such a short timeline was always going to be challenging, but I was blown away by how readily everyone involved, both BE staff and the fans who were jumping in to support the project, hit the floor running and at full speed,” added Cannon.
“We had people across four continents, many different time zones and walks of life, all coming together quickly and enthusiastically, and looking for ways to help one another. It was inspiring and a testament to the sort of community that the BE vision fostered, and it quickly reinforced my desire to keep it going and set it up to grow. It has even rekindled the allure of MMA for me; despite all its flaws, mixed martial arts still has the potential to be beautiful art when the right people are involved and the perspectives are thoughtful.”
“One word to sum it all up: incredible,” said Lee when discussing how it’s been working on the project. “To work with talented individuals is one thing, but to have everyone share common grounds in an endeavor (no pun intended) on a personal level is unique. As a collective we want BE the site — the brand to become bigger than it already is, so what better way than to challenge the status quo and prove to everyone that we can thrive despite the circumstance.”
“Best experience ever,” said Pek. “My web development practice is small, so I often do everything in the pipeline; sales, management, purchasing, planning, design, coding, and much more. Having the support of an assembled team here means that I could focus on my first love, which is coding. So the whole process didn’t feel like work at all.”
“It’s been truly amazing to see so many people, spread out across the world, come together to save the website. The fact that we’ve been able to coordinate and execute with such a short timeline has been nothing short of phenomenal.”Freddy Damani
“The project has been excellent,” offered Damani. “It’s been truly amazing to see so many people, spread out across the world, come together to save the website. The fact that we’ve been able to coordinate and execute with such a short timeline has been nothing short of phenomenal.”
“I’ve worked with several great teams throughout my career, but this is the first time I’ve had the privilege to work with a team that has an intense, unified passion for the job at hand,” said Guzman.
“This is a team of long time BE readers who are dedicating time outside their day jobs and families to work on something bigger than each of us. The biggest challenge with a project like this is executing at a high level under such a short timeline when stakes are (very) high. But what started as the biggest challenge also became the biggest surprise. The quality and rate of output of this team has been extraordinarily high, and it has been a pleasure to have some part in it all.”
As for the future of BE, the tech team is unified in hoping for a smooth transition to the new site, which has been dubbed Bloody Elbow version 1.6. The team, and Wilcox, are also excited to work on a longer term project: Bloody Elbow version 2.0, which is slated for 2024.
“My hope is that now that the corporate limiters are off, we can elevate BE’s unique community with disruptive technical innovations that will force the industry to take notice and adapt for the better.”Jonathan Chan
“I believe Bloody Elbow’s independence will prove to be a blessing in disguise, and I could not be more excited to see it evolve into its ultimate form,” said Chan. “My hope is that now that the corporate limiters are off, we can elevate BE’s unique community with disruptive technical innovations that will force the industry to take notice and adapt for the better.”
Lee said he hopes, “BE can remain true to independent, investigative, and uncompromising journalism and that it will one day expand its reach above and beyond the combat sports genre.”
In addition to hoping his hard work on the new BE leads to more business at terresquall.com, Pek said he wants to continue helping out BE as we transition to our final form.
“For further down the line, I’ve already told Kid Nate that I’d be velcro-ing myself to BE. So if he doesn’t think that I’m too much of a suck up, I foresee a bright future for myself.”
“I’m excited to see BE turn into an MMA and Combat Sports publication powerhouse,” said Damani. “Of course, I’d also love to see the further development of BE’s content operations, so that it turns into a best-in-class example of how to produce great content, at-scale, while integrating fan and athlete generated content.”
“I want BE to become one of the largest, most profitable independent sports publications on the web,” said Guzman, “Just three weeks ago none of us knew each other existed, yet the team was able to build a better BE based on sheer passion and will. Nate and the editors have been nothing but supportive throughout the process, putting their livelihoods in the hands of strangers. I hope all those involved in bringing the new BE to life reap the rewards of their efforts down the line.”
“In general, I hope BE continues to provide underrepresented coverage of the interests and stories of the fighters, along with the well being of the competitors and the communities impacted by it,” said Cannon. “But most importantly, as the project manager for this effort I just hope the new site doesn’t explode!”
If you’re reading this then at least one of Cannon’s wishes has come true.
The tech team may have literally build this place, but in a wider sense, all of Bloody Elbow’s readers can stake a claim in what has happened here. Even without a billion dollar company backing us, we’re still here, producing content that entertains and informs. A lot of that was only made possible by the consistent support for our brand of combat sports journalism.
Thanks for sticking with us. We won’t let you down.
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