And away we go ...
I am an anxious person.
Truth be told, I’ve been anxious for as long as I can remember.
I remember sitting in the corner with my eyes closed during my first day of Pre-K, terrified to interact with anyone.
In tenth grade, I changed schools 3 times in two weeks (long story).
In college, I used to wait until around 2-3 a.m., until I didn’t hear anyone walking the hallways of my dorm, just to go brush my teeth because I didn’t want to interact with anyone.
When I tell people this, they often follow up with, So, why did you get into media?
Seems like the last place an anxious person would want to be, right?
Well, luckily for me, I’ve never been anxious in front of a mic. In fact, I have often felt like a different person on air. Empowered. Strong. Confident. Sure of myself.
I’m not sure why I feel that way on air and don’t necessarily feel that way off air, but I’m glad with the arrangement. I’d much prefer this than the opposite way.
So, why am I telling you this now? Well, because while I have always felt comfortable in front of a mic or camera, I have never quite felt that way about writing.
Over the course of my career, I felt like writing was the weakest part of my journalism game. It just always scared me. There are so many great writers in MMA, you know the names: Chuck Mindenhall, Ben Fowlkes, Shaheen Al-Shatti, Marc Raimondi and Kevin Iole, to name a few. I am constantly in awe of their work and have never believed I could hold a candle to them.
I’ve never disliked writing. I have a great appreciation and respect for it. I just never thought I was particularly good at it, and that always gave me anxiety.
But a funny thing happened over the last couple years. I started working with an editor at ESPN.com named Roman Modrowski, who gave me a lot of confidence when it came to my writing. Slowly but surely, he — along with others — made me believe that I actually wasn’t as bad at this as I thought.
That said, when I was trying to decide what I’ll do next, you know, in my post-ESPN life, writing wasn’t initially a huge part of my plans. In fact, I was actually kinda relishing the idea of taking a break from writing. You know, anxiety and all.
That is until I met Dan Stone at Substack. Once I learned what this place was all about and once I realized the freedom and autonomy I would have on this little corner of the web, I was all in.
Ultimately, that was key for me in deciding what I’d be doing next. Most important was being happy. No doubt about that. Then, it was freedom and lack of censorship.
Freedom to cover whatever I want. Freedom to not worry about being censored.
Substack offers me all of that.
I view this next chapter of my work life as a puzzle. There’s a little piece of me here and there. But this, my Substack, is sort of like home base. This is the only place where you’ll find my writing — whether it be breaking news stories or columns or quick hitters on things going on in fighting or mini voice notes or discussion threads — and it will also serve as aggregation of sorts of all the other things I’m doing.
I also hope it will serve as a positive community to talk about fights. Because, let’s be honest, social media can be a bit of a cesspool these days. Not much happiness over there!
It’s independent. It’s unfiltered. It’s good vibes. It’s just me and you.
And that’s really important to me because I have always said that I believe, at the end of the day, I work for the fans. You guys accepted me when I was a very shy and raw kid just starting out over 13 years ago and you’ve had my back every step of the way, especially during the whole banning incident of 2016. After that, I promised myself that I will always stay true to the fans because you guys saved my career, as far as I am concerned.
And I hope you’ve felt like I’ve kept my promise over the past five years.
So, when I was weighing my next move(s) I also kept thinking to myself, What would the fans want from me?
Well, when it comes to writing, I think this is the kind of work you want from me, and I can’t wait to get started.
Some of the work will be free, others will be offered behind a paywall of either $5 dollars a month or $50 dollars a year. By the way, all proceeds from your subscriptions in year one will be donated to Colorectal Cancer Canada, which is a charity run by my father-in-law for a cause near and dear to my family’s heart.
What do you get if you’re a founding member? Well, I’ll be doing super secret/super fun zoom chats for founding members only four times a year. More on that later.
Thank you to all who have signed up so far. Thanks to all who plan on doing so, and, once again, thank you for all the support over the years. Without you guys, I am just an anxious kid from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, with a dream never realized. I truly believe that.
Each and every one of you gave me the confidence — and the life — to turn that dream into a reality.
And in the words of the great Bob Marley, these days, it truly feels like my richness is life.
Let’s do this.
PS. Thank you to the great Ted Park for the new logos. What a legend.
Thanks Ariel for helping to make a difference both in encouraging people in the art of writing by doing things they may be a little uncomfortable with.That includes colorectal cancer prevention and screening and your support of Colorectal Cancer Canada and our international work in colorectal cancer awareness, education,support and advocacy.
Hope you enjoyed your well deserved break! Looking forward to you saying, “back in your lives” in less than a week. I hope you really enjoy your new found freedom and know that we appreciate you!