Since 2009, for lack of a better term, MiddleEasy is the ultimate MMA amalgamation of protoculture. MiddleEasy has been the one of the industry leaders of this multiverse for going on a decade.
Somehow, someway your favorite indie MMA site turned 10 years old on May 2, 2019. That makes MiddleEasy 10 in Big Red Monster years.
Founded by Zeus, MiddleEasy was birthed during one of the most exciting times in MMA history. While other MMA sites focused mostly on the surface level view of MMA, MiddleEasy dug deeper into the sport’s core. Rather than discovering a new species of Lizard People pulling the levers on human cage fighting, the Big Red Monster became a big part of the MMA community seemingly out of nowhere.
While many new MMA websites during the post-TUF boom tried to become the next Sherdog or MMA Weekly, MiddleEasy mutated into becoming the first MiddleEasy.
From a humble origin story to a five figure TV pilot that nearly changed everything, to a MiddleEasy radio deal with SiriusXM that fell through, to spending site funds on Vegas bottle service, ME was your favorite local band that blew up fast and nearly lost it all.
A big part of the MiddleEasy story is the site coming close to death on multiple occasions. Like a Silva versus Sonnen round five comeback, MiddleEasy Never Die really is a thing.
Now the saga continues and MiddleEasy is always evolving and has not yet reached it’s final form.
MiddleEasy has always been on and remains on the forefront of finding cool, chill, talented, and very creative people to add to their squad. Here is the last ten years of MMA and MiddleEasy.com as told through the people who lived it.
I. In the beginning….
Zeus, founder: There was a period of time where MiddleEasy writers were paid entirely in cannabis and edibles. At one point I shipped to three different states, monthly. Heads up, go FedEx.
Jason Nawara. editor-in-chief & ME’s soul: Before ME existed Zeus and I were trying to come up with some weird websites, one of which had the design of a skull on top of a penis. I can’t remember what that was about or why we did it. After Zeus launched ME I contributed to a few early videos and articles (I was so bad Zeus rewrote most of them) but I think my first full article was around May or June of 2009. It was right before UFC 100 I remember.
Dave Walsh, founder of Liverkick & ME managing editor: My early iteration of my kickboxing blog, at the time K-1 Legend, ran an interview with Golden Glory manager Bas Boon where he said a bunch of crazy, incendiary stuff about the M-1 Global people and this was like 2008 or 2009, back when MMA still felt like the wild west outside of the US. I ran it and it got a lot of coverage, then a few days later I googled Bas Boon and saw this weird site, MiddleEasy, running almost the same interview. Apparently Zeus and I were of the same mind to talk to Bas and he gave us virtually the same answers. I had no idea what the site even was. Some sort of design blog? A personal blog? What was the name? I reached out to Zeus and then we were working together within a year, basically.
Zeus: I always tried to get Kimbo Slice to read MiddleEasy but the ONLY site he would read on the ME Network was LiverKick. Dude was fascinated with kickboxing and he read *everything* Dave Walsh wrote like gospel RIP Kimbo.
Nawara: I think i was 3rd or 4th ever actually but core in order of articles written was Zeus>me>cat or bauzen>Kieran>walsh maybe. But yeah most of MiddleEasy was created super stoned with me and Zeus playing Halo at night At my peak with Zeus in 2011-2012 I was writing more than anyone. While editing video. It was fun i enjoyed it.
Bauzen, Photo ace & ME original: I discovered ME on twitter during late nights, watching PRIDE and K1 streams and finding many hardcore fans doing the same, it really came together naturally btw Zeus, Cat, and I in the early days. We were likeminded and passionate about Japanese MMA and all the iconic athletes they produced in the 90’s-00’s.
Andrew Lawrence, ME editor & brand ambassador: Frate Trane Rankings… I remember Zeus’s avatar for a while was Galactus from the Marvel comics and I thought, that’s a lofty avatar. Little did I know, he is the Galactus of weed.
Justin Golightly, ME secret character & editor: I was a reader through every site design. I got a Twitter account in 2009 at the suggestion of an intern during a graphic design firm tour. Shortly after, I gravitated toward MiddleEasy like a moth to an MMA gonzo fire emoji. Long before ever writing for ME, I was included in Shit People Tweeted At and had a Nick Diaz “Anti-Bullshit Super Hero” Photoshop featured on the site. It was my first successful “MMA meme” I guess you could say and was stolen without credit from nearly everyone including FOX Sports. But it got my name out there and was a catalyst towards thinking about branding myself as Secret Moves simply to prevent intellectual theft.
Tommy Messano, editor-in-chief & ME P1 fan: I think I discovered MiddleEasy through the UG. It was MMA yearbook style post where GSP, Gina Carano, and others had their old high school/childhood photos discovered. MiddleEasy found all these amazing pics and then forum posters or other sites were stealing them and cropping out the ME watermark. The old school site design was like nothing else at the time. MiddleEasy mixed everyone’s love of video games, Anime, comics, and pop culture and mashed it all through a MMA lens.
Esha Chanel, ME writer & video shit talker: I wanna say from following the hilarious and talented Justin Golightly. He was posting his SecretMoves work, but through him is how I discovered MiddleEasy. ON TWITTER. Aww. Probably some Diaz brothers mixed with weed somewhere to. LOL.
Kieran McNairn, ME writer & digital guru: Probably trying to understand how Zeus could write a story about DMT which was also about Jose Aldo. I honestly have no idea how I found the site!
Zara-Blue Barry, writer & Irish lass kicker: I discovered ME cuz of Layzie, cuz I was Diaz fan girl.
Dan LaMorte, comedian & host of The ME Fight Fist pod: I discovered MiddleEasy on Twitter I believe. Then we started working together quickly. It helped find my footing in the MMA world and get some writing experience outside of comedy. Bonus: worst MiddleEasy memory is covering fights solo in Utica. Fuck Utica.
Desmond Madden, ME writer & creative scientist: I only got into MMA in late 2015, so I set about learning as much as possible. I saw an article about how Kickboxer Andrew Tate was a gigantic ass-hole and the article resonated really well with me for some reason. So i decided to stick around and follow MiddleEasy.
Zeus: In 2010 the US Department or Defense came to my apartment and questioned me on an interview MiddleEasy did with a prominent Dutch MMA personality that they were doing an investigation on.
II. The Green T-shirt
Zeus: Back in the day @realOCsports would rock the MiddleEasy shirt every time he kicked it with Jeremy Horn. It would always get on Dana White’s vlog. With Sean’s help he made the shirt iconic. Never got a chance to say thanks, but f yeah. Thanks man.
Walsh: You know, probably knowing that there was a lot of freedom involved and we were taking risks. I wasn’t feeling coverage of UFC 177 but was basically the only person around that weekend, so I ran with the idea of it being a haunted card, as Rogan announced at the top of the show, coming off of 176 being canceled and came up with a narrative about a ghost hunter being dispatched to the show. I’m not sure that any other site with the level of readership as ME would’ve been happy with that. I’d probably be fired from anywhere else, but it was just another weekend for us.
Zeus: Before she started crushing it on the MMA scene, Megan Olivi reached out to work for MiddleEasy. I checked out her highlight reel and she was SO polished and professional that we couldn’t even find a place for her. Now she’s like the Megan Olivi of MMA broadcasting.
Nawara: The friends made along the way, or having my name recorded for EA MMA. Also the MiddleEAsy April 1 joke, or turning the site back to 1995 for an April Fool’s joke, or Pistols and Predictions. There are really so many. I still enjoy my Bisping, Belfort, Brazil article that doesn’t exist anywhere but in the back end anymore. (Editor’s note: We think we found it.)
Golightly: There’s too much to pick just one. I did a huge top ten list on the fights that BJ Penn watched of himself while sitting on the couch that caused him to come out of retirement again. It was riddled with LOST references and published on my birthday. One time I released fight results from a canceled card that, despite being completely false and satirical, were shared from the fans like real results and even aggregated by a few other MMA publications before being deleted. Breaking the story that Cro Cop was offered a USADA snitch deal by getting a random Twitter follower to translate Mirko’s cell phone video. Oh, and the Lessons in Street MMA coverage, baby. Oh my God. Gun to my head though, it was probably first getting hired. I went through an extensive interview process and drafted an article for another publication that eventually denied me a job because I didn’t have experience. I posted the piece as a Bloody Elbow fanshot and after it made the rounds I got a DM from MiddleEasy.
Barry: My favorite memory is when I made fun of Stipe and he ended up following me for it.
Lawrence: Definitely would have to be hanging out with Phil Baroni at his strip club in Vegas watching McGregor/Mayweather. That night I basically got free weed, free lap dances, and free liquor all off the power of MiddleEasy. Thanks, Phil.
Madden: Best memory has got to be when I covered my first event for MiddleEasy; it was just a local show but I accidentally got locked into the area for VIPs and was with Conor McGregor and his whole pose. So I spent most of the night with them and it was so fun.
Messano: The second owner of MiddleEasy, Jason Wurtz (great guy/humble/super smart) and I got to go over to Philippines for ONE card. Amazing experience, but even on the other side of the world we ran into so many people who were MiddleEasy fans. Pre and post event in the Green ME tee, people from all over would come up wanting to chat, be cool, grab drinks, and take pics with us. The ME community is pretty powerful.
As far as favorite articles go, a lot of those sweet Street MMA unicorns we found, but also the Super! Hyper! Turbo! The Top Ten MMA Fighters Who Are Actually Street Fighter Characters collab with Justin holds a special place in my soul. Just so many epic top ten lists in the archives: staph, underground fight leagues, crowd reactions…..this
Zeus: MiddleEasy got our UFC press credentials by not re-publishing a book Dana White’s mother wrote about him. The book was really unfavorable to Dana. It’s one of the few things I’ve done on ME that I’ve been conflicted about. Still don’t know whether it was the right call.
Chanel: When I went to Australia for UFC 234. That whole experience working press was amazing. Given everything that happened with Robert Whittaker which was sad however the positive came out of that place including all the people I met. Herb Dead randomly showing up at the MiddleEasy meetup along with a handful of other people was pretty fucking amazing. Also taking a leap of faith and getting that @lushsux interview sorted. It was pure bliss. Oh and asking Anderson Silva about swimming with sharks was pretty cool.
McNairn: Has to be getting press creds for UFC 138 in Birmingham, England. Not the best of cards but I saw Edson Barboza’s spinning heel kick KO from the press row. I met people there who have remained friends to this day.
Bauzen: Favorite memory, Chicago field trip to see Fedor’s final W of his 7+ year W streak.
LaMorte: Podcasting in Al Iaquinta’s living room months before he fought Khabib, listening to him predict he would probably need to step in to fight Khabib.
Zeus: No one in MMA partied harder than a Strikeforce-era Ben Fowlkes. Not. Even. Close.
III. The name ‘MiddleEasy’ originated from a typo
Golightly: Zeus interviewing Lee Murray in the Moroccan prison. The unprecedented mini-doc of Ronda Rousey’s “Trip to the 209.” I’m particularly fond of The Top Ten MMA Fighters That Secretly Occupy The Dragon Ball Z Universe just because 1) I mean, WTF and 2) no MMA site at the time had anything like that. Probably the best story though lies in the hearts and minds of the writers and readers. I answer as a star shoots through space.
Zeus: After my prison interview with Lee Murray, Bobby Razak and I flew across the planet on behalf of Darren Aronofsky to get Murray’s life rights for a movie. We ended up getting deceived by officials in the Moroccan jail he was in and nearly got killed. Fortunately we escaped.
Walsh: Probably any of the early Nick Diaz stuff before Nick Diaz was cemented as this pop culture icon. Layzie was basically embedded with that camp for a while.
Barry: Ronda training with the Diaz bros is the best.
McNairn: I don’t know why but the interview with Ronda Rousey where she talked about her love for creating fractal art sticks out to me. But the best thing I ever put out on ME was my Game of Thrones/Bellator crossover where I tried to tie tournament fighters with GoT characters. A lot of fun to write! Sorry, one more – every year Jason would do the awards was intense. He would method act, but for his writing. He would end up smelling like sweat, cigars and whisky and produce an incredible piece of writing at the end. Love you Jason xx.
Nawara: I enjoyed speaking with Jeff Monson about anarchy then, weeks later, getting an angry email from a certain… soldier (???)… after Tim Kennedy had a particularly incendiary interview with us. Beyond that, Cooking with Tim was fun. Maybe Zeus going to Morocco? We had thousands.
Zeus: A CEO of an MMA promotion threatened to murder me because we wouldn’t take down an article about that person’s promotion. Still have the emails. That person is still a CEO…
Lawrence: I’d have say “To Defend a Choke”. It was about a lady selling bullshit self defense tactics online. I actually interviewed her and got her response to being destroyed by the internet for selling knowledge she didn’t have. I love that story because it was so different from normal MMA stories.
LaMorte: I loved my attempt at Fat-Fit-Fighter where I was chronicling going from fat guy to fighter with a pro Muay Thai team. I think it made it two articles before I quit the fuck out of that.
Messano: Yeah, see my answers above on the best story MiddleEasy did over the years. The writers that have worked for ME have all been so creative, different, and smart. As a fan of the site I always appreciated ME’s ability to find an unique small pebble of a topic and as angle then build it up into Mountain sized post.
Fortunate enough to work for a site that I was a fan of. Was really proud of our coverage of UFC 196 before, during, and the moments after Nate choked out Conor.
Chanel: The cringed grill of Henry Cejudo and his dating skills of him trying to swoop Nikki Bella. LOL. Need I say more.
IV. A contact high
Zeus: He *definitely* doesn’t know this, but back in the Strikeforce days I broke into Rick J. Lee’s hotel room to copy a clip of the Nick Diaz/Mayhem Miller water bottle incident. Only the real MMA heads remember this one.
Bauzen: I’m sad to say I no longer follow MMA at all as my career is focused more on entertainment than sports these days, but MiddleEasy was the first media machine I was proud to be a part of. There are parts of me that wish our run never ended, and we could still be doing it, but we all had other plans for our respective futures. MiddleEasy was always a place where we spun stories in fun ways, I’m not sure I would ever have fell so deeply into MMA without our devoted fan base. The sport has changed, and over the last 10 years, the MiddleEasy writers have too, but we‘re still supportive of each other; we are all one, always.
McNairn: MiddleEasy showed me that you didn’t have to write like Kevin Iole to write about MMA. It showed me there was a place and an audience for honest writing. Where else could you read about the latest MMA news while also finding out that Jumbo’s Clown Room is a real place? Being from a small town, MiddleEasy also showed me there were far more shit eating wildmen who would stay up all night to watch Japanese MMA and get just as excited as me to see Joachim Hansen fight.
Barry: MiddleEasy means being the weirdo and being accepted. Everyone loved me though I am socially awkward and use cunt a lot.
Chanel: The freedom to be myself. We all love MMA otherwise we wouldn’t be putting together content for the masses to enjoy. I understand it is rather unorthodox to write about people bashing each other in the face until blood drips in the most creative manner, but we also like to make people laugh. When you have the factual side linked with the comedic side with some insensitive personalities that love the devils lettuce and can spend some knowledge for the masses? Uh, sign me up please.
Derek Hall, writer & connoisseur of MMA: MiddleEasy is important to MMA because it breaks the mold of traditional coverage. It’s a platform for fans to properly express themselves and really enjoy the sport.
Lawrence: MMA is in danger of losing its past. So few of the people in the sport now remember its circus-esquire origins, never mind celebrate them. Places like MiddleEasy keep that history alive and well. With ESPN taking over the premier organization in MMA, and the overall white washing of the unsavory part of MMA by both ESPN and the UFC, it’s enormously important that places like MiddleEasy exist. Not just to speak truth to power when others won’t, but also to remind ourselves of the sport’s roots as counter-culture. Fuck going mainstream.
Madden: MiddleEasy means so much to me. MiddleEasy was the only place that was willing to work and help me do what needed to be done to get good at MMA writing and journalism. Usually after 9pm I have something of a werewolf like transformation were I feel indestructible and ridiculously motivated. So one night when I was in one of these states, I decided to hit up MiddleEasy in an effort to become an MMA media dude. It worked!
Messano: Someone once told me that something had to be off or you had to be a little bit broken to work for MiddleEasy. I’ve replayed it in my mind a few times and 99% sure this MMA figure meant it as a compliment to the site. MiddleEasy is MiddleEasy because it was never formal and never really tried be.
Find a bunch of passionate, smart, funny, and creative individuals, roll them all out there and cool shit will happen. Thankful to MiddleEasy for allowing to meet and collaborate with a ton of chill people throughout the years. The site made it’s mark on the MMA industry at a time when MMA needed a voice like MiddleEasy to chronicle the sport through an unique filter. From humble beginnings, it’s cool to see the Big Red Monster’s impact in the linear notes of MMA history.
Nawara: MiddleEasy was the place to have fun that was a little nerdier and less angry than CagePotato at the time. It was blatantly weird, goofy and wanted to have fun, and our content showed. I think we trailblazed as far as not wanting to be mad online. What does it mean to me? It gave me my start. I worked for weed and then straight cash and because of ME I have a successful career in media and have met a billion great people I still consider friends to this day. I have also made plenty of enemies.
Golightly: I don’t know what any of this shit means. These are all blurred experiences in a fleeting flash of light that is MMA or our reality as we all know it. For me, MiddleEasy was my cosmological beginning. The vast area of free expression I was afforded at such an early time put my name on the map and had everyone after that hired me since wanting some of that “MiddleEasy stuff” I did.
For MMA as a whole, MiddleEasy was a trailblazing site that – for better or worse – always operated under its own code and established itself as the stoner MMA media brother living in the basement that the family tried to label as crazy until they did something too genius to ignore or so irreverent that it’s universally hilarious. And no matter how the site functions post-Zeus, post-Jason, post-me, post-Tommy, post-Andrew etc. ad nauseam, a MiddleEasy writer will always have a bond to the others that I feel like no other site really has.
Walsh: To MMA I’m not really sure. I think ME showed that MMA coverage doesn’t have to be so cut-and-dry. There’s a good contingent of fans that don’t come from a sports background and that dry coverage can get boring to. MiddleEasy found a way to inject culture and personality into that.
For me it played a part in my transition from a guy working as a Senior Editor at an office to thinking it’s time to just do other stuff. LiverKick became a part of the ill-fated MiddleEasy Network, then existed on its own for about ten years and I’d shift in and out of working for ME at times as well. Without MiddleEasy I would have probably given up on writing about MMA long before I did and it afforded me the opportunity to write some really weird stuff.
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