With his Machida-like elusiveness, MMAmania's Managing Editor Jesse Holland (also known as the site's resident psychic Nostradumbass) has been known to appear out of nowhere, striking down e-thugs and e-fools with a few well timed barbs and as quickly as he appears; he disappears, lurking back into the shadows of the mixed martial arts world of news.
As one half of the managing duo that keep our "sandbox" doo-doo free, it's time that everyone got to know more about everyone's favorite Uncle Jesse.
Jesse, thanks for taking the time to field a few questions from the user side of MMAmania.com. As one of the "regs" around these parts I know that I am not alone when I catch myself wondering about who exactly helps Tom steer this ship.
BZ - Do you remember the moment that the sport of Mixed Martial Arts officially grabbed your interest?
JH- I've always been into martial arts. I grew up on Saturday Kung Fu Matinees. Fist of the White Lotus, A Hard Way to Die, the list goes on. That's what prompted me to train as a kid and ultimately, watch the first three UFC events. But I'm not going to pretend I'm one of those guys who was hooked from the start. I thought they were awful. From a technical standpoint they were just dreadful. I started watching MMA on a regular basis a few years later when a college buddy of mine who studied in Japan hooked me on PRIDE.
BZ - What were you doing before being recruited to help Manage MMAmania.com?
JH - I was working as a security manager for Trump in Manhattan before 9/11. Shortly after that, I made the decision not to go back. My wife just gave birth and I couldn't commit the 14-16 hours a day to stay in the city. Trying to have a normal life in a high profile security job post-9/11 was impossible. Professionally, I pretty much gave up everything. Even though I had no sales experience, I went and got my real estate license so I could work from home and be with my family. Everyone thought I was nuts. No health insurance, no fixed income and an infant. To me it wasn't a gamble at all. I wasn't going to let myself fail. Fortunately, I drank my own inspirational Kool-Aid and didn't. I actually miss real estate but writing is much more rewarding creatively.
BZ - Since crossing over to SBnation's platform; what has been the biggest inadvertent strike to the groin for you since the change?
JH - I miss the openness of Wordpress. It was like the Wild West of MMA blogs where anything and everything went down. I love chaos like that. Remember what the comments section used to look like? Still, trying to moderate on a busy fight weekend was an exercise in insanity. SB Nation is a little too structured for my tastes but I could never go back to the old platform with our traffic. And SB has automated a lot of publishing functions so to that end my job is a little easier now.
BZ - Any highlights?
JH - I like the broad sweeping power I have as an Admin. It used to be such an arduous task. Now when it's time to ban someone, you can just click a button and not only does it ban them, it deletes anything they've ever written or commented on. It's like wiping them from existence. I feel like Abimelech salting the soil after kicking the shit out of Shechem.
BZ - Now that we are on SBN the introduction of gifs has become increasing popular amongst posters. From that perspective it seems as though you take a very booty friendly position while Tom takes on the lesser popular anti-booty role. What's the real story with all the gif'ing for good or for bad - are there any heated debates behind closed doors that we've missed?
JH - Heated debates? Here is the extent of our conversations.
Jesse: "Hey, did you mail my check for April?"
Tom: "Yeah, I put it in the mail on Tuesday."
BZ - Do you guys often butt heads or is there more of a zen like unspoken communication synergy thing going on these days?
JH - In order to butt heads you first have to actually talk. I don't know how it works but it does, it's almost comical. Aside from random Emails about what is getting posted, we rarely speak.
BZ - Tom and yourself work from a great distance apart (some 3000 miles I've heard). In what way do you think this helps or hinders your partnership?
JH - It's the only reason our relationship works. We're different personalities. He has one and I don't. We're Jack and Sawyer minus the tropical landscape (I'm Sawyer).
BZ - Where do you typically draw criticism from? Is it easier to absorb it through the Mania community or from a respected peer elsewhere?
JH - I don't mind getting flamed on the boards. Mostly because it's over taste, not content. When I work hard on an editorial and someone bashes it, they always say I'm a douche, or an idiot or something like that. They never say "You're a terrible writer." I can live with that. I've never had a peer criticize me to my face, probably because they're too busy doing it behind closed doors. But Ariel Helwani always makes sure he comes over to say hello when I'm at the events. I appreciate that kind of effort. Courtesy is a lost art.
BZ - One of the surprising trends of 2010 has been the emergence of celebrity gossip website TMZ competing in online MMA news reporting arena. How the hell did you guys let that happen!?! (I mean you guys as the online MMA media community as a whole)
JH - It's to be expected. I can't believe it took them this long. I welcome it. Breaking a story is easy. Getting people to stay loyal to your brand isn't. Besides, everyone has at least three or four regular sites they frequent because each one has a different perspective. I think that's true in any genre. As long as we stay in that circle we're fine.
BZ - How does it feel to know that recently Shane Carwin had you listed as his #6 (not even a finger number I might add) on his MMA blog radar?
JH - I can't believe he even knows who I am. And he must be new to the site because I creamed him last year on several occasions. "Super-sized sourpuss" comes to mind. Either that or he has an amazing sense of humor.
BZ - So let's turn the tables then - Where does Shane rank on your favorite fighters list?
JH - He's like Jake Shields in that he's made a believer out of me. I wasn't convinced he was anything special and I thought Gonzaga was going to smash him. Another brilliant Nostradumbass prediction. He's definitely up there now, especially after he won me a boatload of cash in the Mir fight.
BZ - Who is your favorite fighter?
JH - Probably Nick Diaz. He's fearless. I understand why he irks some people but I find him very entertaining. My interview with him is one of my personal favorites.
BZ - Along the same line of thinking; who is your favorite fighter turned sports commentator so far? Is this person a better fighter or a better broadcaster assuming they had to choose one career path today?
JH - I like Randy Couture. He has the timing to compliment his knowledge. Broadcasting is like comedy, without timing you're dead.
BZ - If I could (or maybe would) coerce you into participating in a celebrity blogger charity MMA contest... my question to you sir is... Who is your opponent?
JH - Tom. He thinks he's funnier than I am and I would love to prove him wrong.
BZ - Other than Carwin's recent nod - what other celebrity heights do you have set for yourself in 2010?
JH - I always said I would know I "made it" when I was being flown to Japan to cover an event. Hasn't happened yet, but one day I hope it will. If for no other reason than to find the missing DVD's from my "Weather Report Girl" collection.
BZ - A-Team? At the theater, rent it or never watch?
JH - Theatre. When I was a kid, A-Team was on Tuesday at 8 p.m. and I never missed it. Even if the movie blows at least I'll be able to feel nostalgic for 90 minutes. As a fan, it's almost like I owe it to the late George Peppard. He was such a badass. Ever see Damnation Alley? "This whole town is infested with killa' cockroaches. I repeat: KILLA' COCKROACHES!"
BZ - When and if free time exists in your world; how do you spend it away from MMA?
JH - My daughter gets every waking second. She's everything to me.
BZ - The question of would you fight a friend for money is one that resurfaces like clockwork and once again it has hit the boards for recent debate. Is it out of the question or can you name your price?
JH - I don't have any friends, but if I did, I would gladly attack them for a payday. I hope they would do the same. We can always make up afterward and split the pot.
BZ - You have over the years conducted dozens ~ but who has been your most enjoyable MMA interview to date?
JH - So many. Nick Diaz was probably my favorite because he gave me gold, question after question. ESPN Radio called me right after that interview to talk about it on the air. Diego Sanchez and Houston Alexander were good too. And Steve Mazzagatti. He's a beast.
BZ - And the worst interview to date?
JH - Rampage. I don't mind difficult interviews, it's part of the job. But he was purposely not answering questions or giving me made up answers. I could hear his entourage in the background laughing the whole time. In the end all I could salvage were ten questions. I can respect "Fuck off, you're not worth my time" but don't agree to an interview and then try to prove how funny you are at my expense.
BZ - If it ever happens - Tito or Chuck?
JH - Chuck. They are both older, slower versions of themselves. Should be ugly from start to finish.
BZ - Do you think there is a genuine fan based appetite for this type of headline on a PPV these days? Or is this just a final withdrawal from the Ortiz/Liddell cash machine?
JH - I didn't see one fan get excited when they announced that fight. Outside of Mark Coleman, there was really no one else to give Tito. And Chuck shouldn't face another striker after what he's been through. Maybe he'll prove me wrong against Franklin?
BZ - Speaking of Tito (Well there is no real way to transition this in a flowery way). We all know who his wife is... Would you?
JH - Now? No. I don't care about her age or her skin-and-bones makeover, there's just no way I'm following Tito. But in her prime? Hell yeah. She's a hall-of-famer.
BZ - Drawing from the MMA Universe alone, Jesse Holland's ideal women is?
JH - Wow, tough question. I'm a very "flavor of the month" kind of guy. Gina Carano at the weigh-ins for the Cyborg fight was about as close to perfection as you can get. I have a thing for Cyborg too but that husband of hers is always within arms reach and it's not worth getting knocked out over.
BZ - Ever met them?
JH - I'm not very outgoing so I haven't spoken to them, even when standing next to them at press events.
BZ - Looking back at your entire body of work here at UFC/MMA Mania can you identify one absolute "holy shit" moment that defines who you are in your role today?
JH - II did a profanity-laced interview with Matt Serra after he beat GSP where he ended it with "Hit the road, Frenchy." That thing blew up like that Iceland volcano. It crashed the site from traffic overload and that piece was referenced on TV, radio, everywhere. It was bananas.
BZ - Has all the grueling hours of working for an 24X7 MMA blog over the years and then getting it to where it is now ever burned you out as a fan of the sport?
JH - It's hard. It's insane actually, the amount of content I have to get published every day. Sometimes I get a little jaded because I can't do the opinion pieces like I used to. I loved the responses I got from the stuff I did about Fedor's legacy and also the Brock piece I did last year. Those are very rewarding, but hard to commit to because I'm so busy with the day-to-day news. Still, I'm always down for a good MMA scrap so I guess it hasn't broken me yet.
BZ - What are your future plans for the site anyway?
JH - My plans are to stay employed. I'll let Tom worry about taking the site to the next level. He built this empire from scratch, from a little Wordpress fan blog he started in 2006. I don't think people realize Tom works a full time job and has two kids to care for. It's amazing how far we've come with our limitations. Are there MMA blogs/sites that have more traffic? Yeah, but know this: If Tom ever wised up and quit his day job just to focus on MMAmania, it would be the number one MMA site in the world, bar none. He's that good. There have been projects for Mania that would have blown us into the exosphere, but we just didn't have the time or the resources to execute them.
BZ - It wasn't too long ago I remember you saying you had a project with a major t-shirt group on the go. Care to elaborate?
JH - I met a guy from the garment district in New York who was interested in getting into MMA apparel. We worked on it for awhile but he couldn't get the numbers to where he wanted them.
BZ - Sooo, any hiring going on across the MMAmania job board right now that the readers should be aware of?
JH - We're always on the lookout for talent - and a lot of times we find it. Unfortunately talent without commitment is useless.
BZ - What tends to freak you out as far as poster behavior? We have lots of types on Mania but what grinds your gears the most? About us.
JH - Guys who equate their own self-worth to the success of their favorite fighter. I did a post once where (in passing) I made fun of St. Pierre getting clowned by Matt Serra. People lost their fucking minds. I don't understand that mentality. It's MMA, fighters will lose. It doesn't make them any less talented nor does it make you any less of a fan. Get a grip. BJ Penn fans are no better. Another thing that irks me is the bullshit vocabulary we have in this sport. Isn't it amazing how an "overrated" Fedor managed to compile a record of 31-1 considering he gets "exposed" in every fight by a "can?"
BZ - This question is for Nostradumbass (queue for change of wardrobe): When will MMA be available as a live event in the Province of Ontario?
JH - Approved in late 2010, first event Spring 2011. So let it be written, so let it be dumb.
BZ - Who does Nostradumbass think I should be putting money on this Saturday (May 8) Machida or Shogun?
JH - That's a very difficult fight to call. Expect another close decision. If you're looking to make a bet, skip this event and check out UFC 114. Nostradumbass likes Evans at +115. Rampage is coming off a huge layoff -- and a huge gut.
That's all I've got Jesse. Anybody you'd like to thank?
JH -- Guys like you and the rest of the frequent (and even the infrequent) MMAmania.com readers. Without you, what would be the point?