Happy Thanksgiving, Maniacs! What we're thankful for in MMA

Thanksgiving at the Holland residence

Ah, Thanksgiving.

I'm a sucker for tradition and the November holiday is chock full of it. From the Macy's parade to a day full of football on the tube to turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and all the regular fixin's (screw you, I'm from Texas) on the dinner table, there's always a lot you can depend on when Thanksgiving rolls around.

But beyond eating yourself into a food coma and passing out in front of the TV, Thanksgiving is a day for ... well, giving thanks. It's in the freaking name, for goodness sake! And that's exactly what the crew here at Mania intend to do.

A week ago, we all received a black envelope with a single slip of paper on the inside. On it, written in blood, were coordinates and a single word in a long dead language not spoken since before the dawn of the man. Jesse, Geno, Brian, and myself found each other days later at the coordinates in front of a cave that was surely the gateway to hell itself. Uttering the word each of us received, the cave opened up and beckoned us in.

Inside, Tom was waiting with a case of High Life and a demo copy of UFC Undisputed 3.  So we got to work.

Happy Turkey Day, Maniacs!

Tom - Founder of Mania, throne of skulls owner: Naturally, I'm thankful for many MMA things this holiday season.

Exciting performances, network television deals, entertaining heels and most of the best fighters in the world (almost) all competing under one umbrella, makes this year, next and all those moving forward truly monumental. It's truly a great time to be a fan, especially with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) about to embark on its most ambitious schedule ever, planning to cram 34 events into one calendar year.

Buckle up, it's going to be one helluva wild ride watching sweaty, highly-trained men punch, kick and choke each other repeatedly. During this time, it will be important to take a step away and enjoy the other scenery that will be along for the ride, particularly Britney Palmer. She's not the UFC ring girl madam, a mantle of responsibility that falls on Arianny Celeste, but she is certainly the most fun to look at all the time. For me, anyway. And when it was announced that she and the promotion were parting ways so she could pursue a career in art, it came with great sadness.

My heart sunk to the floor. Friday fun threads would never be the same. Her replacement, whoever that might have been, wouldn't be the same, either. Ring girls have come and gone throughout the years, including Amber Nichole Miller, Ann Rivera, Edith LaBelle, Ali Sonoma and even the incomparable Rachelle Leah. For some reason, I could cope with their departures. It was natural. Just like fighters get stale or lose interest among the general public, so, too, do beautiful faces and amazing figures. Us MMA fans are a spoiled lot. But, the Palmer era didn't last long enough. It didn't feel right. I wasn't ready for it.

So when Dana White took to Twitter and asked fans to vote if he should lure her back, and the response was an overwhelming, "YES!" I could not have been happier.

Thank you, Dana White. More important, thank you, Britney Palmer. The delicious cherry who sits atop my MMA sundae.

Geno - Managing Editor, Cageside Seats General: What I'm thankful for is Brock Lesnar. And yes, it's pro wrestling related but allow me to explain.

I actually fell out of love with pro wrestling (I'm back now, baby, go to CagesideSeats.com) somewhere around 2004, due to general disinterest and an increasingly difficult life at home, though that's none of your damn business, not that you asked. That's right around the time Lesnar bailed on the WWE to pursue the greener pastures of the NFL. It didn't work out, of course, and after a short stint in Japan, Brock took the next logical step and made his way into the world of mixed martial arts.

And he brought me right along with him.

He had a lot of help. My oldest brother Bill (who is doing well and almost fully recovered from his cancer, thanks again to everyone for the well wishes), had been trying for some time to convert me into an MMA fan but it just didn't take for the longest time. I can remember seeing various events before UFC 81 back in Feb. 2008, though none of the information stuck until I revisited it later.

One day, Bill made it easy on me and told me I should come watch the fights with him because Lesnar was going to be fighting. Like a complete donk, I replied, "Wait. Brock is going to be fighting? Like ... for really real?"

After he finished laughing, he told me yes, Lesnar would really be fighting and he was probably going to get his ass kicked. So I made my way to his house to enjoy the show, eager to see how Lesnar would do in a real fight instead of a worked match against guys trying harder to protect him than actually hurt him.

And then my brother's girlfriend, Talytha, needed me to go to the grocery store with her to pick up a few things (read: beer run). I was assured we would return with plenty of time to spare and I would get to see Lesnar fight.

Except Ricardo Almeida and Nate Marquardt both choked out their opponents in less than two minutes flat and Lesnar was on much sooner than expected. Then his fight lasted all of 90 seconds, an explosive and exciting debut that saw him nearly murder his opponent before succumbing to a kneebar thanks to his huge lack of experience.

And I was standing in line at fugging Wal-Mart. Missed the whole damn thing.

I made it back in time for the main event, though, and the ensuing display of heart, skill and technique by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in his heavyweight championship win over Tim Sylvia, who trains just down the road from me, caught my attention ... and kept it.

The very next event, UFC 82, was hyped to the sky by Bill and his friends, who convinced me to check out this badass motherfugger named Anderson Silva. And I did. And I haven't looked back since.

Now it's over three years later and I'm a Managing Editor of an awesome MMA website (thanks Tom and Jesse), and doing something I absolutely love. And I have Brock Lesnar (and my big brother Bill) to thank for it.

Happy Thanksgiving, Maniacs.

Brian - Staff Writer, interviewer extraordinaire: I'm thankful for many things. In MMA, I'm thankful for the inverted triangle choke, AKA the most creative submission hold I've ever seen. Toby Imada was getting his ass kicked by Jorge Masvidal and pulled it off as a desperation maneuver in the third round to win the fight. It was wild, it was something I'd never seen before and it was further proof that there is so much more we can learn, improvise and evolve in mixed martial arts. Now, the inverted triangle is actually becoming more commonplace. Chris Lytle used it as did Cole Miller in combination to set up incredible finishes in 2010 and then Richard Hale of all people finished a fight with it at light heavyweight earlier this year.

Most of all, though, I'm thankful for the Maniacs. Having originally come over as a commenter on Bloody Elbow, I wasn't sure how well I'd be accepted, but after only a few short weeks, you guys took me in with open arms. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't have your support. I read every comment of every one of my articles and try to respond to most of them. Just one comment can make my day and you guys have done that on a regular basis. I love your feedback. I love interacting with you guys. I love it when you correct a mistake I made so future people won't think I'm an idiot who can't proofread. Hell, I even love it when I get trolled by ABB or STB just because it makes me feel like I belong. Keeping up the interview schedule I do is not easy, but you guys make it worth it each and every time. Keep doing what you do, Maniacs. You make much more of a difference than you would ever know.

Sergio - Staff Writer, Skyrim enthusiast: It has been quite an incredible two years. Back in October 2009, I started a weekly two-hour MMA show for a small internet radio station that ran for about eight months. During that time I was able to interview guys like Anthony Njokuani, Jason David Frank (Dragonzord~!), and Bjorn Rebney. The birth of my daughter left me with little time to continue the show so I started writing funny (not really), drunken (very much so) recaps of MMA events in my spare time for Cageside Seats back when it wasn't pro wrestling exclusive.

That's when I met Geno, who pretty soon after started his gig here at Mania. Somehow he conned Tom into bringing me aboard as well and I've been here ever since. So I'm thankful for the opportunity that Tom, Jesse, and Geno have given me to write about a sport I love and am incredibly passionate about. I'm also thankful for each and every one of you a-holes that welcomed me into this crazy, dysfunctional family. It's sort of like my own except I don't hate any of you.

Now with all that mushy stuff out of the way, I'm also thankful for Nick Diaz. Love him or hate him, the foul-mouthed, ornery Stockton bad boy certainly makes the sport interesting. From putting every opponent Strikeforce placed in front of him on blast to getting a shot at Georges St. Pierre's welterweight title and losing it because he wouldn't show up to a "beauty pageant," Diaz has never failed to generate chatter among fans.

I mean, the dude responded to being bumped from the biggest fight of his life with a video he recorded while driving down the highway cursing at other drivers! He may have retired B.J. Penn, he wishes he got paid big bucks to compete in triathlons so he could quit MMA, and still drives an old, broken down Honda despite making 600 Gs in 2011. Thanks to him, the word "homie" has become an integral part of my everyday vernacular. So yeah, I'm thankful as all get out for Diaz. In fact, I'm ordering a "Don't Be Scared, Homie" t-shirt right now...

Jesse - Managing Editor, all-around B.A.: It's turkey day twunny 'leven, and if I'm thankful for one thing in combat sports, it's gotta be the fans.

Let me explain.

When I was a senior in high school (1991, bitches), I told my guidance counselor that upon graduation, I wanted to get a job at HESS.

Yes, the gas station. I wanted to pump gas for a living.

I wasn't really sure why, but when pressed, the best I could come up with was the uniforms. They had really snazzy uniforms. Green and white with a big name patch sewn into the breast.

I could already picture it ..."JESSE."

She gave me that long stare, almost as if she couldn't decide if I was half-fucking with her or just half-retarded. I think she eventually settled on the latter before scribbling something into her notes that to this day, I'll bet is none too flattering.

And as luck would have it, HESS wouldn't even hire me.

I filled out the application and agreed to minimum wage, but the grease monkey who conducted the "interview" seemed puzzled (and perhaps a bit suspicious) that a clean-cut kid from the suburbs wanted to pump gas on a busy highway.

Defeated, I settled on a job at the local Amoco, but it just wasn't the same. I still got slightly buzzed on fumes, but their idea of a dress code was a shirt with no holes.

That's when I decided to become a garbage man.

Now they call them "sanitation engineers," but fuck that, I wanted to play with garbage. And how awesome would it be to cruise around town hanging onto the back of a moving truck?

Couldn't get that job, either.

The fat guy in the county office muttered something about joining the union and strict qualifications and yadda, yadda, yadda. Whatever man, just gimme my fucking handshake and send me on my way.

Those were the only two jobs I ever really "wanted."

Until the day I decided to write an article about a PRIDE fight I saw. It was posted on a pro wrestling website in late 2006 and some guy named Tom Myers just happened to stumble across it. For reasons not yet fully understood, he invited me to come try my hand at writing about combat sports on this "little fan blog" he started called UFCmania.

If he only knew!

In the first piece I ever wrote for this site, I openly bagged on Randy Couture for coming out of retirement, because I was convinced he was going to get KTFO by Tim Sylvia.

How do you think Nostradumbass was born?

The point is, I saw that post go live and I watched people respond. I remember slinking back in my chair and thinking, "Wow, it would be cool if I could get paid to do something like this."

And now I do.

That's thanks to you, fans of mixed martial arts and more importantly, fans of MMAmania.com. Without you, every single one of you (yes, even the haters), I'd be spritzing produce at some inner-city grocery store or bussing tables at the local pub.

I have a job I like. After 15 years of having a dozen I hate, I can't express how grateful I am to get a check every month as payment for watching and discussing MMA. Am I driving a Benz? No, but my commute is from my bed to my computer desk. I don't wear a tie and I don't have to deal with office politics.

And I have you to thank.

So, without further ado, thank you MMA, thank you MMAmania and thank you MMA fans. Outside of my girls (and this year's HESS truck), they're what I'm thankful for the most this holiday season.

Now let's eat!

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