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Why I am a fan of!

Welcome to the refreshed! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams.

England v South Africa - Royal London ODI Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Mixed martial arts (MMA) stand as the first true passion of my life. Like any passion, it began as a minor interest, but MMAmania has since fanned the flames with more vigor than could be expected of the average news site.

I stumbled upon MMAmania in 2009 via, of all things, Yahoo News. When editing your "My Yahoo" page -- which was probably a more reasonably task to spend time on back then -- and searching MMA in the new content section, MMAmania was one of the first of a few sites to pop up. Be it luck, fate or that sweet SBNation advertising money at work, MMAmania headlines soon found a prominent spot at the top right column of my homepage.

On its own, that section and those headlines did their job and drew me in. And while I quickly grew to recognize and enjoy the different writers, what drew me in more than anything else was the community. Many articles had a fair amount of humor and goofiness -- proof that some things don't change, as there's a fair chance Jesse Holland has an absurd headline on the front page at this very moment -- which carried down into the comment sections below. A bit more unfiltered, sure, but the general vibe of MMAmania has long been friendly and knowledgeable for those willing to both listen and talk to people.

Luckily for me, I was willing. More than willing. Bored out of my mind in high school and plied with scholastic wifi, I was the most active commenter on the site in 2012, "winning" the yearly statistic with over 10,000 comments. In those countless conversations, my knowledge of the sport grew tremendously. I had the advantage of actual experience in martial arts over most, but there was still much to learn from fight fans who had been following UFC since its inception.

A great many of these talks took place in the fanpost section, our community's water cooler for anything ranging from recent fights, personal beefs and vendettas, to sports completely unrelated to the official topic at hand.

Through the chaos, I met a great deal of people I consider to be true friends. Today alone, my phone buzzed with dozens of notifications from the MMAmania groupchat, which comprises about 10 commenters from the site, most of whom I’ve met in person. At least, it would have, but I set that chat to “Do Not Disturb” a couple years ago, probably around the time the groupchat murdered the flip phone of one of our technology-averse users (the irony is not lost on me). The chat bounced from topic to topic, with friends asking each other about a possible lunch to congratulating our tech nerd on his latest career move.

Reading along, it would be impossible to know most of us lived in separate parts of the country and had only met a couple of times at most. It’s now been five years since my writing became featured on the front page rather than the Fanpost section. I’ve moved across the country, grown as a person, and competed as a mixed martial artist four times. In that time, there’s been a constant stream of support and new classic memories that all stem from the community here at MMAmania.

There have been great moments, controversial ones, and sad ones. In the lead up to each of my fights, for example, I often end up receiving more encouragement from the site than I do from actual friends and family. One commenter even drove a couple hours from home to slum it in not-so-great areas to watch my two most recent fights, texting other MMAmaniacs about it all the while. On the site itself, fanposts about getting into a street fight and dominating, unmasking our true identities, and the constant comic adventures of a sex-crazed-ninja-MMA-Fighter (or some similarly ridiculous combination) written by a notorious troll and the ensuring hilarity are burned into my memory.

Throughout the journey, there have been countless rule violations and disagreements between commenters and employees, of which I occasionally end up as the displeased middle man. In one such case, one of the more active members bid his way back onto the site after being removed by donating a significant amount to charity. Perhaps the most “real” way in which our community comes together following a bad loss. There are a couple examples that come to mind, but the best example was the loss of Scott Shrive. “Scottidog” was a long-time commenter and friend of anyone he spoke to, but he passed suddenly a few years back. In the immediate aftermath, the MMAmania community raised money for his wife and son, and Scott’s presence is still felt here even by those not fortunate enough to meet him before his death.

I think it’s fair to say I’ve experienced a fair bit of what the MMAmania community has to offer in my total of 42,000 comments, 1300 posts, and seven years participating on the site.

Still, even after all that time, I find it hard to dig much deeper into why MMAmania is special than this: Everyone in the community -- from the writers, readers, lurkers, regulars and OGs to the most annoying trolls who never actually leave -- recognizes in some way that we stumbled onto a real good thing here, and we’re all hoping it keeps rolling at least a little longer.

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