If you’re reading this, then congratulations, you made it.
After a year so full of crazy bullshit you could fill a library, we stand now at the end, battered like a cake before the oven. We’ve seen a global pandemic, political elections, riots, civil rights threatened, and staggering unemployment. And if all that wasn’t enough, we couldn’t do our favorite sport without a hazmat suit.
2020 is dead y’all, let’s throw a party.
But in all seriousness, this year was a massive wound inflicted on the combat sports world. Gyms closed, people lost their jobs, and we realized how important that sense of community is for us PJ wrestlers. We also got to see how resilient the culture is, as MMA and BJJ were two of the first sports to start up again post-lockdown.
So as we say goodbye to this absolute dumpster-fire of a year, let’s take a brief look back at some of the most memorable martial arts events of the last 365 days.
Take a drink. It’s almost New Years.
SUG Saves the Day
It looked like all major sports would be on indefinite hiatus in the early days of the lockdown.
The first grappling show, and possibly one of the first sporting events period, to reopen post lockdown was Chael Sonnen’s combat circus extravaganza, Submission Underground XII.
Claiming to take place in an “Empty Grain Silo” in an undisclosed location, SUG 12 hit the grappling world like Pedialyte during a hangover. Back at the beginning of the lockdown, SUG was one of the only sports entities making early strides to reopen. Before then, no one knew if they’d pull it off and not get shut down.
But low and behold, Chael and matchmaker Heather Standing pulled it off. Jones/Casey proved to be a barn-burner show with a stacked card and showed that events could happen even amidst the pandemic. Athletes got paid, and new stars made a name for themselves in competition. Without SUG leading the charge, we might not have had many, if any, big grappling tournaments to soften the blow of 2020
Dinu Bucalet Makes us Believe in Miracles
This was the year one crazy submission reigned above all others! Polaris Squads was a monstrously stacked card featuring some of Europe’s best talent, but Dinu managed to steal the spotlight with a brutal Ezekiel Choke from, and I hope you’re sitting down, Inside of closed guard!
It was a move so ridiculous people couldn’t help but stare. Personally, this is my favorite submission of all time, so I love seeing it pop up. But seeing it implemented from a position widely considered ineffective for the choke was miraculous. As someone who watches BJJ for a living, I’m always happy when something surprises me. Does it have anything to do with all the coaches that have told me never to do this? You’ll never know.
BJJ Sexual Abuser Brought to Justice:
Plenty of awful crap happened this year, with no real punishment. But in one instance, we got lucky. A former Cobrinha affiliate was sentenced to prison and deportation for abusing a teenage student for multiple years. Stevie Knapp, the student in question, gave a public statement on being resilient and moving forward after her terrible ordeal. She urged little girls everywhere to speak up when they see wrongdoing and that their voices are powerful. Being able to confront our community’s toxic elements meant a lot to many folks who feel their views and concerns are ignored. A victim of a violent crime got justice, and a rapist is in jail—good story for a crap year.
Possibly more than anything, this pandemic reminded all of us who practice martial arts how much we value one another. This life seems so strange to any who don’t train, but us living on our island of misfit toys committing acts of agreed-upon violence is just fine by me. And when things began looking dire, so many people stepped up to help out. Whether it was by offering free training to first responders after the civil riots, raising money for gyms going under, or just by checking in with your friends going through a rough time, we all did our part to keep this wacky ship afloat.
So to all of you out there, a part of this wild ride, thank you for sticking with us. We haven’t been around long, but we’ve already been blown away by the support from all you readers. We can’t wait to tell you all about the exciting new things we have in the works for 2021, but for now, we just want to say thanks for giving us your attention every week.
Happy New Year everyone, we made it to the end.