If you've been reading for a while, there must be at least a handful of you, then you'll remember the mess I was when I first arrived back from Japan.
It was at that point that I decided to call time on writing about mma because I saw too many conflicts of interest and, writing that style there were hundreds.
The essence of a good interview or a great feature is an edge, something that people can get from your writing that no-one else can give them. I remember interviewing Joachim Hansen once and him talking about killing Bono and how he'd survive in an apocalypse, we didn't really talk fighting too much. There's only so many times you can read that, "this is the best camp I've ever had/he's getting finished/this is my time."
Those questions you needed to ask, the relationships you needed to develop, the links you needed to forge. You can't do that and remain a neutral official. You have to be that guy at events who walks away from groups of people if fighters or even representatives from their camp are sitting at the table. You've got to be careful of your social media output because, as a good friend told me, "You're not just an official when the fights are happening."
It was hard to break the habit initially, but I look at judging fights as something I'll always be doing while I still have breath in my body, sight in my eyes and the love of my good lady wife in my heart.
If it wasn't for these pages and a few projects that remain to burn slowly, I don't know what I would have done; probably get shouted at in meetings for writing about cliff tops and rainy days.
A few months back I chatted to the John Gooden for the UFC Octagonside Podcast, here's the link if you've not heard it, and it was really refreshing to get back involved with something like that. The approach was very different in that it was more about the science of judging, and about addressing common misconceptions.
It was a conversation that really got me thinking about judging a lot more and maybe about ways I could address writing about it, but within a more theoretical context. If I could find a way to write informatively and interestingly, but without sounding like I was giving a health and safety speech then there surely could be some kind of positive output.
Those of you who read Fighters Only might be surprised to see a small feature in there from me, but rest assured it doesn't compromise me as a person or as an official. It's not about "he should have done this/this score is wrong because this fighter fights like this" or any nonsense like that. It's a logical look at some illogical things. It's a balance that allows me to sit and let all these things out of my head but still allows me to do the thing I love doing with a clear head and the integrity that is vital for any official to have.
I'm a big fan of Marc Goddard's articles for FO because it's a chance to read things that we wouldn't normally get the chance to, it's there to learn from as well as to enjoy. I think that's the perfect balance.
It's not a comeback. I'm not going to be writing a lot.
It's like anything else in life you can never go back, as much as you'd like to.
We've all changed too much. It's just nice to sit down again and try and translate the purple noise in my head into something tangible.