All posts by michaelbacos

MMA Fighters in Pakistan Battle Poverty While Inspiring Youth

By Michael Bacos

LAHORE, PAKISTAN — Waquar Umar is part of Pakistan’s next generation of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters. He hopes to grow MMA’s fanbase and the next crop of fighters in his homeland.
He trains fighters at Synergy MMA in the Defence Housing Authority neighborhood in Lahore, considered to be the birthplace of Pakistani MMA.

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Underrepresented ethnic cuisines want a place at Chicago’s mainstream dining table

By Michael Bacos

Lauran Smith is a fan of Chicago’s Restaurant Week. But there was something about the event that frustrated her.

“I was upset to find out that few restaurants were black-owned that I wanted to patronize,” said Smith. So she decided to do something “to expose and give support to a lot more of our African-American-owned restaurants.”

As a social media expert by trade, Smith used her skills and channeled her frustrations to create Chicago’s first Black Restaurant Week. Her efforts have given media exposure to lesser-known restaurants on the West and South Sides of Chicago .

Filipino food is another cuisine that is mysterious to the average American eater.

Uncle Mike’s Place on Grand and Ashland is recognized by Filipinos as one of the best places for Filipino breakfast in the city.

Mike Grajewski, the owner of Uncle Mike’s Place, opened the restaurant in the 1970s but started putting Filipino items on the menu in 2007.

Peach’s on 47th showcased its Bourbon French Toast as part of Chicago’s Black Restaurant Week. (Michael Bacos/Medill)

Reclaim Chicago looks to take back elections through campaign finance reform

By Michael Bacos

Reclaim Chicago and National Nurses United members are urging changes in Chicago’s campaign finance law to allow for private donations to match those of constituents.

Their members gathered at the offices of First Lutheran Church of the Trinity to kick off their Fair Elections Campaign. Volunteers called constituents of the 6th and 46th Wards to pressure their alderman to support the Fair Elections Ordinance.

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Gas prices below $2 can have negative effects, say economists (Video)

By Michael Bacos

For the first time in seven years, gas prices in Illinois have dipped below $2. This benefits consumers by giving them more spending money on other goods. However, there are some negative environmental impacts to these high gas prices.

Economists say the lower prices may discourage people from purchasing fuel-saving vehicles, and it could affect funding for research into alternative, cleaner fuels.

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Lakeview store gives customers a video game nostalgia fix (VIDEO)

By Michael Bacos

Video games were much simpler back in those days before Playstations and Xboxes. There weren’t 100 different buttons on the controllers and the two-dimensional graphics with synthesized music brought a relaxing feel to those who grew up before the 90s.

Now we are to the point where video games makes us feel like we are inside the action. We feel like we are driving that car, firing that gun or throwing that football whenever we try to “relax” playing a game.

There are those who wish they could go back to the much less complex world of video games. People Play Games in Lakeview caters to those who wish to time-travel back to the days of Donkey Kong and Starfox.

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Burlesque: A Chicago Institution (Video | NSFW)

By Michael Bacos

Sultry. Seductive. Shimmy. Quiver. Bump. Grind.

These are some of the words in the vocabulary of a burlesque performer.

You may think the art of burlesque is dead, only to be remembered by watching old roaring 20s filmstrips in the vault of historical societies. Burlesque faced declining audiences starting in the 1930s.

But the art has seen a resurgence over the past few decades and here in Chicago, it’s thriving. Yes, the city is putting the art of the striptease back into mainstream entertainment.

Chicagoan Michelle L’amour, an inspiration for contemporary burlesque, earned the 2005 Miss Exotic World, the highest honor that a burlesque performer can receive. Her sultry routines made it to the semi-finals of the first season of America’s Got Talent.
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Chicago Bears hope to keep playoff hopes alive with win over 49ers

By Michael Bacos

After an 0-3 start, the Bears have managed to shove their way into the playoff conversation after their Thanksgiving upset of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

The Bears are 5-6, one game behind the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons for the last NFC wild card spot. There are three other 5-6 teams, but two of those, the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, are tied for the East lead. Chicago’s 2-5 conference record, a potential wild card tiebreaker, is the worst among the 5-6 teams.

First-year Bears coach John Fox reportedly considers the win against the Packers “relevant” in the NFC playoff picture.

“We fell behind where we wanted to be in the win-loss record, so to be relevant, that was kind of a must-win, just like this week will be,” Fox told ESPN.
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Palestinian MMA brothers fight negative stereotypes (Video)

By Michael Bacos

Askar Askar and his brother Asef were teenagers when they came to the United States from Palestine in 2001 to reunite with their father.

They were bullied in school because of their ethnicity. So Askar’s dad enrolled him in tae kwon do in Chicago, while Asef decided to bulk up by lifting weights until he decided to take a tae kwon do class, too.

Then one day, when walking home from the class, they stumbled across an LA Boxing gym and decided to take up MMA.

“We went in and got our asses whooped the first day,” said Askar. “It was a straight-six-month period of getting destroyed.” Continue reading

Chasing dreams: Mexican engineering student leaves life behind to become MMA fighter (Video)

By Michael Bacos

While other kids dreamed of being Superman or Batman, Jose Verdugo always dreamed of fighting bad guys — as himself.

As he got older, those dreams faded. But it was no fault of his own.

“Other people told me that it wasn’t good to dream like that,” said the 31-year-old engineering student from Mexico.

Despite Mexico’s penchant for developing legendary boxers — and his own father being a boxer — Verdugo let other people talk him out of his dreams. Instead, he played soccer as a youth and eventually, he followed an average, run-of-the-mill path to a successful life. He was working on his master’s degree in engineering, he had a full-time job, a car and was set to get married.

Deep down, he wanted something different.

When Verdugo injured his knee playing soccer, he used MMA training as a way to rehabilitate his knee. Then, those dreams that were long dormant began to return.

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Singapore Showdown: Askren defends title after controversial eye-poke (VIDEO)

By Michael Bacos

The last time Ben Askren  (14-0, 1 NC) was in the cage in April was the first time he didn’t leave with his hand raised in victory.

His fight against Luis “Sapo” Santos (61-9-1, 1 NC) ended in a no-contest due to a controversial eye-poke.

“I barely nicked him with my thumb,” said the ONE Welterweight champion. “It was a small eye-poke and he played it up way bigger than it was.”

Ben Askren defends ONE Welterweight championship in Singapore against Luis Santos on November 13

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