Monday, February 20, 2012

Listened: "Blood in the Cage" by L. Jon Wertheim

Listened: Blood in the Cage: mixed martial arts, Pat Miletich, and the furious rise of the UFC by L. Jon Wertheim, 2009, from

A history of MMA competition paired with a biography of fighter and trainer Miletich. The history closely matches my own knowledge and interest in the sport.

First starting with no-holds-barred fights the UFC's first owners played up the violence. Blood and knockouts were a big draw. Par-per-view purses were huge until government pressure came in with accusations of "human cockfighting". Gov pressure on cable companies dried up the PPV money. State licensing boards would refuse to allow fights. I too was turned off by the heavy violence that looked like a version of white trash, ex-con, gang member heaven.

The sport evolved from matching one martial arts discipline versus another to the current amalgamation of jiu jitsu/wrestling/boxing/etc. it is now. As skilled and disciplined fighters joined the competition the tough-guys and brawlers and bouncers were quickly weeded from the higher ranks. A key argument for MMA, and one I agree with, is that MMA is actually safer than many other sports like football and boxing.

One key ingredient to the safety level is a fighter's option to tap out. No shame is involved in a tap-out. Sure, some guys would tough it out and refuse to surrender even after a bone was broken. Matching fighters of equal skills avoids the knockouts and win-loss inflation of boxing. Fighters don't have massive padded gloves allowing endless punches to the brain box without breaking hands.

UFC was bought by the current owners and had some struggles. The Ultimate Fighter tv show and hard work by the owners led to an explosion in popularity. I was among the many who watched the incredible fight at the end of season one that boosted the UFC's success.

Pat Miletich's story is an impressive one. He was an angry bar brawler with athletic talent and a background as a high school wrestling and football star. He tried out a karate session one day and was hooked. Miletich's recreational life revolved around karate. He branched out into other disciplines and competed in smaller regional competitions. Miletich's drive and incredible training regime led to his fighting success and he started his own training gym.

1. Narrator Phil Gigante does his usual good work. Gigante does excellent work reading Landsale's Hap and Leonard series.
2. Wertheim is a fan but also a journalist. He does not overly gush as a fanboy and looks at things with an appropriately critical eye.
3. Wertheim mentions several times that the UFC has banned writers and journalists who are critical of the UFC and it's owners. I wounder if he had blowback from this.
4. I bought this in paper for work but do not know how well it 'circ'ed. I was never getting around to reading it so I'm glad I picked this audio version out.
fan but also jounralist who sees nonsense

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