Blood in the Cage- by L. Jon Wertheim

blood in the cageIn a lot of ways, I am not a guy’s guy.  I don’t watch football.  I don’t golf.  I don’t enjoy grilling.  I don’t ask for power tools for Christmas.  I prefer novels to newspapers, subtitles to explosions, chocolate to just about anything else, and I am more sensitive than most of the women I know.  But the one area where my guyness truly shines is in my affinity for mixed martial arts.

Even this I don’t do in a truly manly way.  I don’t know names and stats.  I don’t religiously follow blogs or newsfeeds.  Like with all other sports, I prefer playing to watching, and when I watch, I mostly do it purely for the camaraderie that only comes from hanging out with dudes, eating meat, and screaming at a television screen while other dudes smash each other’s faces in.
But, all of that being said (and if you’ve been around, you know this; see Caged, Be Ready When the Sh*t Goes Down, and Got Fight?), when my two great loves collide (i.e. reading and fighting), I just can’t seem to help myself.
And such was the case when I encountered L. Jon Wertheim’s informative and entertaining (if excessively subtitled) Blood in the Cage: Mixed Martial Arts, Pat Miletich, and the Furious Rise of the UFC.
Now I say “excessively” subtitled, but it is also quite accurate.  I had heard of Pat Miletich and the Miletich fighting system (even the most casual UFC observer has heard of Matt Hughes, and he comes from this camp), but I had no idea how central he was to the whole MMA/UFC explosion.  He has been there as an integral component since the beginning.  Since before the beginning.
And there is no disputing that UFC has exploded like no other sporting organization I have ever seen.
Wertheim talks about the glory/gory days of pre-regulated no-holds-barred (“NHB”) and strong man battles.  The sport has come a long, long way.  And any fan will appreciate this history.
He also talks a lot about the Gracies and the introduction and now domination of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (“BJJ”) in MMA.
Wertheim also talks about how the UFC started, who Dana White is and where he came from, and includes brief but interesting histories of a lot of the most famous fighters in the sport today (Matt Hughes, as I mentioned, Randy Couture, Anderson Silva, and many, many others).
Wertheim is a good writer.  A sports writer (I think he initially started the research that would lead to this eventual book on assignment from Sports Illustrated), but a good story-teller with a good grasp of language and a good handle on presentation.  It almost reads like a biography of Pat Miletich, that’s how central he was to the development of the sport.  I don’t usually like sports books or biographies, but this one worked for me.
This may all be Greek to some of you.  And that’s fine.  Mixed martial arts is not for everyone.  But if you do like the UFC and are in the mood for some interesting history about the development of this sport, this is the best couple hundred pages I have encountered on the topic yet.
And if you’re ever in Kansas City and find yourself more in the mood for some hands on combat, let me know.  You can punch me in the face any time.

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