If you are looking for Christmas gift for the UFC fan in your life, author Jonathan Snowden has written the definitive history of Mixed Martial Arts in his book Total MMA. I highly recommend this book, and this week I set out to conduct an interview with Jonathan via e-mail to give you a little preview of what you'll find in the book.
Describe Total MMA to us.
Total MMA was not a modest undertaking. Whether is succeeded or failed, the goal was always very ambitious: it was going to be the complete history of MMA worldwide. The sport is very young, but it has such a rich history, from the Greek Olympics, to the formation of Judo, to the Gracies in Brazil, to Japanese pro wrestling. No Holds Barred (a 2005 book by Clyde Gentry) was excellent, but so much of what the sport was, where it came from, was a Japanese story. I wanted to make sure to cover the complete history of an evolving sport, not just the rise of MMA in America.
What are the strengths of Total MMA?
I think the best part about Total MMA is its scope. I tried to touch on every key event in the fifteen year history of the sport. Total MMA isn't just an overview of what happened. It tells you why it happened and why certain events were important. I talked to more than 100 people for this book and used interviews conducted by other great reporters to supplement my own material. No other book goes into this kind of detail about how MMA became the sport people enjoy so much on SPIKE and on pay per view.
What would you change about Total MMA?
My main issue with the book is its brevity. There were many more stories to tell and plenty of people and organizations that got slighted. Unfortunately, there are limits to how large a book can be before cost becomes a consideration. It left me, though, with more material than I could use and led directly to my next project-an MMA Encyclopedia.
What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing the book?
I didn't know before I wrote the book how much of the Gracie's story was mythologized. The Gracies were and are great martial artists. But the idea that Gracie Jiu Jitsu sprang directly from the head of Helio Gracie is quite a whopper.
What was the one question you could never get a straight answer on?
The story behind the attempts by SEG to get the UFC sanctioned in Nevada was a tough nut to crack. Zuffa owner Lorenzo Fertitta was one of the key decision makers when he was a Nevada State Athletic Commission executive. Did Fertitta squash the UFC's attempts to come to his state, knowing he could later buy the promotion at a discounted price? I don't think so, but their were fierce arguments on both sides and I spent more time than I'd like to think about getting to the bottom of the mystery.
You talked to a who's who of MMA while putting this book together, was there anyone who wouldn't talk to you?
There were plenty of people I didn't talk to, but most just ignored my inquiries. Only once person flat refused to talk to me, and strangely enough, that wasn't a big name at all. It was Ultimate Fighter contestant Rory Singer, who asked me a lot of questions about the audience size and where this might be seen. In the end, I managed just fine without his help.
You dispel a lot of often repeated myths in this book, did you get any response from people who's version of history did not jive with reality?
One member of the Lion's Den threatened to 'jump through the phone line and choke me out' but for the most part the response has been positive.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I had about a year to write the book. the deadline was a constant issue. The sport was changing so quickly. I realized towards the end, before my first deadline, that I would need a section on Brock Lesnar who I was certain would be the biggest fighter in the sport by the time the book came out. I was also struggling with a chapter on the UFC's competition. I wrote extensively about groups that seemed to go out of business, one after another. The target kept shifting, from BoDog, to the IFL, to HDNet, to Elite XC. Luckily I also talked some about Strikeforce. But it was clear to me, just fromt he constant revisions, that attempting to challenge the UFC was not a sound strategy!
Who is your favorite all-time fighter?
I have three fighters I supported for years unconditionally: Frank Shamrock, Rumina Sato and Carlos Newton. All were such fluid and dynamic athletes that I was never less than amazed by their performances. Today, it's harder for me to look at the fighters with the same eyes. I have talked to so many of them, especially since the book came out and I started covering MMA regularly, that it is hard to just be a fan. Like everyone though, I find myself amazed by the talents of Fedor Emelianenko, Anderson Silva, and Georges St. Pierre. But my favorite fighter of this generation is Urijah Faber, who has the same flair that made Shamrock and Sato such incredible fighters.
What do you think the top 3 fights of 2009 were?
Diego Sanchez's win over Clay Guida at The Ultimate fighter 9 Finale was the perfect mix of skilled technique and wanton violence. I also loved the last minute matchup of Takeya Mizugaki and Miguel Torres at WEC 40 in Chicago. My favorite fight of the year, despite being miles below these contests as a technical showcase, was Randy Couture versus Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 102 in Portland. I left press row to sit out in the stands for this one and was glad I did. The energy in the crowd was something you had to be there to believe. to top it off, both legends gave everything they had in a back and forth brawl. This is the fight I'll always remember from 2009.
Why do you think people have a hard time figuring out that MMA is a skilled competition rather than human cockfighting?
Sometimes it is important for MMA fans to step back and look at things from the perspective of critics. At the end of the day, MMA is a sport that puts two people in a cage to pound on each other with very few rules. It is never going to be something that is universally admired and enjoyed at dinner parties. You should also consider that many people may only see things like SPIKE's The Ultimate Fighter. On the reality show, and on many MMA undercards, viewers see fighters who are often out of shape and swinging wildly. You could forgive people who see this spectacle for confusing it with toughman contests.
How can somebody get a copy of Total MMA?
Total MMA is available in book stores all over the English speaking world. If it is not in stock, the bookseller can order it for you. Of course, it can also be found online at great retailers like Amazon.com.
Burnsville, MN Lightweight Courtney Buck has been called upon this week to be a last minute replacement for this Saturday night's WEC show at The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Buck will be taking on Hawaiian fighter Brandon Visher (12-0) at 145 Lbs. Both men are making their WEC debuts. Buck trains with the Minnesota Top Team and just started fighting 16 months ago. He has a record of 6-1, with 4 TKOs, 1 KO and 1 win by submission. He's won six in a row after losing his debut fight.
Buck is not only taking the fight on a week's notice, but he just fought three weeks ago, when he scored an impressive TKO victory over Cory Pasquale in 39 seconds the night before Thanksgiving.
Buck is replacing Tyler Toner, who was unable to get cleared by the Nevada State Athletic Commission due to a problem with his eye exam.
Buck opponent, Brandon Visher, has 5 TKO's and 4 submission victories as part of his 12 and 0 record. His last win was against Strikeforce fight Issac de Jesus in September.
WEC is owned by Zuffa Entertainment, the parent company of sister promotion UFC. The Buck-Visher fight will be on the unaired part of the undercard of this Saturday's show, which airs on Versus at 9PM.