I consider myself to be somewhat of an MMA subject matter expert. Of course, I am humble in knowing that I only know what I know from following the main-stream media coverage of the sport and its athletes and figures. However, I’ve been around since 2003 obsessing over every event in the UFC and overseas as well.
So, when I got an email from Art Davie’s media team asking me to review the book “Is This Legal?” I was instantly intrigued. I really enjoy tell-all books. I think the last book I read from an insiders perspective of MMA was Pat Militich’s biography which I absolutely loved. But, I was a fan of Pat’s before reading it and frankly, I had only heard of Art Davie’s name a handful of times before getting this book in my hands to review.
I’ll be very honest about something – I came into reading this book with a real bias against it. I know a lot of people in the MMA world dislike Dana White or the current UFC as a business and have gone their own ways in saying how they built MMA, not White and the Fertittas. I was just hoping this book wasn’t going to be chapter after chapter of arrogant bullshit and shit-slinging about stuff that is way under the bridge.
I was pleasantly surprised to read the opposite of that. Art Davie does a great job of painting himself as a humble, passionate, eccentric business man who was in the right place at the right time in creating the UFC. He does, however, give some insight into the dynamics of the Gracie family that made me slightly squeamish to read about. I’ll attribute that feeling to the fact that I’ve come up and gotten my blue belt under a really old-school black-belt and it’s sort of just understood that you don’t air other people’s personal dirty laundry, especially when they are considered the grand master’s of the sport. I suppose Art Davie took off his own blue belt and put on his businessman coat when he decided to do that. That’s his call.
All-in-all, the book was entertaining to read, had a lot of cool stories about early-stage figures in the original UFC that frankly don’t get brought up anymore and gave a peak into the world of what many for us take for granted – an un-charted and largely illegal new sport that took over the world in later years.
While a lot of the fighting terminology and general descriptiveness is based on terms that seem somewhat antiquated in modern MMA circles, this also gives you a feel for what the atmosphere for this sort of event was back in 1993. It’s almost hard to even consider what it would be like.
My main criticism of the book is that Davie describes one of the tournament fighters, Gerard Gordeau, as a potential member of the Neo-Nazi party, only going on to clear that description a few hundred pages later in the book saying that the salute he was doing wasn’t a Nazi salute, but actually a martial arts salute. I even thought myself that Gordeau might be a Nazi when I read it, only to find out later that he wasn’t. If I hadn’t finished the book, I would have had a forever-spoiled view of Gerard Gordeau and that wouldn’t’ have been fair.
I’d recommend “Is This Legal” to anyone for entertainment value and as something to bolster your knowledge of the sport of MMA and it’s roots in the original UFC. While it seems like this book is set on another planet at times compared to what the UFC is today, it should give you some perspective into how far things have come since then.
Note: Thanks to a reader’s comment and doing some extra digging it turns out Gerard Gordeau does have a Nazi Swastika symbol on his arm, which I never saw before. See here: https://www.reddit.com/r/gifs/comments/g6fbg/ufc_nazi/