Book Review: Is This Legal? Inside The Story Of The First UFC From The Man Who Created It

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.

Screenshot 2014-09-01 at 12.37.54 PM

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:

Thoughts Long Gone?

I’ve been thinking about some of the short stories I’ve read in the past lately and I find myself lamenting how some of the best, most obscure ones I’ve read are nowhere to be found nowadays.

When I moved to Boston in 2004, I was re-discovering my love for books and good writing that I had lost my first few years in college. During my first few years, I spent a ton of time hanging out with friends, drinking and leading a generally idle and wasteful existence. When I decided to move to Boston, I had a few people who pointed me in the direction of literary journals, writing workshops and influential people that I should know.

During this time, I got pretty obsessed with literary journals. The Paris Review was the first literary journal that I fell in love with. I still have the first copy of The Paris Review that I ever bought. Inside was stories about states in the former Soviet Union and gave me an unprecedented view into the gorgeous literary landscape that existed outside of American culture.

I recall the first time I was ever moved to tears by a short story. The story was about the Chernobyl nuclear accident that happened in Belarus in the 1980’s. This particular story was told from the perspective of a young couple who were woken up in the middle of the night by sirens from the Chernobyl power planet. The husband was a firefighter and was called to the scene to try and contain the disaster as it unfolded. This man and his wife knew that this was a potentially lethal job that needed to be done for the town and even the country, yet the man ventured to the scene and went inside with his fellow firefighters and battled to put out the fire with water cannons. As the fire subsided, the firemen took turns heading to where the plutonium was burning hot to separate the rods from one another to help stop the fusion that was causing radioactive steam from billowing into the atmosphere. The man, along with many of his comrades did eventually contain the fire until national and international help arrived, but this particular firefighter got very ill and eventually passed away from the radiation.

I was moved to sadness by this short story more than I had been up to that point by any novel that my teachers had assigned. Luckily, I still have that copy of The Paris Review and intend to hold onto it.

I also stumbled upon literary reviews put out by Tin House, Black Clock and the now defunct Zembla. I’ve read stories about Tom Waits interviewing the ghost of Miles Davis and even a fictional tale of Miles David and Jimi Hendrix hearing the same silent “scream” that enabled them to transcend music up until that point. They did everything they could to try and articulate the “scream” into a tangible for via their craft, but never quite were able to and it drove them mad. I even read a really humorous fictional story about Frank Zappa helping Bob Dylan get over a particularly bad case of writers block in the 1980’s by locking Dylan in the basement of his home and being pushy, bordering on abusive until he was able to bring enough high profile musicians by to force Dylan into making another album.

I talk about these stories a lot. Some of them I read up to 6 years ago and they haven’t left me. Why don’t I own most of these literary journals anymore? Well, it’s because I was so passionate about them that I needed to share them with people and let them borrow the physical copies. Of course I never got a lot of them back, which I kick myself in the ass about still. I also go online once in a while and conduct savage searches trying to find copies of what I can remember based off the titles and authors. I’ve been less than successful at that.

I wish literary journals archived these short stories a little better and made them at least partially accessible to consumers. Instead, you’d need to sign up with a paid subscription to these journals, which I’ve done, and even still I can’t find anything leading me to copies of what I’ve read.

Sometimes this feeling reminds me of the lost connections that I’ve had. I’ve shared a powerful moment with a stranger, something so powerful that I remember to this day, but because of my hangups or distractions, I didn’t get something from them, like an email or phone number, to cement these moments into my word.

It’s beautiful and sad at the same time.

Do you have anything in your life that has moved you so much, but is still just a fleeting moment in your memory, seemingly impossible to recover?


A few updates:

  • I’m sending Jess @OpenlyBalanced the book I did a post on last week called “Jack’s Notebook.” Didn’t get too many comments on that post, which is fine, but Jess seems like she’ll get good use out of it, so I’m glad.
  • I set up a Tumblr account for things that I want to share, but lack context or a lot of explanation behind them. I post videos on here from time to time and I want people to have a place to go and view snippets of what I find entertaining or moving without the excess baggage of my pontification. The URL is:
  • All necessary actions on my end have been set in motion to complete my application to teach ESL in South Korea. I’m getting amazing support and encouragement from friends and family, which makes it easier. Looks like it’s going to happen… as for the exact date, I don’t know yet. Probably mid-June or early July at the latest.

Funemployment has been very good to me thus far. I’m drumming up valuable perspective that I would have never gotten before. I’m getting more grateful for this every day.

Books about Career Development (and everything else)

Through my foray into social media about 2 years ago I’ve met a lot of interesting people with great ideas about career development, personal branding and other nu-age ideas that are relatively cutting edge. I can’t believe how many influential business books I’ve found through recommendations and even directly from authors I’ve met through social media sites such as and Linkdin.

It is interesting to think about who these books are targeted towards and why. Books such as “The Dip” by Seth Godin or “Me 2.0” by Dan Schawbel don’t seem to me like they are targeted towards high school seniors or individuals about to graduate from college. Actually, these books seem best geared towards people who are currently working jobs that they don’t find particularly fulfilling and might need a self re-invention. Am I amongst those ranks? Sure am! I love both of these books and many others like them.

I guess you can’t really target young people and tell them what’s up with the real world. You sort of need to just encourage them to experiment and not be afraid to take chances while they’re young and have less on the table to lose.

Developing a persona brand isn’t easy for anyone of any age because even though we live in a society of “individuals” (especially Generation Y!), there is still a relative hesitancy to step out into the crowd and be critiqued for who you really are, rather than being associated with a larger group. This is why personal branding is so confusing; what identity should any given individual cling to? Do you make something up that benefits you, or do you explore yourself and cultivate an image that expressed who you really are? Are the two concepts mutually exclusive?

I’m glad that I’m playing to my strengths as so many people, both famous and locally influential, have told me. I think that’s the key. Not sure what the full payoff is yet, but I’m already seeing dividends and that’s a great motivation to keep going. The soul searching part is tough though.

It’s almost like all of these great books are written for people who are too busy to read them. But we do find time to read them. We must!

Do any of you struggle with your personal branding? Have any of you given up on the idea? If so, what alternatives are there? Just letting the chips fall where they may?

Pow! Free Book?!?! DOUBLE POW POW!!!

So I read a post on Twitter from Saul Colt that a free business book was being given away by Andy Nulman at

As someone who is starting a business, I feel I could use every bit of relevant advice I can find and being strapped for cash, the cost effective and/or free advice is often the best kind. I’d love to get a free copy of ‘POW! Right Between The Eyes.”

My address is

James R. Moreau
16 Whipple Street, Unit 3
Worcester, MA 01607

Thanks Andy Nulman!

I Need Queer Eye for the Liberal Guy

So I find this article to be fascinating and quite spot on. I mean, I’ve never been a big decorator in the traditional sense, but my clutter tends to be somewhat nice looking in my own eyes.

In every job I’ve had I always wind up putting the many books I read over the a course of time lined up somewhere for reference or just so I feel proud and smart for reading so damn much. I’ve torn pages out of magazines that had great articles that should be posted. When I interned for the state I had all my Hunter S. Thompson memorabilia out including a large font explanation of why George W. Bush is a blundering idiot compared to Richard Nixon who was a mean old “gin sot” in his own right. I definitely got some looks and everyone knew where I stood politically.

In my office now people talk half heartedly about politics and where they stand. I honestly can’t bear the thought of being upset over someone else’s party being different from mine when I’ve got more work on my plate that I know what to do with.

Currently my cubicle’s entire top shelf is nothing but books that I have read this year. About 30. I let people come by and borrow them as they like. I move so much I figure even if I don’t get a book back it’s one less thing to box up when I hit the road again. Plus it’s a great conversation piece! I mean seriously; who wants to strike up conversation about a framed picture with some flowers or a dog in them? No, I’m a stinking liberal and I want to talk about literature.

Don’t even ask me about what was on television last night because unless it involves mixed martial arts or politics I probably didn’t see it.

So, should I make my work space more neutral and boring like many other people have theirs, or should I keep it the way I like it? At least I feel comfortable to some extent. Plus when the networks go down I’ll have something to keep me entertained.

***On a side note, I left Worcester at 7:15 am and got to work at 8:15 am with very little traffic. Nice!