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.

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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:

Review of “Bleeding Edge” by Thomas Pynchon

I’ve been a hesitant fan of Thomas Pynchon since 2005, when I met a beautiful and way-smarter-than-me German woman in Prague taking a literature class with me in Charles University graduate school. She was talking to me about how hard “A Gravity’s Rainbow”by Pynchon was to understand and she seemed frustrated enough about it to make me curious if I could impress her by reading it.

So, I bought an English language copy at a local Prague bookstore and started reading it. I didn’t actually finish it before heading home to America that semester because A)  I had so much damn reading for my other classes and B) it was hard to read. Actually, the hardest thing I had ever read up until then.

Reading Pynchon isn’t for everyone. He’s won a National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow and his level of writing is said by some to be on level with greats such as James Joyce (who I’ve never tackled). It took me about 6 months to get through, bit-by-bit “A Gravity’s Rainbow” once I committed to it and it took the same amount of time this year for me to read “Bleeding Edge.”


Considering that Thomas Pynchon is in his 70’s’s I was very surprised at how well he was able to encapsulate the early 2000’s where “Bleeding Edge” takes place. Also, the fact that he’s not a tech entrepreneur in any way that I know of is impressive because he really does get some nuanced bits of information about what it’s like to work in the information and tech based businesses. I can vet some of that just from my own experience working in tech throughout my career.

When reading Pynchon, I’m always cautious to critique him too harshly because I sometimes feel what he’s writing about and how he’s writing about it might just be over my head. Then again, I probably don’t give myself enough credit. “Bleeding Edge” does an interesting job of writing about a complex world of international embezzlement, 9/11 culture in the early 2000’s and the tech bubble of the time. I haven’t really read much around that time that felt appropriate and accurate, but this book does a good job.

I’d say that this book isn’t Pynchon’s greatest work. “A Gravity’s Rainbow” still is. “Inherent Vice” was a ton of fun to read too. “Bleeding Edge” wasn’t so much fun as some of his other books.

I might have to read it again, but as of now, I’d judge “Bleeding Edge” as a B- effort from Pynchon. I’ll be interested to look up some other reviews on the internet as I haven’t read any other opinions on it before writing this.

I hope Pynchon has another good novel in him at least. We’ll see. We’ve been lucky to have what he’s given us so far. I’ll keep reading what he rights in attempt to expand my mind and hopefully impressive the next impossibly smart women I meet at a pretentious cocktail party.

Staying Creative While Being Good At Life

I’ve written some things in the vacuum of blind optimism and hopelessness. That’s when I desire to write the most. However, how does one face life with a square realistic stance, continue to move forward and be inspired?

It’s not always one way or another, but too often, the sweet-spot evades me.

I desire obsession and blind passion sometimes.

For The Moment My Desire To Be Loved Is Enough To Spur Me To Action

“For the moment my desire to be loved is enough to spur me to action. I want to be loved despite my faults. It isn’t exactly true that I’m a provocateur. A real provocateur is someone who says things he doesn’t think, just to shock. I try to say what I think. And when I sense that what I think is going to cause displeasure, I rush to say it with real enthusiasm. And deep down, I want to be loved despite that.

“Of course, there’s no guarantee this will last.”

Michel Houellebecq, The Art of Fiction No. 206

I’m A Rich Kid

The unfortunate passing of J.D. Salinger as of late has got me thinking about why I liked The Catcher in the Rye so much. I’ve re-read the book several times after high school when it was originally assigned and found myself laughing at the lead character Holden Caulfield’s continuously jaded view of the world and himself. I laughed because Holden was the embodiment of what I once thought myself to be, regardless of social or economic stature, I loved that Salinger so accurately and beautifully depicted the angst of a young man too big for his or anyone else’s britches.

I’ve heard and read a lot of harsh criticisms of The Catcher In The Rye from some people because they feel it’s Salinger simply indulging the rich, white man’s plight. Indeed, Holden Caulfield was a rich kid from New York City who really had a nice life afforded to him by his parents. But he had bitterness towards the world and most people he knew and met. Even the few people that said were “alright” throughout the book usually were folks of a more modest personality or background, but never too modest because then they’d illicit disgust from Holden for making him feel bad for being wealthy.

What I liked about The Catcher In The Rye was how I thought back to the days when I was growing up and going to a rather wealth-driven private school in the suburbs, unless people knew me personally, they didn’t know I was one of the city boys who got to go there because of his grades and a single mother who was damned if her song was going to get tangled up in the local trouble he so loved to indulge in. I really integrated as far as one possibly could into the private school lifestyle that at some points I stopped noticing the difference in background I had from so many of my new friends.

When I turned 16 and lots of my buddies started getting their first cars, it was definitely easy to notice which kids came from which types of families. Some of the kids in my grade rolled up in new BMW’s, Mercedes, some had modest but nice Toyota Carolas and others, including myself had rust-buckets (mine happened to be a 1988 Jeep Comanche).

Regardless of which way I looked at it at the time (probably looked at it quite jealously), all of these piles of metal, bolts and pistons were to some degree hand me downs. I bought mine with birthday and Catholic confirmation (HA!) gift money I received. Others simply got theirs given to them. It didn’t matter and still doesn’t.

My point is that I still always felt the same ways Holden did. I was an un-grateful little prick at times even with all the amazing love, attention and support my mother and family gave me and still was determined to strike it out, make mistakes and get my ass kicked by life on my own terms. It transcended the idea that our backgrounds make us up entirely but more like  there’s something inside that makes us feel more alive when we’re lost in a city or dark country road, judging, being humbled and still learning continuously.

To go on the record, I was a cheater in high school. I cheated on more literature tests that I remember. I never read a full book in high school  and always, always, ALWAYS read the Cliff Notes version to get by. Not because I hated reading, but because I was a real Holden Caulfield in the flesh who was too damn stubborn to something he was told just on principal. I smile when I realize that part of me is still very much alive. I also like to think that Holden grew up to be a little bit like me… because I did in fact go back and read every single book that I was ever assigned in high school, in full, non-Cliff-Notes and loved it.

Thanks J.D. Salinger for making me feel a little less like a stubborn ass!

Book List Update

A slight update on my reading list:

I finished 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris today. It was a pretty good overall book. The beginning and end were the most useful for what I’m trying to do at this point in my life, which is gain autonomy from the workplace and direct my career more effectively. The middle part went into a long and detailed account of how you can outsource your life to foreign personal assistants for next to no money, which I have some issues with. I’m not going to take a stand and say whether I like that part or not, I’ll just say it doesn’t apply to me.

Overall, 4-Hour Work Week is worth a read. However, I preferred Career Renegade.

Now I’m reading Immortality by Milan Kundera. I’ve read Kundera and loved his stuff before. When I studied in Prague I heard all about him. He’s a French citizen now but was born in Czechoslovakia, so he’s got that mixture of distinct Czech transcendentalism and Parisian swagger. The first ten pages of Immortality are gripping, so I’m really excited to sit down with this book for a few hours and sink my teeth in.

Honorable Mention:
Just got Kick Ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps and Celebrating the Third Place. Looking forward to both of those very much!

You got anything for me? What’s new? Read any good books lately?

Young, Successful and Literate

I come across a lot of successful young entrepreneurs, but a local favorite of mine is Dan Schawbel. The guy is absolutely on fire. His following is huge and seems to be constantly growing and his book Me 2.0 is becoming a quick seller. He’s really tapping into the atmosphere of this recession and helping people turn their negativity and fear in on itself by giving pro-active tips on how to develop a personal brand online and get hired.

The concept of the personal brand can be an elusive one for people looking for quick returns and tangible results. I have a lot of older friends ask me why I’m involved with so many social network platforms and some even ask me how they can get involved and start benefiting from the amazing pool of resources that exist online.

My response to people who are looking to get involved is always to be as genuine and focused as possible. Another social media genius in Gary Vaynerchuk comes with a great point that people are the keys to social media, so you need to be interested and passionate about people. If you’re passionate about what you do, passionate about what others do and passionate about connecting, then suddenly you’ll be immersed in an interactive community that has unlimited benefits, most of which haven’t even been discovered yet.

Dan Schawbel’s book Me 2.0 is out now and I’m going to have to pick a copy up. He spoke nearby at Emerson College in Boston and I didn’t get to go listen to him, but he’s from nearby to so I’m guessing he’ll come around once more. I suggest you find him on Twitter, he’s a real asset for social networking and personal branding!


Book Review of Seth Godin’s “The Dip”

My “Secret Santa” gave me Seth Godin’s book “The Dip.” Talk about a well timed and thoughtful gift! Knowing who my secret Santa is, I realize that I once spoke with her about entrepreneurial aspirations that we both shared. She is a photographer and I am a creative marketer. We’re both in different stages of realizing our dreams.

Seth Godin’s book, “The Dip” is an 80 page business novel pleading and begging the reader to quit. Funny how at no point did I ever wish to quit this book.

The premise of “The Dip” is that anyone who wants success in any facet in their life should do some serious soul searching get their priorities straight. Godin asserts that if you can’t realistically be the best at something, or dominate a market, then you are wasting your time in doing that thing. “Average is for losers” according to Godin.

“The Dip” wants the reader to be confident that they can overcome the initial curve of difficulty and tribulation that is associated with becoming the best. The book also differentiates between tough learning curves and arduous roads to nowhere.

Many individuals have aspirations but settle for less because of conflicting ideas about what the costs of their dreams will be in relation to their current comfort. Seth Godin rattles you with short, concise ideas that hit the core of what confuses us about true risk versus reward.

I read “The Dip” in less than an hour. I’m forcing it upon all my friends who I think are open minded to quitting something and getting beyond their own personal dips and curves.

I fully intend on reading Seth Godin’s other books. I recommend you start with “The Dip.”

Now, to get down to my 10,000 hours of hard work. I’ve got a few hundred so far!


Can You Recommend A Good Business Book?

I like to read a lot. I am always reading at least two books at a time and I usually read about a book a week in all. I have been an absolute fiction freak for the past 4 years, but I’m shifting towards business books a bit more now. The entrepreneur in me is screaming to be let out.

I have been contributing to and reading blogs quite heavily for the past year or so. I’ve always blogged to some degree, but I became resolved to write every day in a purposeful manner and realized that a blog focusing on issues that people of my generation face would be good motivation to raise the bar each day.

That being said, I’ve been reading business blogs lately and they have given me excellent motivation and advice for starting my own business. I also reviewed a business novel called “Jack’s Notebook” by Gregg Fraley, which I loved as well. Now my appetite is whetted and I no longer crave fiction as much as I do a good business novel. I want to read practical and applicable advice on how people started their businesses and how I can get mine going from the point it’s at now.

I’m very interested in any and all suggestions. Whether it’s a blog, published white paper, etc. I’m hungry for all knowledge. I’ll obviously search some out and whatever I read and really like, I’ll share with you.

What business books, or any books for that matter, have changed your perspectives in 2008?