Book Review: Pound for Pound MMA, a look into the lives of MMA’s greatest

June 28, 2013


Book Review: Pound for Pound MMA, a look into the lives of MMA’s greatest

Chris Olech – Pound for Pound: The Modern Gladiators of Mixed Martial Arts by Brian J. D’Souza is a well organized and expertly written book that dives deep into the pound for pound best MMA fighters in Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn,  Anderson Silva, Mauricio Rua and Fedor Emelianenko. D’Souza did a remarkable job of uncovering depths unknown to even the diehard fans about their favourite fighters and MMA personalities.

Did you know that GSP had tax and management issues? Did you know that the Japanese mafia fraction Yakuza had a large role to play in the demise of Pride Fighting Championships? Or did you know that Mauricio Rua had a hard sparring session with Wanderlei Silva with the side bet that Wanderlei not pay for a puppy if he won? Well, Brian uncovers behind the scenes workings and situations that are a must read for any MMA fan or even those with a slight interest in the sport as he takes the readers from the fighters humble beginnings to their glory days and beyond.

He also shows the darker side of the business, away from all the glitz, television screens and hype to the backroom deals that either propel careers or diminish them.  The contracts, managers, lawyers and organizations that wheel and deal away from the public eye that are interesting and scary to read at the same time.

Brian recounted his personal experience in the book with GSP’s now ex-manager Shari Spencer while he looked to interview GSP at his home gym of Tristar in Montreal;

On a professional front, cracks appeared in the facade as early as mid-2009, when Spencer began to both listen in and record interviews that Georges conducted with journalists via telephone. When this writer was on site at the Tristar gym in Montreal to speak with Georges for a pre-arranged magazine feature, St. Pierre nervously averted his eyes and gave the writer Spencer’s telephone number. A telephone interview was scheduled for later that evening, where   Spencer listened in while recording the proceedings.

The book has something for everyone, be it a casual fan who wants to know more about their favourite fighters and their careers to the diehard fan that will see the struggles and personality traits of their favourite fighters while getting a glimpse into the corporate workings of a profitable business. A definite must have for MMA fans as the story telling is intricate with well written chapters and most of all entertaining for all.

Quick Round with Brian J. D’Souza

What gave you the idea or inspiration to write this book?

I always had a strong interest in the fight game. The motivation to write a book is about more than making a decision or even being inspired.

Several years ago, one of my friends sent me a poem by Charles Bukowski called “So You Want to be a Writer .” This is the poem that states that the writing just has to flow through you without any pretence. I feel that Bukowski’s poem explains the creative process best.

Where did you have to travel to uncover your information for the book?

I traveled to Montreal to interview Georges St-Pierre several times. When Fedor had fights in San Jose and New Jersey, I traveled to the US.

The best trip I undertook for the purpose of conducting interviews for the book was to Brazil, where I went to Curitiba, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, in that order.

What was your most memorable story or incident from the book?

I’ll share something that wasn’t in the book, because telling a story about GSP, BJ, Anderson, Shogun or Fedor would really only scratch the surface in terms of memorable moments.

While doing a magazine feature on the Tristar gym in late 2009, I was having dinner with Kenny Florian and Firas Zahabi. Kenny talked about how he had more freedom in his early days when he was barely breaking even teaching jiu-jitsu and scraping together money to travel to tournaments—basically telling me that those early years of his career were some of the best in his life.

My interpretation was that Kenny’s happiness was related to his lack of responsibilities. He was also working towards his own goals and not the aims of a monolithic, profit-driven company.

What made you want to choose the main five fighters for this book?

In my opinion, they are the five greatest fighters of all time. They also happen to span each of the major established weight classes in the modern MMA era.

From the five fighters in the book, who would you rate as the best pound for pound in your opinion?

It just wouldn’t be fair to pick one name from the list, especially since all fighters lose sooner or later. Rankings are always subjective, and the experts have been proven wrong many times over.

That being said, Fedor, Anderson and GSP are all neck-and-neck for top honours as the greatest fighters of all time. GSP and Anderson have many advantages over Fedor because they aren’t retired and because the UFC is run more efficiently than any promotion Fedor fought in.

Anything that you would like to add for the fans?

Today, Muhammad Ali is a shell of himself. He’s absorbed years of punishment that directly contributed to his decline in health. Financially, the one major asset that he has going for him is total control of his name and likeness rights. He sold an 80% share of his name and likeness rights for $50 million in 2006 .

I wrote this book to explain how much MMA fighters give the fans and how little they get back. Boxing is corrupt and everyone knows that Muhammad Ali got ripped off. Yet in many ways, today’s generation of fighters has it even worse because they’ve signed away part or all of their likeness rights.

We can do better for the health of MMA as a whole, and the fans can be at the forefront of pioneering legislation, keeping an eye on the athletic commissions and criticizing the self-interested actions of promoters.



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