Inside stories don't get any more inside than this.
John McCarthy was a Los Angeles police officer in the early 1990s when, in the wake of the Rodney King beating, he was asked to represent the department on a panel of martial artists charged with developing appropriate police tactics for apprehending violent suspects. Among those in the room was Rorion Gracie, who was not the most physically imposing practitioner there but was the one whose art, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, impressed and intrigued McCarthy to the point where he began training in the guy's gym. And when Gracie, after absorbing the self-possessed attitudes of some on the police task force, came up with the idea for a competition called War of the Worlds, to test his family's fighting system against others, McCarthy ended up serving as a training partner for Rorion's younger brother Royce, who was tabbed to represent the Gracies in what ended up being renamed the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The rest is history, as they say, and a whole lot of that history is contained in
McCarthy takes us on a wild ride from the UFC's "no holds barred" beginnings through its evolution into a sport with a growing mainstream acceptance. It's been not a linear progression but a winding, bumpy road, and "Big" John has been there every step of the way. He doesn't lord this insider status over the reader, though, but instead uses self-deprecating humor to lure you in. The 400-plus pages are a breezy read, no doubt thanks to McCarthy's co-author, my SI.com colleague Loretta Hunt, the longtime MMA reporter who also worked with Hall of Famer Randy Couture on his autobiography.
Even fight fans who think they've heard it all will learn some fascinating tidbits. How the very first bout in UFC history shockingly sent something flying out into the crowd. (Hint: Is there a dentist in the house?) How McCarthy originally wanted to fight in the octagon, rather than ref. How "Big" John went looking for the irascible Tank Abbott one night with vengeance on his mind.
I haven't read every history of MMA and the UFC -- I'm more likely to sit down with a good novel or history maker's biography. But among the books about this sport that I've seen,