Total MMA: Inside Ultimate Fighting

8 / 10

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Although the sport has only been alive since 1993, and even at that, is drastically (and thankfully) different from what it originally was, entitling your document of the sport as "Total MMA" is quite the ballsy move, given how much ground the complete story of the sport has to cover. That, however, is exactly what Jonathan Snowden - a former lawyer who gave up his job to join the military following the September 11th attacks - has done, accomplishing no mean feat in the process.

The 400-page book traces the history of the sport back as far as Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese judoka who helped to pioneer judo (then, actually closer to what we know today as ju-jitsu) all across the world, most notably for this story in Brazil. From there, there's a look at the formation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and its early events, transitioning into the beginning of the Japanese Pride Fighting Championship, and even lightly covering the beginnings of the sport in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, much of that story is told through short biographies of MMA's major players, like Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and the incomparable Bob Sapp.

Perhaps the main plus about Total MMA, aside from its wide grasp, is the fact that it is accessible to any reader, of almost any age. The prose is simply yet flowingly written, and transitions well from one story to the next, even if that jump is across continents and into different sporting cultures.

Furthermore, for each demographic of (non) fan, the book will also achieve something different. For complete beginners, it will teach about the sport and introduce the major players, for casual fans it will note the events that they will have missed out on (in particular, the days of Pride), and even for the hardcores, it will stir a few memories and push them to revisit the matches that they'd not seen in years. Falling into the latter category, I really didn't think I'd feel the need to again revisit Kazushi Sakuraba vs Royler Gracie, but I soon found myself looking for the DVD.

If there is to be one negative regarding the book, it's that there's nothing ground-breaking within it, no story emerging that was previously untold. But that is hardly surprising given that the internet is a hot-bed of MMA news and gossip, where no stone is left unturned. In fact, turning this supposed negative into a positive, Snowden does well to differentiate the fact from the fiction here, largely relying on the best sources of information in this work. The endnotes at the book's conclusion stand to prove the accuracy of his history.

Overall, "Total MMA" is a very good history of what is a sport still struggling to be called just that. It is undoubtedly the finest chronicling of mixed martial arts so far, and therefore is highly recommended.

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