L. JON WERTHEIM is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and the author of several books, including Blood in the Cage, a chronicle of the rise of mixed martial arts, and Running the Table, about a bipolar pool hustler named Kid Delicious. His work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing numerous times.
When Wertheim (senior writer, Sports Illustrated; Running the Table) began his research on mixed martial arts (MMA), he did not anticipate liking what he saw. Similarly, this reviewer did not look forward to Wertheim's book with relish. MMA is, after all, the ultimate blood sport, one in which caged contestants punch, kick, choke, and grapple, using the tools of virtually every fighting system known to man to overcome their opponents. To the untrained eye, MMA matches are sanctioned bar brawls. Focusing on the rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the sport's dominant league, and its five-time champion, Pat "The Croatian Sensation" Miletich, Wertheim changes his own mind and this reviewer's as well. The athletes are some of the best conditioned in sports, and an unexpected number hold college degrees. The results are not orchestrated, as in professional wrestling, and the sport is far more dynamic than the nearly moribund world of boxing. MMA fans will welcome this book, and it is an eye-opener for those who know little of the sport. Recommended for all public libraries.-Jim Burns, Jacksonville P.L., FL Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
In his latest page-turning sports tour, Sports Illustrated senior writer Wertheim (Running the Table, Venus Envy) tackles mixed martial arts (MMA), a one-on-one bare-fist brawl that combines kickboxing, Greco-Roman wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and basically any other fighting technique an athlete chooses (minimal rules include no kidney-kicking and no sticking fingers in orifices or wounds). Chronicling the life of MMA legend Pat Miletich (the sport's Abner Doubleday), Wertheim also traces the history of the ultraviolent contest, dissects the league that dominates it (Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Champion) and examines the appeal (and the stigma) that's taken it from Internet subculture to pay-per-view king to $500 million commercial powerhouse. Miletich entered the sport in the early 1990s, when it was a no-holds-barred free-for-all (referred to by Sen. John McCain as "human cockfighting"), and wound up a five-time UFC champion; now, he operates an MMA training facility in Bettendorf, Iowa that draws athletes from around the world. A winning writer, Wertheim introduces a colorful, mostly likable cast of fighters, promoters, trainers and executives, brings an unflinching eye to fight scenes (the opening beat-down will certainly grab readers' attention) and defends the sport just as well as he questions its less-savory operating tactics. (Jan.) --Publishers Weekly "A seamless combination of sport, entertainment . . . Wertheim has pierced the veil to create an edifying book for die-hard MMA fans and curious bystanders alike. " --Sam Sheridan, author of A Fighter's Heart "Blood in the Cage is not only factually accurate, but also a joy to read. Jon Wertheim poignantly writes about the less than glorious rise to the top of MMA legend Pat Miletich while taking you for a ride down the historical trail blazed by some of MMA's biggest stars . . . this book is a must read."--Big John McCarthy, legendary UFC referee and founder of Big John McCarthy's Ultimate Training Academy "In a book as bracing and forthright as an open-handed slap, Jon Wertheim transcends easy caricature and cheap sensationalism to deliver the first honest journalism about Mixed Martial Arts that this country's ever seen. Half hype, half hemoglobin--and from its bareknuckles beginnings to its recent arrival as a national pay-per-view pastime--the brief, brutal history of MMA has confounded even its own fans. Blood in the Cage stands above the din." --Jeff MacGregor, special contributor, Sports Illustrated and author of Sunday Money "In Blood in the Cage, L. Jon Wertheim tells the story of Pat Miletich, the consummate professional athlete turned world class trainer. Miletich is someone for whom I have considerable respect and admiration and who puts his athletes and our sport first and foremost." --Randy Couture, UFC champion "As Voltaire said, 'That's why they invented the squeegee.'"--David Mamet, author, playwright, and director