Blood in the Cage
Mixed Martial Arts, Pat Miletich, and the Furious Rise of the UFC
By L. Jon Wertheim
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618982615, 288pp.)
Publication Date: January 2009
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The first inside account of the sensational new sport of mixed martial arts, seen through the lens of its pioneer, Pat Miletich, the patron saint of badass” Based on unlimited access to the Ultimate Fighting Championship and its rival leagues, Blood in the Cage peers through the chain-link Octagon into the frighteningly seductive world of mixed martial arts, which is exploding in popularity despite resistance from every corner.Wertheim focuses on Pat Miletich, a mixed-martial-arts pioneer and six-time UFC champion, who currently runs the most famous MMA training school in the world. Single-handedly Miletich has transformed a gritty town on the banks of the Mississippi into an unlikely hotbed for his sport.He has also transformed many an average Joe into a walking weapon of destruction. Wertheim intertwines Miletich’s own life story, by turns tragic and triumphant, with the larger story of the unholy rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, from its controversial, back alley roots to the fastest-growing sporting enterprise in America. For fans of Jeff MacGregor’s Sunday Money and Sam Sheridan’s A Fighter’s Heart, Blood in the Cage takes readers behind the scenes, right down to the mat, from a punch in the kidney to the ping of the cash register, as Wertheim brilliantly exposes the no-holds-barred reality of the blood sport for a new generation.
L. JON WERTHEIM is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and the author of five 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, which has been optioned for film by Tom Hanks's Playtone and is currently in development. His work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing numerous times.
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 hemoglobinand from its bareknuckles beginnings to its recent arrival as a national pay-per-view pastimethe 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