ADCC News praises Total MMA
2008 was a landmark for the amount of books released for MMA fans such as the biographies of Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes, behind the scenes books like Title Shot and Fighter, and the usual training tomes such as those by Karo Parisyan and BJ Penn. Now just in time for the holiday season comes Total MMA: Inside Ultimate Fighting by Jonathan Snowden (ISBN 1-55022-846-1). Snowden is the North American editor of the United Kingdom's Total MMA.
This $19.95 list price quality paperback is 395 pages including 32 pages of great color photos. On the positive side this tome does a great job of covering mainly the UFC and to a certain extent Pride and the Japanese scene with small segments on EliteXC and IFL. As an overview of history this is a great book, especially for the newer fans and those interested in the "story" angles of the main events.
The balance between good and bad is exemplified by the 12 pages of "endnotes", references to works by other authors this book was based on. The good side of this is Snowden delves deep to tell the whole stories of the stars. The downside is this book doesn't tell much that isn't already common knowledge among the diehards. Much of the text is based on previous works like Brawl by Erich Krauss, The Gracie Way by Kid Peligro, No Holds Barred by Clyde Gentry, Full Contact Fighter magazine, and even Eddie Goldman's No Holds Barred podcast. Snowden stitches together and whittles those sources down to tell his perspective but readers of Abu Dhabi News are probably already familiar with Peligro and Goldman considering both are editors of this site.
Total MMA starts out being a history of MMA but isn't consistent in that sense, becoming mid-way through the book more of a history of the UFC, arguably one and the same to the newer fans anyway. Any book due to the amount of time it takes to publish and distribute is going to be rapidly outdated, such as Randy Couture's biography talking about leaving the UFC and his legal battles when to readers now he returned to that company and recently lost his title. That being said there were insightful but small sections on EliteXC and IFL with passing references to Bodog but almost nothing on Sengoku/Dream and the rebirth of Japanese MMA, television broadcast by HDNet and The Fight Network, or even better known Strikeforce on NBC and the Tapout series. Kelly Krieger did a great job of covering the various teams in Title Shot but Snowden only touches on MFS, Lion's Den, and briefly Frank Shamrock's Alliance (not to be confused with The Alliance in San Diego). In that sense Snowden looks back well but doesn't seem as interested in looking forward like Krieger.
Snowden also spends a lot of time on fighters that no longer matter to the core audience this book serves best. 15 pages of Bob Sapp, 8 pages of Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell, and 15 pages on Ken Shamrock's Lions Den are all topics which have fallen off the radar to the "ESPN crowd". Speaking of too much time spent on old topics the Fertittas don't enter the book until page 143. If you want to read about pre-Fertittas for that many pages check out Brawl or No Holds Barred. The audience probably would be better served and entertained by cutting the first 143 pages down to about 75 and spending that room on going more in-depth with as an example Sityodtong or WEC.
One way Snowden's style stands out is in his opinion. Snowden doesn't regurgitate the Gracie myth, exposes Pancrase for their "worked" matches, and even refers to Goldman as a conspiracy theorist. Snowden doesn't go overboard with criticism but when he takes a stand his writing resonates with firmly held conviction, not just press release spin.
Overall this is possibly the best written history of the UFC, arguably replacing Brawl and No Holds Barred. This book together with Title Shot would bring most fans up to speed on the current state of MMA.