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Book Review of ‘Fighting Words: In-Depth Interviews with the Biggest Names in Mixed Martial Arts’



Fighting_Words_HiResWhile Mixed Martial Arts is a relatively new sport when measured against the other long-established giants that dominate the North American market—the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, even the PGA—there are plenty of interesting stories and characters that fans want to learn more about. To this end, Mike Straka, host of HDNet’s ‘Fighting Words,’ has conducted interviews with 15 assorted figures in MMA and condensed the material into a book, aptly titled ‘Fighting Words: In-Depth Interviews with the Biggest Names in Mixed Martial Arts’ (Triumph Books, 2011).

Prominent names among the collection include legendary MMA pioneers Frank Shamrock, Ken Shamrock, Bas Rutten and Renzo Gracie; MMA promoters Dana White and Scott Coker; the UFC old guard of Matt Hughes, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell; new blood in UFC champions Frankie Edgar, Jon Jones and Cain Velazquez; and durable lightweights Clay Guida and Josh Thomson.

It goes without saying that controversy is endemic in combat sports; author Straka makes explicit his decision not to delve too deeply into the issues by prefacing the material by stating, “This book is not a hard-hitting look at the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.” He has little choice in the matter, as revealing personal details about the lives of his interview subjects that they themselves didn’t volunteer for publication would be seen as a betrayal of his professional and personal relationships within the tight-knit MMA community.

Straka’s book does a great job of subtly approaching critical issues in MMA while giving a voice to all sides of the key issues. The interview subjects themselves often talk about the realities of MMA in articulate and revealing ways.

For instance, in ‘Fighting Words,’ Scott Coker states, “I’ve heard UFC stands for U-Fight-Cheap. Frank Shamrock told me that one.” Talk of a fighters union is breached with Couture stating, “The first guys that step up and push it through, they’re going to get blackballed.” Ken Shamrock finally opens up about steroid use during his interview transcript with Straka, a revelation that has become easier to make as the best days of Ken’s career are long behind him.

Give credit to Straka for his veteran insight into attitudes in the sport. He explains the chip on Matt Hughes shoulder as the ‘nobody understands what I have to go through’ mentality. An MMA fan who ridicules Clay Guida to his face by telling him ‘I don’t recognize you without seeing you in your own blood,’ is gently rebuffed by Guida telling him, ‘Dude, that’s not very nice.’

There’s an interesting tie-in between Mexican-American Cain Velasquez and the anti illegal immigrant laws passed in his former residence of Yuma, Arizona. Velasquez lends his voice to the Mexican illegals—explaining the hard work his parents put in, working the most difficult jobs in the fields. One wonders if Velasquez is just an entertainer to his fans, and whether any readers will take his story to heart in terms of politics or social leanings.

Frequently, the casual fan wants to understand why guys like Georges St-Pierre or Jon Jones are at the top of the MMA game, often chalking it up to raw physical talent. ‘Fighting Words’ acknowledges the underlying truth—that Jones and St-Pierre are indeed, incredibly humble guys, with Renzo Gracie noting that “[St-Pierre] will listen to a white belt telling him what to do. He has the patience to do it.”

Despite the wide array of interviews available in television, MMA magazines, news sites and so forth, this book is still valuable as an excellent primer for readers who want to understand the personalities and landscape of the modern MMA game. There’s just enough description of key moments that’s balanced with interesting factoids to keep the story fresh and relevant.

‘Fighting Words’ is worth checking out, and with any luck, Straka will return with a sequel in 2012.


On a side note, back in June of 2010, when I was at the open workouts leading up to Fedor vs Werdum (hosted at American Kickboxing Academy), Frank Shamrock was on hand to emcee the event. He was also graciously giving out copies of his own book to the media, ‘Mixed Martial Arts for Dummies,’ a guidebook for understanding MMA.

Many of Straka’s other interviewees have published their own autobiographies including Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell, and Randy Couture. Big John McCarthy’s book, ‘Let’s Get It On!: The Making of MMA and it’s Ultimate Referee’ is due out this September.

Brian J. D’Souza is a Canadian writer who has covered Mixed Martial Arts for, and FIGHT! magazine.


Fighting Words–Depth-Interviews-Biggest/dp/1600785638/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1312525061&sr=1-2

Frank Shamrock’s book

BJM’s book, Let’s Get It On


2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura



The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.



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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score



This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.


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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland



On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda


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