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I Recommend “Pound For Pound: The Modern Gladiators of Mixed Martial Arts



P4P Book coverI admire the work of and the principles held by writer Brian D'Souza, who has a new book out.

I can heartily recommend the book, “Pound For Pound: The Modern Gladiatiors of Mixed Martial Arts,” for anyone who is already an MMA fan, or anybody curious who wants to get a better sense of the sport, and the standout athletes in that realm.

I chatted with friend-of-TSS D'Souza and present that chat in Q 'n A format, so you hear more from him, than me.

Tell us about the book.

Pound for Pound: The Modern Gladiators of Mixed Martial Arts is the story of the five greatest fighters in the history of the sport—Georges St-Pierre, BJ Penn, Anderson Silva, Maurício Rua and Fedor Emelianenko. The structure is simple: five biographies that cover critical details of each fighter’s upbringing, exposure to martial arts, professional career, personal relationships, financial issues (a big issue with so many managers stealing from fighters) and other areas that fans want to know about.

When did you decide to do it, how long did it take?

I read David Remnick’s best-selling book on Muhammad Ali King of the World back in 2000. Jonathan Rendall’s This Bloody Mary is the Last Thing I Own, I probably read around 2007. Those books inspired me to get involved in the fight game, but since mixed martial arts was the new thing exploding in popularity, that’s where editors wanted coverage.

Right from the first time I interviewed UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in 2008, I wanted to be the one to tell his unique story. I drafted a proposal for an MMA book in 2009, and really invested in finding the best sources possible to tell a bigger story about both what it takes to excel in mixed martial arts and the swirling undercurrents of treachery and betrayal that underpin virtually all careers in the sport.

What were the toughest parts to do, and what was the biggest unexpected joy?

It was hard to negotiate with certain MMA managers. They are often the intermediary who keeps the fighter under control, and serves them up to the promotion. A few are talented, tireless and honest, but many others don’t want unnecessary complications that can arise when someone asks tough questions about financial accounting, the percentages they are taking from the fighter or any side-deals they have made without their fighter’s consent/knowledge.

My biggest joy was exposing someone who was taking advantage of one of my favorite fighters. No one ever thanked me, and the way legal settlements are structured, no one is probably able to come out and acknowledge the wrong-doing that occurred. But the people who were involved on the inside know the truth, and I sleep well at night holding that close to my heart.

Also, of course, hanging out with the biggest names in the sport on their home turf, like Jose Aldo, Junior dos Santos, Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida in Brazil. Or training Muay Thai with Georges St-Pierre’s instructor, Phil Nurse in New York. Being with Fedor Emelianenko in the days before his shocking loss to Fabricio Werdum was surreal.

Of the athletes profiled, how did your assessment change from start to finish?

When I interviewed BJ Penn in early 2010, I saw him as someone who was unbeatable at lightweight. His fight with Frankie Edgar at UFC 112 in April 2010—that was a turning point where he lost the decision, and his career momentum shifted forever. You can’t look at a string of losses near the end of an athlete’s career and say, “Well, he really wasn’t that good.” Could Frankie Edgar or Benson Henderson take Georges St-Pierre or Lyoto Machida to a decision that could go either way? Could they go into those fights with people expecting them to win? That’s part of what made BJ great from start to finish.

It doesn’t lessen Fedor Emelianenko’s legacy that he lost three in a row, either. Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva are still steaming ahead, still going strong, but that could change in an instant—via a high kick from Carlos Condit, or the wrestling acumen of Chael Sonnen—losses won’t erase their unparalleled achievements to date.

You stand out as someone who speaks truth to power…how did you come to be this way? Is it “scary” to be one of the few, in that realm?

Once people turn their backs on you, the incentive to play along is gone. You see it in the character Kevin Spacey plays in American Beauty, Lester Burnham. Having a sycophantic middle manager hovering, sizing Burnham up for weakness so he can cull him from the company—that’s reality. Instead of supplication, Burnham flips out and chooses freedom.

I could play things differently in order to please those around me. They would be the ones who are happy, though. I’d be miserable knowing what I know and having that truth eating away inside of me.

Is it scary knowing that Toshiro Igari, the Japanese lawyer who helped get the cease-and-desist order to get PRIDE taken off of Fuji TV died in 2010, probably by yakuza hands? Or that certain top-level MMA journalists aren’t allowed to be credentialed as media at UFC shows? You bet I know the stakes.

Those fears are supplanted by the big picture: a world where everyone makes compromises isn’t one that I want to live in. It’s worth the price to tell an accurate story, even if it involves paying a heavy price. Like the Spartans used to say, “Come back with your shield—or on it.”

Check out a trailer for the book:


You can click here to order the book on Amazon.


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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