Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts by Doug Merlino
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
By default, if a writer can describe the sport of MMA in an objective manner and is capable of bringing into light all aspects of MMA, the good, the bad, the misunderstood without the interjection of personal judgements, the book will be a 5 star for me.
This book for me rates a 3.5 star.
Doug Merlino, an established sports journalist presents this book and its several stories in a simple and effective style. He begins by introducing the sport from a layman’s perspective – how cage fighting normally appears like a barbaric activity to an outsider. He then brings in the opposing view of how each fighter are presented as warriors that embodies civilised virtues such as courage, hard work and honour. The book goes on to explore many facets of the sport including the physical and emotional backstories of various athletes, a brief history of the sport, wages and challenges of being a professional fighter onward to how the career can terminate for some of them. Overall I felt that he presented an all rounded view of MMA.
I deducted one star for one very large aspect of MMA he had failed to include in his book – Women’s MMA (WMMA). Aside from a brief mention of Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, all other women in his book played the clichéd role of girlfriend, wives and mums. HELL NO! WMMA has been around several years prior to the publishing of his book (2015). Why would he not think that WMMA is a vital part of MMA? Does he believe a woman cannot be a BEAST? This is a huge sore point for me.
The other half a point was deducted because the book zig-zags between the lives of 3 athletes and made it rather confusing for me at the start.
Towards the end, Merlino mentions how through the months of his research, he acquired a number of wisdom from the veterans of the sport. I was particularly impressed when he describes how martial arts training helps align the mind, body and spirit, teaches a fighter to manage their emotions and defend themselves from threats. This is a level of wisdom not normally available to many athletes even after years of training. And this is why I round the book up to 4 stars.