Book Review : Rory Douglas - The Most Fun you'll Have at a Cage Fight (2015)
Why would someone willingly step inside a cage to get punched in the face? Who would want to spend a Saturday watching two strangers hold on to each other for three rounds? What's the story behind ring girls? Is everyone a loser in high school? How can you really tell who's the toughest man in the world? What drives a man with a decent job to pursue a career as a mixed martial artist? All these questions and many more are answered, or at least comically tackled, in Rory Douglas' The Most Fun You'll Have at a Cage Fight. With equal doses of grit, honesty, unfiltered curiosity, and wit, Douglas dives into the world of amateur mixed martial arts and tries to get to the heart of the sport to expose the motivations, preoccupations, and histories of some of those involved in it...in the Seattle suburbs.
In The Most Fun You'll Have at a Cage Fight, Douglas follows the career of his brother Chad Douglas, a Boeing employee by day and amateur mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter by night. Douglas spent two years following his brother, watching fights, and taking notes at every event. He used the material to write a column for McSweeney's called Notes from a Spectator at Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Fights. This book is an expanded version of that, and one of the funniest books you'll read this year. The world of amateur MMA in the Seattle suburbs may not sound like the most exciting sports subculture, but Douglas' observational skills, inquisitive mind, and hilarious style make it worthy of a book. Besides following his brother, the author offers a historical recount of mankind's quest to discover who is the toughest person on earth, a history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a look at the coaches, fans, ring girls, announcers, fighters and their families, and glimpses at the various colorful characters that can be found in the audience, and funny fight analysis. At once complete, brutal, and unexpectedly hilarious, this one is as much for hardcore MMA fans as it is for those just a bit curious about the sport.
This is a very personal narrative because it is told in the first person, carries a lot of the author's opinions and personality, and deals mostly with his family and their interaction with amateur MMA, but Douglas' writing somehow turns it into a communal experience in a way that readers end up caring about the people involved and laughing or shaking their heads along with the author. While this is impressive, the best thing about this narrative is that Douglas went into this without knowing anything about the sport and ended up writing a book that dissects not only the sport itself but also the UFC, the relationship between high school sports and MMA, and some of reasons why men and women decide to have their faces regularly rearranged. And when I say he went in knowing nothing, I mean nothing:
Almost every fighter, when he/she throws a punch or kick, makes one of the following noises: fwoot, shfit, hiff, or foof. I assume fighters make these noises for the same mysterious reasons that tennis players grunt when they hit a ball. I must admit though that for the first two fights I attended I was under the impression that these were just the noises punches made when they sliced through the air.
There's usually something going on inside the cage at an MMA event and Douglas offers commentary on most of the fights he watches, but there's also a lot going on in the crowd and behind the scenes, and that's where this book shines. From the way family members interact with the situation to the opinions of Douglas' wife about the ring girl and the incredible comments overhear while in the crowd, there's nothing sacred or taboo for the author and every element of this subculture in this particular regions is exposed. The result is a sports book that has one foot in comedy and the other in the realm of wide-eyed anthropology. Sure, the fight descriptions lose their edge toward the end, but the narrative is never boring and the author's style carries everything brilliantly until the end. If you've ever been even remotely curious about MMA, this books is for you. If, on the other hand, you've been a fan of the sport since its wild, unregulated days, then this book is not only for you but also probably a bit about you. Read it now.