Hydra Head Records was nice enough to send me an audio book copy of FIGHT: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Ass-Kicking But Were Afraid You'd Get Your Ass Kicked For Asking by Eugene Robinson. Robinson has spent time as a fighter, rock musician, bouncer and journalist (for Hustler no less). This eclectic background allows for the 2 CD audio book to drift from thoughts on everything from professional MMA training to lessons on prison fighting styles. MMA fans will likely get a kick out of stories involving gyms you know, fighters you love...hell, even Cung Le makes an appearance kicking Robinson's leg so many times during training sessions that serious muscle damage is done.
There is something quite admirable about the way that Robinson writes so openly about fighting simply because he likes to fight and embracing that part of the male brain which is constantly asking "can I take him?" I think that too often we as MMA fans are put on the defensive and have to play up the sporting aspects of our game that we aren't able to fully embrace the purely primal element of wanting to see two men fight as men have since the stone age. I have always thought it a little unnatural to deny this and am always glad to hear people admit it.
There is no doubt that FIGHT drifts a bit into an odd territory from time to time where you think that it is meant to be digested by those who will likely never get their polo shirts with popped collars messed in a true fight but still want to hear stories so they feel like a badass who could succeed in the same situations should they arise. But for the most part there is an almost beat poet-ish rhythm that Robinson establishes which makes the listen easy and interesting and his ability to speak with emotion takes it a step above all of the other monotone book recordings I have listened to in my life.
I haven't actually had a chance to sit down and read the "real book" version but based on other reviews as well as what I've seen during a quick thumbing through I think that quite a bit of meat was cut to make the audio book fit on two discs. We also lose some top ten lists such as Robinson's "Top Ten Best and Worst Movie Fights" which admittedly probably translate much better to paper than compact disc, but I was still a little disappointed to miss out on some of the "fun stuff." However, for the listeners you do get to hear the occasional moment where it becomes clear that Robinson is no longer reading to you but has instead veered "from the script" and is now rambling off the top of his head about the point he just made. They're brief 30 second blips here and there, but they're still fun and honest little moments that you don't usually get in an audio book.
Robinson's grasp of the English language also becomes a bit of a problem at times and not because he lacks one. No, in fact he is so comfortable with language that he feels the need to play a few too many games with his writing. Alliteration hits you in the face over and over again like Anderson Silva's knees in a Thai clinch and there are a few moments where a simple point takes a while to get to simply because of an extra aside of unnecessary length wedged in the middle. But again, for the most part Eugene is in control to a degree that makes the time pass with ease. I'm usually a "sit down and read a book" kind of guy but as my wife and I just bought a house the sheer amount of errand running provided me with a lot of time in the car to listen to the book, and the book in turn made all the driving a lot more tolerable which is a very big thing when it comes to audio books.
The question is, of course, "is it worth my eleven bucks?" and the answer is a simple yes for anyone who is a fight fan or simply wants to know more about people who are. But make sure that you allow yourself to remember that there is more to being a fight fan than just "enjoying the sporting elements" and admit that the violence gets you going a little bit. You are, after all, still human.