I was not looking forward to reading Mick Bower's new book Bloody Revolution: A Journey into UK MMA. Everything about it screamed "self publishing" and I just find myself with little time or patience for amateur MMA, whether in the cage or on the printed page. Normally, despite protestations to the contrary, you can indeed judge a book by its cover. But this is a product that defied the packaging, a book well worth your time.
Right away I felt like I was in good hands with Bower. There were never moments, like in Jon Wertheim's Blood in the Cage, where the curtain was lifted and you realized the author was someone utterly unfamiliar with the MMA scene. Bower, a freelancer who has written for Fighter's Only among others, knows his stuff. When he delves into the history of the sport, he does so succinctly, with verve, and with penetrating insight.
He's also a wonderful story teller. In each of the book's chapters, itself a stand alone essay of sorts, Bower makes sure to put you in the audience with him. You can practically see the punters, the birds, and the chavs and taste the beer as he takes in his surroundings. One of my favorite chapters sees Bower bringing a girlfriend to the UFC for the first time - with disastrous results.
While the UFC plays an important role in this book, as it does in British MMA, this is a tome primarily about the local promotions and fighters. The days where you could paraphrase the British promotions by comparing Cage Warriors to the sport friendly UFC and Cage Rage to the flashy Japanese Pride are long gone. There are a dozen players in the UK game, and Bower does a fantastic job giving the reader the lay of the land. Some of the major characters will be familiar to American readers, including men like Dan Hardy, Neil Grove, and James McSweeney who have gone on to different levels of success stateside.
The book's finest moment is a multiple chapter examination of the Alex Reid-Tom "Kong" Watson fight last year for BAMMA. It was the most watched local fight in British MMA history and Bower brings it to life. It's a story that brings the book to a close, but certainly not the history of British MMA. I know, going forward, that when there is a story to be told in the United Kingdom, Mick Bower is the man for the job. I'll be looking for his work and recommend you do the same, starting with Bloody Revolution. The book doesn't have a North American publisher, but can be purchased for your Kindle or ebook reader.