We were asked to put together a list of the best books ever written about MMA for USA TODAY's Mixed Martial Arts Special Edition. It wasn't easy to cut down our list to 8 books but we did it. We selected three fighter auto-biographies, three MMA history books and two instructionals.
Here's the list:
- Got Fight?: The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat by Forrest Griffin with Erich Krauss
- Why I Fight: The Belt Is Just an Accessory by B.J. Penn with Dave Weintraub
- Made in America: The Most Dominant Champion in UFC History -- Matt Hughes with Michael Malice
Hughes, thought to be a boring farm boy, was shown to be an interesting and conflicted man, balancing his newfound Christianity with his lifelong cockiness. Made in America is even more compelling than his Ultimate Fighter appearances.
You wonder whether Hughes is aware he is the villain in much of his own book. In the end, it doesn't matter if he's in on the joke; it's a mesmerizing tale of a deeply flawed champion.
- Total MMA: Inside Ultimate Fighting -- by Jonathan Snowden
- The MMA Encyclopedia by Jonathan Snowden and Kendall Shields
- No Holds Barred -- by Clyde Gentry
- The Gracie Way: An Illustrated History of the World's Greatest Martial Arts Family -- by Kid Peligro
Peligro is a true insider. No one else could have gotten this incredible treasure trove of stories from mixed martial arts' royal family, and it makes the book something special.
Peligro divides the book into 10 chapters, each devoted to a different Gracie: Carlos, Helio, Carlson, Rolls, Rorion, Carlos Jr., Rickson, Royler, Royce and Renzo all earn time in the spotlight.
Peligro almost serves as a spokesman for the family here. Readers approaching this book looking for objectivity will be horribly disappointed. It's the Gracie family's story, spun to their benefit at every turn.
That doesn't stop it from being a must-read book for fans looking for insight into the family that started it all.
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Theory and Technique by Renzo Gracie, Royler Gracie and John Danaher
- Mixed Martial Arts: The Book of Knowledge by B.J. Penn, Erich Krauss and Glen Cordoza
If Peligro's BJJ instructionals were the pioneers of the genre, Victory Belt's books are the modern standard, and this tome by multidivision UFC champ Penn is the definitive example.
The book details Penn's strategic and tactical approach to MMA with detailed breakdowns of hundreds of techniques, including strikes, submissions and takedowns.
More important, the book includes Penn's secrets for using one technique to set up another and transitioning from one phase of the game to the next.
The color photos are clear and capture the actions described in the accompanying text to a T.
There are fighting camps where this tome is passed from hand to hand as aspiring mixed martial artists work to learn their craft.
There are lots of other books I'd have included in a longer list. Matt Lindland's Dirty Boxing for Mixed Martial Arts: From Wrestling to Mixed Martial Arts in particular is the best technical guide to applying wrestling to MMA. Despite the somewhat misleading title, it's a complete, systematic look at each of the dominant standing control positions, the attacks leading from them and the best way to segue from one to another.
Eddie Bravo's Mastering the Rubber Guard and Mastering the Twister are the only comparably systematic books on MMA grappling I've seen and, with apologies to Eddie, Lindland's Greco-Roman is much more broadly applicable than Bravo's somewhat eccentric, if innovative, Rubber Guard and Twister systems.
What are your favorite MMA books?