I just finished reading Brian J. D'Souza's Pound for Pound: The Modern Gladiators of Mixed Martial Arts and have to strongly recommend it for anyone wanting to learn more about what goes on backstage in the lives and careers of MMA's top athletes.
The book focuses on five of the greatest martial artists in the sport's history including UFC champs B.J. Penn, Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua as well as Pride legend Fedor Emelianenko. I consider myself someone who follows the sport extremely closely and has since its inception in the early 1990s but this book had a TON of new facts, new stories and new insights into what really happens in the MMA business.
The chapters on UFC rivals GSP and BJ Penn do an excellent job of depicting these how the destinies of these two very different men intertwined and collided. I'll probably never think of one without thinking of the other now and the way Penn's downslide began with his quixotic quest to move up and beat GSP at Welterweight and how defeating Penn confirmed GSP as an all-timer.
The sections dealing with Anderson Silva and Shogun Rua and their experiences in the Chute Boxe camp while fighting for Japan's legendary Pride organization were particularly informative. If you've ever wondered exactly what went on in Brazil's greatest MMA camp of the 2000's, Pound for Pound is probably the best English-language place to start.
The section on Fedor is probably the most remarkable of D'Souza's achievements as he managed to get some incredible details on the dirty dealings around the 2003 New Year's Eve contract disputes that ultimate resulted in the downfall of Pride. Let's just say the Yakuza was heavily involved in the negotiations. Fedor's great rivals Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera and Mirko Filipovic are also well chronicled in the chapter, which sent me scurrying back to my dusty pile of Pride DVDs to relive some treasured memories with new insight.
D'Souza has no illusions about the ugly nature of the fight business or the even uglier operators who profit off the blood and sweat of the fighters but he doesn't let that realistic awareness make him cynical. Overall Pound for Pound reflects a very well informed appreciation of what the athletes must go through to get the chance to perform at the highest levels of the sport.