Last month I received a review copy of Blood in the Cage: Mixed Martial Arts, Pat Miletich, and the Furious Rise of the UFC, and I finally got a chance to read it over the holidays. I’ve read my share of MMA books over the last couple of years, so I wasn’t overly excited about this one. Once I started reading it, I had a hard time putting it down and managed to finish the book in two days.
Blood in the Cage: Mixed Martial Arts, Pat Miletich, and the Furious Rise of the UFC is essentially two major stories that converge into one. The first follows MMA legend Pat Miletich and his transition from an unemployed nobody with no future to MMA super hero. The other story follows the birth and fall – and subsequent rebirth – of the UFC. The two stories trade chapters before finally meeting when Pat Miletich gets his shot in the UFC.
One of the things that really gripped me about this book was how incredibly detailed it was. Author L. Jon Werthem packs in so much information that a relatively new fan of the sport will emerge with a whole new understanding of MMA, while older fans will be entertained by a lot of stories they may have not heard before, as well as learning a lot about Pat Miletich’s life.
Miletich’s life story in particular is tragic and inspiring, almost a real life Rocky story. The book follows Miletich from his childhood when his father abandoned him, to his adolescent years when he lost two of his three brothers and the third ended up in prison. Through it all, Miletich rediscovered himself through MMA and ended up becoming the UFC welterweight champion, a title he held for two and a half years. The book also goes in to the problems between Miletich and Dana White, which started with Miletich being denied a UFC welterweight title rematch with Carlos Newton (who he lost the title to, and the title fight was given to Miletich’s student Matt Hughes) to Miletich accepting a coaching spot for Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter with Carlos Newton – only to find out while watching TV that the spots ended up being given to Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock without so much as a phone call. There’s also an incredibly ironic story about Miletich receiving a phone call last year from Senator John McCain – who wanted Miletich to join him on a hunting trip (you can read a detailed history of McCain’s rivalry with MMA at McCainFactCheck.com by clicking here).
Before it ends up sounding like the book is negative about Dana White or the UFC, I should remark that the book is quite the opposite. You get a whole new respect for Dana and how he got to where he is. The book follows White’s childhood from Las Vegas to Maine and back to Vegas. It also follows his start in managing Chuck Liddell and future rival Tito Ortiz to taking over the UFC, working his ass off and getting MMA to where it is.
In between all this are a lot of stories – some you may know and some you don’t. You get a brief history of the Ken Shamrock – Frank Shamrock feud, Tim Sylvia’s unpopularity with fans and his fellow fighters at Miletich Fighting Systems, to Randy Couture’s lawsuit with the UFC. Also you get a look into the dealings between Spike TV and the UFC over The Ultimate Fighter and how that show almost was ruined when the fighters found out how much the contestants of The Contender were making.
The book is pretty current, seeming like it was finished in the summer as it mentioned Brock Lesnar’s fight with Mark Coleman (which ended up being changed to Lesnar vs. Heath Herring after Coleman suffered an injury). It’s a great read and one that I would recommend to any fan of the sport. You can purchase Blood in the Cage: Mixed Martial Arts, Pat Miletich, and the Furious Rise of the UFC at Amazon.com by clicking here.
Final Rating **** ½ (out of 5)