This past weekend Jake and I put on some pants and left the confines of our comfy blog basement to hit up New York City. The reason: to check out the Battle of the Books, a dual book release party / underground MMA event. Those of you who are regulars on the site know Matthew Polly, who contributes posts from time to time and is about to release his latest book, Tapped Out. That bad boy comes out on November 17th.

Also regularly linked on Fightlinker is Jim Genia, most famous around here for his acid trip recaps of The Ultimate Fighter. His book Raw Combat: The Underground World of Mixed Martial Arts, just came out on November 1st. As it’s name implies, Raw Combat is all about the sketchy New York fight scene so Jim had the connections to set their book release party up in a small basement gym in Manhattan that would also host several quasi-legal fights.

Since I hadn’t gotten my copy of Jim’s book yet I didn’t know what to expect. I figured maybe dudes would fight in headgear or elbows would be disallowed. Two minutes into the first fight I realized how wrong I was. As the two fighters crashed to the ground, they started kneeing each other in the head, PRIDE style. We were all crowded around the cage so closely you could smell the sweat coming off the fighters. The building was full of book industry types who watched as quietly as the Japanese at Saitama. You could hear the knees bouncing off skulls with a dull tuk tuk tuk sound. It was pretty damn gritty and real.

The night featured four fights, although we almost got five. After the fight designated as main event finished in three minutes, the promoter announced they were going to find a second opponent for the winner. We’d joked earlier about people stepping out of the crowd to fight in the cage and all of a sudden it didn’t seem like such an absurd possibility. Unfortunately, the only guy willing to fight on such short notice was an hour’s subway ride away so things wrapped up without another match.

(The rest is after the jump!)

On the book release side of things, the entrance to the gym had been converted into an area to mingle and munch on a variety of finger food. My favorite was something Matt’s wife called ‘white crack’, salted peanuts dipped in yogurt that Polly’s mother June had brought with her. I got to meet Joey Varner, the guy who whipped Matt into fighting shape for his Tuff’n’Uff fight in Vegas. Jake cornered Matt’s jiu jitsu coach John Danaher and had a good chat about quantum physics and intergalactic communication. Danaher mentioned that Georges St Pierre believes he’s been abducted by aliens, which certainly makes more sense than aliens picking up fat rednecks from New Mexico.

All in all it was a great night of fights and a great weekend amongst friends in New York. Matt Polly took everyone for Chinese on Friday and busted out the Cantonese he mastered while training in Shaolin to order the best soup dumplings I’ve ever had in my life. Jim Genia hosted us on Saturday after the book release and we had a great time watching UFC 138. It also turns out our newest Fightlinker scribe Dick lives in New York and we downed several pints together. It was totally worth the 15 hours of bussing, even with the screaming babies we had to endure both ways.

If you’re looking for a good MMA book to read about the crazy underground fight scene in New York, Raw Combat is for you. Jim’s hella oldschool and knows more about the culture than anyone else in the sport, and those of you who’ve read his stuff on his blog or MMA Convert know he’s got skillz. And if you can’t wait for Matt’s book Tapped Out, may I recommend you pick up a copy of his last book American Shaolin, which is kinda the spiritual prequel to his adventures in MMA. I can’t recommend that one enough – it’s probably the best book I’ve read in the past five years.