As MMA grows more popular, publishing companies see an opportunity to cash in by tempting the legends of the sport into “writing” (I use the term loosely) books about themselves. Given the egos on some of these guys, it doesn’t require much. But future MMA autobiographers should take heed of the cautionary tales of those who came before. Their careers litter the ground like Icaruses who flew too close to the sun.
To believe your life worthy of $26 in hardback is to put yourself in the realm of the gods. And the gods are not to be trifled with. If Clash of the Titans taught us anything other than that 3-D is a fad, it was that pride goeth before the Kraken. Hubris will always be punished. Fighters of yesteryear (2008, 2009) failed to heed this warning, and so they were brought low. Call it the Curse of the MMA Memoir.
Think I am mistaken? Fear this is just the ravings of a jealous writer who, unlike Chuck Liddell or Forrest Griffin, never made it to the top of the New York Times best seller list, despite having penned a far superior work? Well then, let me shower some facts on your skeptical skulls and let you draw your own conclusions.
1) B.J. Penn’s Why I Fight; The Belt is Just an Accessory was released April 13, 2010. He lost to Frankie Edgar three days earlier (April 10, 2010). And the cruel gods have laughed and laughed throughout his publicity tour, especially after he 69ed a Fox News reporter.
2) Forrest Griffin’s Got Fight? was released June 2, 2009, and contained the line “While the Michael Jordans and the Anderson Silvas of this world may be few and far between…for us mere mortals…” Ah, prescient Forrest thought he could charm the gods with his self-deprecating wit. They were not amused. On August 9, 2009, Silva made Forrest look sub-mortal.
3) Randy Couture’s Becoming the Natural was released July 22, 2008. Randy lost his next fight to Brock Lesnar on November 15, 2008, and, as if that weren’t enough to satisfy the gods’ vengeance, the one after to Noguiera on August 29, 2009.
4) Tito Ortiz’s This Is Gonna Hurt was released May 6, 2008. Perhaps for defiling the virginal Jenna Jameson, the gods were particularly angry with Tito. Lyoto Machida beat him on May, 24, 2008, the UFC ripped up his contract, no other promotion would pick him up, Dana White made him crawl back on his knees, and then Forrest Griffin defeated him (but see above).
5) Chuck Liddell’s Iceman: My Fighting Life was released January 29, 2008. The gods put thunder into Rashad Evans’s right hand for Liddell’s next match-up on September 6, 2008.
6) Matt Hughes’s Made In America was released January 1, 2008. Three days prior to publication (Dec 29, 2007), GSP whooped him and then so did Thiago Alves on June, 7, 2008. The gods must not have been crazy for Matt’s self-regard.
In journalism three examples are considered a trend; six are a scientific law. Every single major MMA memoir published in the last two years has resulted in a loss for the author immediately before, after, or both. I hear Brock Lesnar has been shopping around book proposal. Everyone in the UFC heavyweight division from Shane Carwin to Cain Velasquez should pray to whichever god they worship that Joe Silva matches them up against Lesnar near his publication date.
(Matthew Polly is the author of American Shaolin and an upcoming book on his adventures in the world of mixed martial arts. You can read Matt’s Fightlinker posts here or check out his book on living with the Shaolin monks in China here. Oh, and he also writes for some dopey site called Slate too.)