Matt Polly’s “Tapped Out” succeeds where all other MMA-related books fail: it tells a fight story for both the male and female reader.
By jumping head-first into the icy waters of competition, Polly undertakes a journey of transformation, leaving behind a hard-drinking, leisurely everyman to become a capable MMA fighter. There is, of course, the expected blood, sweat and tears of training, as well as an exploration of the physical and mental rigors of climbing into the ring and beating someone silly. But throughout the narrative there’s also the author’s newly-wed wife, a presence that colors Polly’s odyssey with a perspective heretofore unseen in mixed martial arts books. Guess what, guys? For all of us who follow the sport with passion and zeal, there are women out there mourning our absences while we’re at the gym training or glued to the pay-per-view on TV on Saturday night.
From a visit to Russia and a sambo tournament featuring the legendary fighter Fedor Emelianenko, to the grueling workouts of ace jiu-jitsu and kickboxing coaches John Danaher and Kru Phil Nurse in New York City, to the nigh-sadistic tutelage of trainer Joey Varner at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, Polly’s passage into the realm of sanctioned unarmed combat is both illuminating and compelling, a George Plimpton-esque case study on what it means to be a man in a sport populated by fistic giants – and thanks to his wife, “Em”, Tapped Out is also a treatise on what it means to be a husband in that world. (Hint: it’s not easy.)
Like Polly’s “American Shaolin” before it, Tapped Out has all of the author’s usual wit and ease of prose. But unlike his two-year stint at that Shaolin Kung Fu temple in China detailed in Polly’s first book, this tale involves MMA, a bout in a Las Vegas hotel ballroom, and a wife waiting at home to kick his ass. And that sets it apart from every other MMA star bio or historical text out there (yes, even mine).
Buy it. Read it. Love it.