As we all know, Jim one of our writers, recently published the book, Raw Combat. Jim asked me to provide an honest unbiased review of the book, so I took him up on the offer. I got a free book out of it, so I figured why not.
Raw Combat closely follows the underground fight scene of the New York City area. It is written in an ambiguously informal first person tone with mixes of dark and witty humor sprinkled through-out. For instance, “mother f***er” can be found on the fourth page. About half way through the first chapter you’ll clearly tell Genia writes from a place of passion. He paints rather ornate images of gritty, dirty dojos polka-dotting the city. Worn-down mats, blood soaked faces, and sheer power in victory all come to life. I personally enjoy the vernacular Genia provides. The vocabulary throughout is advanced for sure, but it’s written in a way that makes easy for inferences and the like. As Jim writes almost exclusively about events he has personally attended, both sanctioned and less than legal, I found myself surrounded by a rich scene I was not privy to in the least. These first-hand accounts are second to none. The UCL (Underground Fight league) is New York City’s premier MMA fight club. Though the events are totally illegal, that doesn’t stop fighters from fighting. Jim really goes out of his way to give first-hand interviews from the fighter’s and trainer’s mouths. Quotes rattle through the chapters from promoters, fighters, and the ever-present fighter/promoter hybrid (i.e. Peter Storm The UCL’s “founder”) These interviews are gold mines; these are people that the average MMA fan would never be able to hear speak.
In the first quarter of the book, the legal issues surrounding The Empire State are looked into. I for one have always attributed MMA’s absence from New York to be the product of uninformed naysayers and the plain ignorant. I personally have never peered into the “behind-the scenes” workings of the state’s great MMA debate, but again I was afforded an insider’s perspective on the topic. Jim gives a clearly persuasive, but near entirely bias free, explanation of the issues blocking MMA’s legalization in his state. Most who know even the least of New York’s MMA struggles, know State Assemblyman Bob Reilly is the antagonist of the on-going legalization tale. A from-the-mouth rehashing of a meeting between Brian, a mixed martial artist with an omitted last name, and the sport’s Darth Vader if you will. Brian paints a surprisingly humble and respectful portrait of the one labeled villain by the sport’s fans. Though ignorant his views are, Reilly isn’t as far out and uninformed as I assumed him to be. The man illustrated in Jim and Brian’s conversation is a man with good intentions but is out of date/touch none the less. For example, Mr. Reilly seemed unaware that [Nevada] state sanctioning bodies had the power to medically suspend fighters based on injuries received during a sanctioned fight.
The second and about half quarters of the book lean more towards actual underground and sanctioned fights; the images of bloodied, beaten (wo)men run rampant. Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts or “TSK” is sung up to basically be THE place to train throughout the city. Jim goes deeply into Tiger’s pulling off massive success while all too many others falter miserably and fade away to irrelevancy. Though members of TSK are threatened with permanent banishment from their respective martial arts school, you’re left with a sneaking suspicion that some of the fighters fulfill they’re desire to fight illegally; though, this is never explicitly stated. Tiger’s fighters are seen as a brotherhood above all else. They display unparalleled loyalty and respect to one another; Jim explains that ‘anytime a Tiger Fighter fights, he brings an audience of other TSK followers with him.’
The later parts of the book are more based on the sport’s advancement and how some of the underground guys started to get a shot at the big time, Frankie Edgar for example. He profiles a specific fighter for a chapter more or less, and I actually was impressed how much he made me care about how some no name fighter’s career was going. It was also relieving to move the book forward and keep the topics fresh. Jim odes a good job of not focusing on one person or one thing for too long. My initial thoughts before reading the book were that it would only focus on the underground aspects of MMA. I’m glad to have been wrong.
My only complaints of the book are simple. The book is not written in a chronological state. I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with that, but it does seem to make some areas of the book hard to follow. Also, there are a lot of names. I mean a lot. Again I’m not saying Jim could do anything about it. It just makes you re-read a page from time to time to make sure you know who is who. That’s about it. I liked it over all, and for ten bucks you can’t go wrong. Pick it up, and give it a read. Why not?