Nonetheless younger the game could also be, MMA has a budding drawback with its personal historical past. In North America, the place “UFC” continues to be synonymous with MMA for the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants, the historic narrative surrounding the beginning, development, and worldwide enlargement of no holds barred combating has been molded virtually completely by the UFC. Historical past is written by the victors, and at the least for now, the UFC is that victor.

With the UFC appearing because the steward of MMA’s historical past, the predominant narrative conveniently distances itself from something suggesting that the UFC and the UFC alone fostered the expansion of MMA. The UFC’s narrative forgets fighters or personalities that sooner or later butted heads with the promotion. The historical past of MMA is, for all intents and functions, what the UFC desires it to be.

That is the issue Jonathan Snowden, writer of the brand new ebook Shamrock: The World’s Most Harmful Man, is attempting to treatment. This essential ebook, a complete take a look at the life {and professional} profession of Ken Shamrock, is the primary of its sort within the MMA house (I can’t converse for the skilled wrestling house, and this ebook is simply as a lot about wrestling as it’s MMA). Whereas there are definitely examples of phenomenal writing about MMA — Josh Gross’s Ali vs. Inoki and Kerry Howley’s Thrown come to thoughts — no different work has so exhaustively examined its topic to current such an sincere take a look at a person.

The “MMA” part at any Barnes & Noble is stuffed with fighter biographies and memoirs, however these are largely simply workout routines in model administration and promotion. The fighter tells his or her story, solely from his or her perspective, with no matter foundation in actuality that fighter so needs. These are the community TV discuss exhibits of sports activities writing: good, reliable enjoyable with few surprises and never a lot to consider.

Snowden’s ebook, however, presents an unfettered take a look at the usually ugly lifetime of Shamrock. Snowden approaches his topic with the appreciation of a fan, telling his story with reverent honesty, but by no means shying away from the seedier parts of Shamrock’s wildly entertaining life.

It’s troublesome to say if this ebook (and due to this fact, Shamrock’s profession) is extra about MMA or skilled wrestling, however therein lies an essential actuality that Snowden illuminates: MMA has been wed to skilled wrestling since its inception. This can be a historic fact that the UFC narrative overlooks. Most of the sport’s greatest early stars, together with Shamrock, got here straight from skilled wrestling. The Japanese skilled wrestling offshoot group Pancrase utilized a ruleset that mimicked skilled wrestling, however with real competitors — the primary structured iteration of contemporary MMA.

Shamrock fought at three Pancrase occasions earlier than he ever stepped foot within the Octagon at UFC 1. By pulling again the curtain on Shamrock’s simultaneous involvement in skilled wrestling, Pancrase, and no holds barred combating, the reader is given an sincere and full view of the beginning of the game. Snowden’s reporting on the assorted behind-the-scenes relationships, enterprise offers, betrayals, and promotional infighting and competitors is meticulous, if even a bit distracting early on, as we’re launched to numerous wrestlers and promoters, all with their very own distinctive motivations and cliques. For the MMA fan with solely an informal information {of professional} wrestling (like myself), it might probably really feel like a mountain of data. However as Shamrock’s profession advances and his life comes into focus, Snowden weaves collectively these in any other case disconnected parts to color a full image of Shamrock and, essentially, the early days of MMA.

A number of the most fascinating components of the ebook, past the extra salacious particulars, contain backdoor enterprise offers and matchmaking. Extra than simply who Shamrock fought, we study why he fought them. At occasions, Shamrock was motivated strictly by cash, and at occasions by private vendettas, however largely we’re led to an essential conclusion: how and why fights come collectively is basically a matter of probability and a fancy internet of non-public and monetary circumstances that we hardly ever perceive.

Not like another piece of labor within the MMA house, the ebook delves into the nice and unhealthy of Shamrock’s private life. Snowden collected uncensored statements from dozens of those who knew or know Shamrock on a private stage, from former coaching companions to wives to shut buddies. Interviews with Shamrock’s kids, nonetheless nursing wounds from childhoods with The World’s Most Harmful Man as a father, are significantly candid and typically heartwrenching. By these interviews, we meet a Shamrock that struggled with drug abuse, monetary disaster, failed marriages, and life as an absentee father. Behind his Captain America mystique and gladiatorial toughness, we meet a Shamrock that’s, above all else, human.

Whereas interviews from those who know Shamrock create a 360-degree view of the person, a lot of the very best storytelling comes from Shamrock himself within the type of in depth interviews that Snowden will need to have carried out over the course of a number of days. Typically, Shamrock shows the guarded machismo and refusal to simply accept blame which will have turned followers off prior to now. At different occasions, although, Shamrock is open and susceptible, taking duty for a pivotal second within the falling-out together with his adopted brother Frank, or describing vivid recollections of childhood trauma.

The ebook drags a bit within the remaining fourth, the unlucky nature of a narrative in regards to the lifetime of an growing older athlete. Usually, although, Snowden re-tells Shamrock’s life simply as he has lived it — at breakneck pace. The descriptions of the fights, whereas tending to agree with Shamrock’s perspective of them, are addicting and thrilling to learn, inflicting me a number of occasions to observe basic fights with recent eyes. Lurid particulars and anecdotes from Shamrock’s life — starting from wife-swapping tales to drug-induced benders, to car parking zone fistfights — appear to pop up each few pages and make the ebook practically inconceivable to place down.

Shamrock accomplishes a few essential duties. First, it (hopefully) opens the door for extra books or biographies within the MMA house that supply a completely unfiltered take a look at their topics; it makes room for books which are extra than simply model promotion. Second, through the use of Ken Shamrock’s life as a car for storytelling, it affords a broad, free-from-UFC-influences take a look at the historical past and development of the game. The ebook is a must-read for any MMA fan searching for a deep understanding of a pioneer of the game, and, due to this fact, a deeper understanding of the game itself.

Shamrock: The World’s Most Harmful Man is on the market on Amazon right here.

Disclosure: The Physique Lock obtained a replica of Shamrock: The World’s Most Harmful Man from the writer in change for an sincere overview. This didn’t have an effect on our opinion or the content material of our overview.