How the Hell Did I End Up Cageside?: An Accidental MMA Writer’s Memoir is a book recounting my days as USA TODAY’s first mixed martial arts beat writer, a time that coincided with the rise and fall of several challengers to the surging Ultimate Fighting Championship. It also serves a memoir, setting up just how unlikely it is that I wound up covering a sport in which people punch, kick and choke each other.
This book is basically salvaged from a book I wrote called Inside The Ultimate Fighter, which was never published because publishers were terrified to handle an MMA title at the time. The parts having to do specifically with the reality show were repurposed into a series of posts at Bloody Elbow.
I started paying attention to MMA when I was doing the Sports Scope blog at USA TODAY, where we were trying to expand our horizons and bring more sports into the fold. When I returned from my book leave in 2008, MMA became one of my official responsibilities.
And I dived right into the issues as well as the day-to-day event coverage. One of my first stories was a USA TODAY cover story pegged to the CBS prime-time fight card featuring YouTube sensation Kimbo Slice, and I explored the world of the many challenges to the newly popular UFC. Over the years, I reported on the difficulties of getting MMA sanctioned in New York, the realities of drugs in MMA, and the tough job of being an MMA referee. I also took note of the MMA prospects of a then-obscure judo Olympian named Ronda Rousey. And I asked Fedor Emelianenko if he had ever fought a bear.
I also went to big fight nights. Rashad Evans knocking out Chuck Liddell. The massive UFC 100 card in Las Vegas, with Georges St. Pierre cruising to victory and Brock Lesnar pulling his pro wrestling antics. I continued to report for USA TODAY for a while after my departure from the full-time staff, seeing Randy Couture make quick work of boxer James Toney.
When USA TODAY made some staff changes, I dropped out of the fight game for a bit. But like any aging person in the fight game, I’ve been making the occasional comeback, such as a Guardian piece comparing the UFC’s uniform policy to Rollerball.