By Zach Arnold | November 6, 2011
We have been spoiled with some great MMA books this year, including Jake Shannon’s book on Catch Wrestling, Blake Northcott’s Vs. Reality eBook, and Loretta Hunt’s book on Big John McCarthy. He, appropriately, will be the referee for the UFC on Fox title fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.
So, when Jim Genia approached me about sending me a copy of his new MMA book Raw Combat, I was intrigued. Because of the rising quality of books covering MMA, the standards have been raised. I can honestly say that Jim’s book met and exceeded my personal expectations. Anything that involves covering the history of MMA, I’m all-in. Jonathan Snowden has also written some great encyclopedic material.
Instead of me doing a hard-sell here for Jim’s book, I will let him tell you what his book is all about and why you should be interested in reading it. At $10 on Amazon, it’s a bargain. If you’re looking for a Christmas stocking stuffer that’s an MMA-related gift, you should definitely pick up a copy of Jim’s book.
“It’s about the underground fight scene in New York City. There is such a thing. New York doesn’t allow sanctioned Mixed Martial Arts right now, so fighters either have to go New Jersey to fight where it’s sanctioned or they have to do it underground in New York City. And this book is an exploration of that whole underground scene. It examines the fighters, the fights, the denizens, the people who surround the whole scene and, you know, an up-close look.”
THE FIGHT NERD: “What drove you to do this topic?”
JIM GENIA: “Well, I’ve been covering the underground fight scene in New York since 2003 and, to me, it’s always been extremely fascinating. I love sanctioned MMA, I love watching the UFC, going to all the sanctioned shows in New Jersey, but… whenever there’s an underground show in New York, I’m there.”
THE FIGHT NERD: “These are kind of top-secret things. How did you find out about these underground shows in the first place?”
JIM GENIA: “In 2003, a local fight coach named Steve Katz had a bunch of fighters that were going to fight on an underground show and he told me about it. He said, ‘Jim, you want to come with us?” So I said, sure, and I paid the ticket at the door and didn’t tell anyone that I was a journalist, took secret notes, took secret pictures, and wrote about it. Ever since then, I’ve been welcomed at these shows.”
THE FIGHT NERD: “What’s been the reaction so far to this book? It’s a topic that’s a little bit controversial, underground MMA, but how have fans and people reacted so far to it?”
JIM GENIA: “People that have read advanced copies love it. Surprisingly, people like Nick Lembo who’s the commissioner in New Jersey… because the book isn’t just about the underground fight scene in New York, it’s also about the development of sanctioned MMA on the East Coast and, according to Nick Lembo, this is a great historical text on the growth of the sport here. So… so far, everyone’s loved it. No one’s sent me death threats. Time will tell.”
THE FIGHT NERD: “As you mentioned, the story of underground MMA and sanctioned MMA go kind of hand-to-hand together in this book.”
JIM GENIA: “Yeah, in New Jersey there was a show called bamma fight night which was run by Big Dan Miragliotta, who’s a referee for the UFC and for the New Jersey commission right now. And his show was the only show around for the longest time. There weren’t sanctioned events in the Northeast. So, Big Dan would hold these underground shows and people like Matt Serra, Nick Serra, Phil Baroni, they had their first fights at these events. So, there’s a great tradition of underground, unsanctioned fighting in the area and… the scene evolved. Eventually, New Jersey sanctioned MMA and New Jersey’s got one of the most vibrant MMA scenes in the country and there are parallels between that and New York. New York, right now, is where New Jersey was back in 2001, 2002. So, hopefully, New York will get on board and… you know, you’ll see an even further evolution.”
THE FIGHT NERD: “Do you think that underground MMA hurts MMA in New York getting legalized?”
JIM GENIA: “Absolutely not. I think people… the people in charge, the legislators and the lobbyists… look at underground MMA as an example of why it should be sanctioned. No one’s really gotten hurt in the underground fight scene but… it still should be regulated. It’s a viable sport. It’s regulated just about everywhere else in the country. So, I don’t think these underground shows hurt it. I think it helps the cause.”
THE FIGHT NERD: “What do you think is holding back MMA from being legalized in New York?”
JIM GENIA: “Just politics. Stupid politics. I think it’s inevitable, it’s a matter of time before it is sanctioned.”
THE FIGHT NERD: “Why should they check out this book?”
JIM GENIA: “Well, it’s not like they can check out any other book on the topic. And also because, you know, it’s a labor of love. It’s well-written and it provides insight because I’ve had access that no one else has ever had. So, if you’re curious about MMA, curious about the underground fight scene, curious about a subculture that exists in New York, this is it.”