Rattling the Cage Book Review: “Is This Legal? The Inside Story of the First UFC from the Man Who Created It”

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 by Tony Reid

untitled (18)As a huge fan of the early days of NHB, (pre) MMA and the UFC I was very much looking forward to reading “Is This Legal? The Inside Story of the First UFC from the Man Who Created It” by one of the founders of the UFC himself, Mr. Art Davie.

The book is a great nuts and bolts, blow by blow of the day to day trials and tribulations leading up to the historical night of November 12, 1993 when the world changed forever as UFC 1 was held in the McNichols Area in Denver Colorado. Davie shares in great detail the contract snafus, the back and forth with Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG) and of course his ever growing relationships with Campbell McLaren, Rorion Grace and other members of the Gracie Family.

The story Davie tells is as much of an idea coming to fruition (one that just may have started when the young boxer Davie was first in a scrap and taken down by a thick necked wrestler so many years ago) through hard work, dedication and a never say die attitude.

As with any great idea comes great pushback from those with short sight and other hang-ups and many of these oppositions are detailed in the book as well, including the great pushback from members of the traditional martial arts community as they were quick to shoot down the idea of mixed fights, generally for business related reasons and egotistical concerns.

Davie takes us behind the scenes and behind closed doors as he touches on the Gracie Family beef between the eldest son Rorion and the brother who was seemingly in line to take the reins of the Gracie Family into the next generation, Rickson.  Davie sheds some light on just how much Rorion wanted to please his father and family patriarch Helio as well as honor the Gracie name, Gracie Jiu Jitsu and the Gracie Diet.

Dave also details the fighter’s colorful personalities, their actions and mindset leading up to the event. Great insights about just how batshit crazy Pat Smith really was (not surprising), how guarded the Gracie Family was of Royce leading up to the event (again not a shocker) and how much an out of shape and overweight Kevin Rosier enjoyed Snickers washed down with a Dr. Pepper as staples of his diet leading up to UFC 1.

Another great story shared in the book (and one Art had shared with me on my radio show) was that of Royce breaking down in the hours leading up to the event, right there in the center of the Octagon as Rickson cradled him and helped him through that impossible moment.

Davie details how he went from an advertising professional and a low level Gracie Jiu Jitsu student under Rorion to becoming one of his trusted partners, a confidant and co-creator of an entirely new sport, the sport of mixed martial arts in general and specifically the Ultimate Fighting Championship brand.

I may be a bit partial, as I am one who can’t get enough information on the early days of the sport but I feel that this is a great (and quick) read for the hardcore fan (as some juicy information is shared about the Gracie Family and the early pioneers of UFC 1) to the casual observer that may not be aware of much of the information Davie shares in the pages of the book. Go out and pick this book up and get schooled on the early days and origin of the sport you watch today.