No Holds Barred: Doug Merlino on “Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts”

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with author Doug Merlino (

His highly-acclaimed new book was released this week, called "Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts" (

This book chronicles the recent events in the lives of four American Top Team MMA fighters: Jeff Monson, Steve Mocco, Daniel Straus, and Mirsad Bektic. From 2012 to 2014, Doug Merlino followed them from fight to fight, training camp to training camp, and country to country, and ably and candidly recorded what happened in this book.

We spoke with him at a book launch party Monday in New York.

Breaking down many myths about MMA fighters, he said, "A lot of these guys don't make much money." While "Tito Ortiz is making money," he noted "but the Pat Currans and Daniel Strauses don't get paid a lot, especially for the amount of risk and dedication it takes."

For Daniel Straus, "I know it's a frustration because he comes from a humble background, and people who he grew up with see him on TV and assume that he's rich. And they want some money from him or whatnot, and he doesn't have it."

And he said, "That's kind of what part of what the book is about, is, this is the way the guys actually live, not what you're seeing on TV."

We discussed Daniel Straus's struggles with money, how Jeff Monson has become a big star in Russia, why Monson has been fighting too long, Steve Mocco's relatively late transition from wrestling to fighting, why despite the numerous problems in MMA the fighters are the ones who deserve great respect, and much, much more.

My recommendation: This book is a must-read for anyone interested in MMA, combat sports, and the lives and struggles of athletes in general. While discussion of the early history of MMA could be better done, the book succeeds in starkly recreating with words and a few photos the actual day-to-day lives of these fighters. It is easily the best book on MMA that I have ever read.

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