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Made in America: The Most Dominant Champion in UFC History
A Country Boy Can Survive…. well, not in his quest to keep this writer’s attention, he can’t.
Long time cornerstone UFC Welterweight Matt Hughes is irrefutably cocksure, as anyone who has seen as much as a snippet of one of his pre-fight interviews or Ultimate Fighter coaching turns will attest to, and this seems to rub a lot of folks up the wrong way. In certain people, this can acquaint to an intangible likeability, and right off the bat I have to admit to being something of a Hughes fanboy, as much for his understatedly unapologetic arrogance as his rugged, powerhouse fighting style.
So…. I came into this one fully expecting at least a couple of chapters of Matt crowing about his superior work ethic, natural talent and what have you, with a dash of vehement God-squadding into the bargain. Ergo, I was taken aback by how overbearing this wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the subject matter could be construed as such on some level, but cover to cover, almost every tale told here within is completely devoid of any introspect whatsoever. Or, if you prefer, they’re flat out boring. The early chapters emphatically set the tone: pick yourself up a copy of Johnny Cash’s majestic autobiography “Cash” for a vivid and raw account of the tribulations of a childhood spent in a rural community, and the harsh realities that the farming family faces. Hughes’ account of adolescence in Hillsboro, Illinois could be summed up thus: there’s a bit of heavy labour involved, and money was tight on occasion. No sh*t? The debauchery of the delinquent twin brothers Hughes is chronicled in equally uninspiring and quickly repetitive fashion, and right here I’ll admit to having briskly leafed through a number of pages to get past this era.
The college/varsity wrestling through to early UFC chapters are soul crushingly sparse, and there are enormous time gaps on the occasions (about one in two, on average) where stories grind to a halt without reaching their natural conclusion and/or point. I’d imagine any non-UFC follower who might pick this up would loose all track of what’s what around here, as Hughes seemingly makes the assumption that the reader already knows who everyone is. Tito Ortiz’s surname, for example, appears only in the final chapter- everywhere else, he’s just “Tito”. The first time his name crops up, it concerns a problem with the weigh-ins at an Ultimate Japan event, with a snippet along the lines of “Tito wasn’t happy, but since becoming top guy there was always something with him,” and no further insight than that. You get the impression throughout that he doesn’t like Ortiz, but you’ll put “Made In America” down none the wiser as to why, and therein lies the essence of the work as a whole: a sequence of events, a lot of recapped dialogue, with practically zero penetration thereafter.
Some of the holes in the narrative are quite astounding: Tim Sylvia first appears walking into the Miletich gym one day, the subject of gorping looks from Hughes and Jens Pulver. He next shows up several chapters later in a randomly thrown-in blurb documenting a discussion between he and Hughes, which gives the impression that he practically begged Hughes to be his friend, after Matt told him he didn’t like him. The third time we meet “The Maine-iac”, he and Hughes are all buddy-buddy… no explanation as to why. Hughes’ first son is portrayed as an insignificant aside- he meets the kid’s mother at a gym in the course of a small paragraph, a few pages later she tells him she’s pregnant, the kid is born about two lines later, and neither are mentioned again. Not long after Matt finds religion, his wife questions him about a girl named “Nicci”, who he admits to sleeping with…. erm, at some point. While they were together? The bit where they’d broken up? Dunno; this is the first we’ve heard of her. Turns out, she later hooks up with Frank Trigg, and this is part of the reason why Hughes isn’t too fond of “Twinkle Toes”……….. Yeah, Matt- AND??
The training at Miletich is barely touched upon, and the fight synopsis’- where they actually exist- are brief and basic. Yet by this point, I’d come to expect little more- with the downright bland prose utilised throughout, Hughes doesn’t manage to portray any kind of sentiment for even his wife Audra. This, coupled with the chaste language throughout, makes me wonder why Hughes bothered enlisting the services of ghost-writer Michael Malice, who it one can only assume couldn’t be arsed to attempt to liven Matt’s sparse and mundane accounts up a bit. Indeed, in the final acknowledgements, Malice even manages to mis-spell the name of Hughes’ hometown, which appears correctly several times beforehand.
Ah, the mistakes….. “Made In America” is published by Pocket Books- also responsible for the error (of the spelling, grammar AND factual variety) strewn WWE Books- so the apparent foregoing of a proof reader, at least a competent/knowledgeable one, was inevitable. The account of Hughes’ UFC debut and the tepid crowd response to he on the night is adorned with the observation that the audience hadn’t come to see him, but for Ken Shamrock against Tito Ortiz; neither man was even on the card that night. Furthermore, Matt’s manager Monte Cox, when explaining who Pat Miletich was to the novice fighter, described him according to the account of events here as the “Welterweight Champion of the world”. The division didn’t exist, in name, until much later.
There are a couple of meagre bones thrown in the latter, most recent event covering chapters- most significantly a yarn about how difficult Royce Gracie was to deal with upon his one-off return to the promotion- which ultimately earn themselves an epitaph of too little, too late. Considering the overall length of the book, the very recent final chronology, and the general standard of writing from front to back, it’s easy to summarise “Made In America” as an apparent rush-job, penned to no doubt capitalise on the current level of MMA popularity. Give this one a wide berth, and join me in hoping that Chuck Liddell has made his forthcoming “Iceman: My Fighting Life” an infinitely more laborious endeavour.
Points: 2 / 10