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In truth, the bar (ergo, expectation levels) wasn’t exactly set very high for the literary account of Chuck Liddell’s thirty-something years, by virtue of the exceedingly poor quality of ghost written MMA autobiographies that have surfaced to date (see: Matt Hughes and Tito Ortiz), coupled with the staggeringly pathetic “Ultimate Iceman“, the official UFC DVD dedicated to their one time posterboy. Indeed, after forcing myself under pain of death to get to the end of Hughes’ laborious “Made In America”, the only factor stopping this writer from giving this here scribing the perennial wide berth was the fact that “My Fighting Life”, unlike the aforementioned opus, appeared (still does) on the surface to be an independent endeavour….
Although only the eagle-eyed will catch it (as he isn’t credited on the cover), Liddell’s life story is ghost written by a fellow named Chad Millman- tough break there, Chuck, as I was about to bestow full credit upon yourself for structuring a work I’d wager even those unfamiliar with the base subject matter would find easily digestible. The most striking initial aspect of “My Fighting Life” is the succinct and congealed nature of each individual chapter, of which there are forty seven (not including prologue, appendix etc), each of which boasts a title that wouldn’t look out of place in an inspirational/self-improvement manual, examples being “Appreciate Risk”, “Never Let A Little Thing Get In The Way Of Making A Big Thing Happen”, and “Loyalty Is Everything”. In no way can these apparent doses of insight be construed as misleading either, as whilst the yarn unwinds from Liddell’s early abandonment by his biological father through the erratic nature of his relationships with the mothers of his two children, there’s surely something sage and profound to be gained for anyone reading Liddell’s forthright account.
An easy conclusion, then, to summarise “My Fighting Life” as the early benchmark in subject specific MMA literature, from both a fundamental and entertainment standpoint, the latter by virtue of the fact that Liddell’s everyman outlook and clear appreciation of the life his celebrity has afforded him transcend the words in print. As an extra added bonus, many of the misgivings I expressed when reviewing the aforementioned “Ultimate Iceman” effort are covered here within, most pertinently Liddell’s pre-Octagon combat background, a healthy dose of insight into the training regimen at San Luis Obispo’s “Pit”, and much sapience vis a vis Liddell’s relationship with longterm trainer John Hackleman.
That said, sections of the book are easily leafed-through, not least the almost play-by-play review like recitals of the vast majority of Liddell’s fights, a lazy writer’s trick that always rendered those Scott Keith reviews virtually unreadable back in the day- with a subject matter as regimented as what occurs in a Mixed Martial Arts bout, Liddell and Millman were always going to be fighting a losing battle in keeping the language and prose fresh and invigorating throughout.
The only other genuine gripe I have with this work is the (fast becoming commonplace) apparent absence of a proof-reader- although the book is far removed from being littered with them, I can recall offhand around half a dozen instances of blatant mispunctuation, which may sound petty, but for anything coming out of a professional publishing house this is pretty much inexcusable. That said, having picked up a certain highly-touted novel earlier this year, I found said work to be rendered unreadable within a couple of chapters by a recurring (very, very basic) grammatical faux-pas, so I guess this is simply a sign of the times.
Whilst the bulk of the closing appendix will be throwaway stuff to all but the most casual of MMA proponents (brief synopsis’ of Liddell’s 21-5 career as of press time, and a glossary of six basic submission holds- what Chuck Liddell and submission holds are doing in the sentence, God only knows), it does boast a genuine resource gem in the form of a docket of all thirty one of the UFC’s formal Octagon regulations…. if you think, as I did, you can reel them off without the aid of such a canon, try and get past twenty- you’ll be surprised.
“Iceman: My Fighting Life” was a pleasant (although far from flawless) surprise, that with time to spare you’ll fly through in a couple of days. Much like he did for so long inside the cage, Chuck Liddell has thrown down the gauntlet and set the standard for his peers to aspire to…. so, with the official UK release of “Becoming The Natural” looming, that means it’s over to you, Mr Couture…..
Points: 7 / 10