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Thread: Tapped Out by Matt Polly

  1. #1
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    Tapped Out by Matt Polly

    My Shaolin Brother Matt Polly's second book is due to drop soon. Tapped Out is about his experiences training in MMA. Matt's first book was American Shaolin. As Tapped Out is a new book, it deserves a new thread.

    Available Nov 17, 2011.

    Here's Matt's official website (still set to American Shaolin at this posting).

    Here are some promo vids:
    Tapped Out: Help from Friends
    Tapped Out: Smoker
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  2. #2
    I will be on the look out, I really enjoyed American Shaolin. He can be quite funny!
    Thanks Gene!
    Tom
    Integrated Kung Fu Academy
    Kung Fu - Kickboxing - MMA -Self Defense
    Media, PA -Delaware County

  3. #3
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    Tapped Out drops tomorrow

    Of course, we'll have something exclusive for you. Until then, check these out:

    A Party With a Faint Scent of Blood
    By JED LIPINSKI
    Published: November 16, 2011

    Norman Mailer, who was known to head-butt people at literary soirees, might have appreciated the Battle of the Books.


    The author Matthew Polly, far right, takes a punch from David Cexton in a photograph from Mr. Polly's book “Tapped Out,” about ultimate fighting.

    Set at a mixed martial arts studio in Manhattan (the promoter asked that its name not be divulged for legal reasons), this book party last week featured the usual crowd of publicists, agents and writers, who nibbled on lemon cake and Vietnamese summer rolls. Among them were a dozen stoic fighters from the New York Underground Combat League, the rules of which are summarized by the phrase “vale tudo,” Portuguese for “anything goes.”

    The occasion was the release of two books about mixed martial arts, or M.M.A.: Matthew Polly’s “Tapped Out: Rear Naked Chokes, the Octagon, and the Last Emperor: An Odyssey in Mixed Martial Arts” and Jim Genia’s “Raw Combat: The Underground World of Mixed Martial Arts.” But rather than read excerpts from their work, the authors ceded the wrestling mat to the fighters, who punched, kicked and attempted to choke each other inside an octagonal cage while the bookish guests observed.

    “I’d like to thank you all for coming,” Mr. Genia said after a particularly bloody round. “Usually it’s all criminals at these things.”

    Live, professional mixed martial arts fighting is not allowed in New York, after a bill to legalize it failed to clear the State Assembly earlier this year. But many supporters believe it is only a matter of time before the bill passes, bringing lucrative promotions like the Ultimate Fighting Championship to places like Madison Square Garden.

    Mr. Genia, of Woodside, Queens, and Mr. Polly, who lived in New York for 12 years before recently moving to Connecticut (where M.M.A. is also barred), have spent the last decade watching the New York M.M.A. scene grow. As self-confessed martial arts fanboys, they provide a perspective absent from the recent spate of Ultimate Fighting Championship celebrity memoirs. The two authors’ methods, however, are distinct. Where Mr. Polly, 40, takes the George Plimpton approach, training and eventually competing in an amateur bout, Mr. Genia, also 40, prefers strict reportage. A lifelong martial arts practitioner, Mr. Genia lost interest in competing after he accidentally broke an opponent’s leg while sparring.

    “I couldn’t face doing that to another human being,” he said before adding with a smile, “Maybe Matt’s just a mean ******* on the inside and I’m compassionate.”

    A contributor to the blog M.M.A. Convert, Mr. Genia has followed the sport since 1993. In “Raw Combat” he offers a guided tour of what he calls “New York City’s most ghetto-tastic boxing gyms,” where underground fights typically take place.

    His accounts, if occasionally repetitive, never lack for grit. One fighter he meets is arrested for nearly killing a stranger on a subway platform with a power saw. Certain basement gym mats in the Bronx, Mr. Genia suspects, are contaminated with hepatitis. And at one event his reporter’s notebook is “suddenly splattered with crimson.”

    Despite his desire to see the sport legalized in New York, enabling competitors to be paid and requiring on-site medical care, Mr. Genia shows a fondness for the camaraderie that exists among underground fighters. If victors in the Ultimate Fighting Championships are the sport’s arena-rock stars, the young men he writes about are its garage-rock heroes.

    “Once you sanction M.M.A. here, there will be no more need for underground fights,” Mr. Genia said, a bit sadly. “This whole subculture will disappear.”

    It was at an underground fight that Mr. Genia first met Mr. Polly, whose 2007 book, “American Shaolin,” chronicled the two years he spent studying kung fu with Buddhist monks. But when he was conceiving his second book, he did not plan to take the same approach and become an amateur M.M.A. contender.

    “I suggested that he train,” said Patrick Mulligan, Mr. Polly’s editor at Gotham Books. Fittingly, the book’s cover photo shows Mr. Mulligan’s gloved fist socking Mr. Polly in the face.

    The difficulty, Mr. Mulligan added, was that Mr. Polly was not exactly in peak physical condition. “At the time he was drinking Jack Daniels and eating takeout every night,” he recalled. “He had to get in shape in order to get in shape.”

    In two years of training Mr. Polly shed 65 pounds and went on to win an amateur fight in Las Vegas by technical knockout, a scene recounted with hypnotic clarity in the book.

    “Tapped Out” manages to humanize a sport once demonized as “human ****fighting” by deconstructing the stereotype of the martial-arts tough guy. One of Mr. Polly’s trainers is a former Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at Columbia University, and Mr. Polly bonds with another over their shared love of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” fantasy series.

    A chapter of the book is even devoted to the author’s relationship with his wife. When he reveals, shortly after their wedding, that he plans to spend six months training in Las Vegas, she is understandably unsympathetic.

    “It’s a female-friendly book,” Mr. Polly said, laughing. “I didn’t want to focus on the blood and guts and gore. I wanted to write something personal, that guys can give to their girlfriends and say, ‘Here’s why I love M.M.A.’ ”

    Advocates for the sport in the State Assembly, like Dean Murray, an assemblyman from Long Island, are encouraging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to push through a bill, stalled in committee, to legalize professional mixed martial arts fighting. But for now it is confined to seedy boxing gyms and the occasional book party.

    Near the end of the Battle of the Books, Mr. Genia and Mr. Polly stepped into the cage. Rather than trade blows, they posed for pictures in a fighting stance. Afterwards, Mr. Polly dismissed the notion that the authors might soon fight each other for real. “We’ll compete on the Amazon rankings instead,” he said.
    Native Topekan takes on MMA
    Posted: November 14, 2011 - 6:50pm
    By Ann Marie Bush
    THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL

    Matthew Polly, left, a Topeka native, is declared the winner of a Mixed Martial Arts match against a man who was a decade younger than him.

    Four years ago, Topeka native Matthew Polly was an overweight, unhealthy 36-year-old.

    A far cry from the young man who traveled to the Shaolin Temple in China to train with monks who had invented kung fu.

    “Fifteen years later, my weakness for Chinese takeout and Coors beer had taken its toll,” Polly wrote on his website announcing his latest book, “Tapped Out: Rear Naked Choke Holds, the Octagon, and the Last Emperor: An Odyssey in Mixed Martial Arts.” “Firmly into middle age and far removed from my past athletic triumphs, I decided to risk it all one last time. Out of shape and over the hill, I jumped headlong into the world of MMA.”

    This isn’t Polly’s first book. His first one, “American Shaolin,” chronicled the two years he spent living in a monastery in China where he trained in kung fu. Polly is currently working with a Hollywood screenwriter who wants to turn “American Shaolin” into a television series.

    After the success of his first book, Polly found himself weighing in at 250 pounds.

    “I was unhappy with the way I felt,” he said. “In a weird way, it was a dual opportunity — to not only pursue another book, but also to change who I was as a person.”

    “Tapped Out,” which will be released through Gotham Books on Thursday, is the story of a washed-up, out-of-shape amateur’s attempt not just to compete at the highest levels of MMA but to understand the sport.

    He humorously tells the story of training, a professional fight camp in Las Vegas and stepping into the ring to fight an opponent a decade younger than him.

    “I was terrified I’d lose and embarrass my trainers,” Polly said Monday from his New York home. “I’m very happy I won.”

    While Polly isn’t training as intensely as he was during the book process, he is “in a much better place” now.

    On Nov. 5, Polly’s parents, Linda and Richard Polly, of Topeka, traveled to New York for an underground fight club night, which tied in with the launch of Polly’s book. In New York state, mixed martial arts is illegal, Polly said.

    “It was great,” Polly said. “The people I wrote about were there. There were about 150 people, a packed house.”

    For information on Polly or to purchase his book online, visit www.mattpolly.com. The book also will be available at area bookstores.

    Polly, a 1989 Topeka West High School graduate, said he isn’t quite sure what the future holds for him.

    “I still love writing books, but each one you write takes a piece of your soul,” he said. “The (latest book) project gave me that one last chance. It was that one last chance to live out my youthful glory.”
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  4. #4
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    My interview with Matt

    TAPPED OUT: An interview with Matthew "American Shaolin" Polly

    Matt is a member here. If enough of you are interested, I could arrange a time when Matt will be online here to answer questions and discuss his new book. Let me know if you would participate in a live discussion here with Matt.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  5. #5
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    great interview guys!! i especially enjoyed the mental aspects of the game and the personal insight as to how that will play a role in the years to come. i do also agree that mma will pass boxing. the younger generations are far more interested in mma than boxing these days, and seeing as how the older generations always die off...well...
    For whoso comes amongst many shall one day find that no one man is by so far the mightiest of all.

  6. #6
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    Thanks Lucas

    So are you guys interested in me getting Matt here for a live Q&A session? I'd need more members to commit to participating.

    Meanwhile, here's an excerpt:
    When You Get ****y In An MMA Gym, You Get Beat Down



    Matthew Polly has never been a man for half-measures. When he wanted to learn kung fu, he left college for two years to live and train in the famous Shaolin Temple in China. Polly wrote an excellent book about the experience. His new book, Tapped Out, follows Polly on another two-year journey as the author whips himself into shape to prepare for his first pro MMA fight. It wasn't easy. "[M]y weakness for Chinese takeout and Coors beer had taken its toll," Polly writes. But he sought out the best coaches in the sport and wrapped up training with a six-month stint in Randy Couture's gym in Vegas. Along the way, he learned why MMA has become so popular, why fighters need exceptionally patient wives, and why you never, ever act like a tough guy when you first walk into a gym. Polly himself will be here tomorrow to tell us about some of the injuries he picked up while fighting. For now, enjoy this excerpt from a chapter in Tapped Out called "The Green-Light Special," which is what happens to you when you act like a tough guy when you first walk into a gym.

    One of the most important lessons I've learned about joining a new gym is to enter like a church mouse: Keep quiet, keep your head down, and keep in the shadows. Play down any past experience and let your coaches be pleasantly surprised at your ability. Puffed up braggarts place a target on their backs.

    The wisdom of this approach was brought home during the second pro class I observed. I was sitting next to Johny Hendricks, who was nursing a minor injury. A natural charmer, Johny was a two-time national wrestling champion from Oklahoma State. He was training for his first UFC against The Ultimate Fighter winner Amir Sadollah, who also trained at Xtreme Couture. Betting for that fight was fierce inside the gym.

    As the class was getting started Ryan Couture walked over to Shawn Tompkins, the gym's head pro coach, with a slightly overweight guy behind him.

    "He's in town for the weekend and wants to train with the pro class," Ryan said to Shawn.

    "You a pro fighter?" Shawn asked the new guy.

    "Yeah," the guy said with his chin out. "I'm 10-0."

    "Oh, so you got ten pro fights under your belt and no losses?"

    "Yeah, that's right," he puffed.

    "Well, then you should be fine," Shawn said, smirking slightly.

    Johny and I were shooting the breeze when I saw out of the corner of my eye that something was off. I looked over to where all the pros were sparring to figure out what was wrong with this picture. It was the new guy. With all their years of experience Couture's fighters have a grace and flow to their sparring sessions. The new guy's punches were too long, his stance too wide, his movements too awkward. He was stinking up the place like a rank amateur. The only way he was 10-0 is if all his fights were against the elderly or the infirm.

    It was ugly enough that I averted my eyes and went back to teasing Johny about how he might have won four national championships if only he had been smart enough to get into the University of Iowa. A bell rang, ending the round. The pros switched partners. As soon as the bell rang again to start the next round, I heard this hard, hideous thwapping sound.

    When I looked over I saw that Jay Hieron had partnered up with the new guy and was walloping him. It was brutal, relentless. And Jay was using all the tricks, backing the new guy into the kicking bags so he couldn't escape. Hitting him high and low with full force. Not holding anything back. It looked less like a sparring session and more like a gang initiation.

    "What's going on?" I asked Johny.

    "Didn't you see? Jay went over to Shawn to ask for the green light to beat down this weekend warrior."

    "It's brutal."

    "The guy is lucky he got Jay and not Mike Pyle. Mike's much more vicious."

    After a particularly nasty liver shot, the weekend warrior dropped to his knees. I could tell that he was on the edge of quitting, but his pride got the better of his sense. When he stood back up, Jay battered him around the head and midsection some more, until he dropped him again.

    The new guy said, "Hey, take it easy."

    Jay shot back, "This is the pro class."

    Then Jay went in for a takedown, picked the poor guy up over his shoulder, and body slammed him. The entire class stopped and turned to where the weekend warrior was lying flat on his back.

    "I can't watch," I said.

    "Eh, at least he's still conscious," Johny said. "I wasn't after I got green-lit."

    "What happened?"

    "I came in here my first day and was too aggressive," he said. "Too much wrestler arrogance, you know?"

    "I grew up in Kansas. I know."

    "So Phil Baroni asked for the green light."

    "And?"

    "Then he knocked me out," Johny laughed. "When I woke up I thought to myself, That wasn't so bad. Maybe I can make it in this sport."

    Before the pro class the next day all the pros were talking about the previous day's green-light special. They all found it hilarious. Being the new kid at school, I didn't.

    "The key to getting green-lit isn't the beat down itself," one of them said, "but if the guy has the balls to show up the next day."

    Almost as if on cue, the weekend warrior from the previous day walked into the gym. The pros looked at him, nodded, and continued telling tales of green-light specials of yore. During the class, it was clear the his skills hadn't improved, but he had proven he had balls, and so the Xtreme pros were no harder on him than they were on each other.

    Many weeks later I hired Jay Hieron to give me a private lesson. (This, by the way, is how to learn from a top MMA pro and avoid a green-light beat down.) When I asked him about the incident, he was unapologetic. "You get these guys, they think they're the toughest dudes in the world. And so they just walk right into our place, our home, our church. I love guys like that. They need to be humbled."

    When You Get ****y In An MMA Gym, You Get Beat DownExcerpted from the book Tapped Out: Rear Naked Chokes, the Octagon, and the Last Emperor: An Odyssey in Mixed Martial Arts. Copyright © 2011 by Matthew Polly. Excerpted with permission by Avery/Gotham of Penguin Group USA.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  7. #7
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    one more thing

    Enter to win a Autographed edition of TAPPED OUT by Matthew Polly! Contest ends 6:00 p.m. PST on 12/01/2011. Good luck everyone!
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  8. #8
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    Just got this press release from Matt

    For old school types like myself, my publisher would like me to mention that the first 500 people who buy a hardback copy will receive a free, signed "gallery of photos" in the mail. Apparently, it is part of their "Keep Hope in Hardbacks Alive" campaign. All you have to do is purchase a hardback, click here, and fill out the form (http://mattpolly.com/get-free-photos/).
    Tapped Out makes a great holiday gift!
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  9. #9
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    More from Matt

    So, do you want me to arrange Matt to appear here on the forum for a Q&A? I'll need a little more feedback than just Lucas.

    Cracked Ribs, Staph Infections, And Poked Eyes: What It’s Like To Train MMA
    By Matthew Polly
    Nov 21, 2011 1:40 PM



    Last week, we brought you an excerpt from Matthew Polly's new book, Tapped Out, which chronicles his two-year journey to prepare himself for a pro MMA fight. Today, Polly tells us about the various injuries he sustained during that process.

    MMA fighters don't fear pain. It's such a constant in their lives that they are inured to it. They fear injury. That's because, as one veteran explained to me, "There ain't no DL in MMA." An aging, overpaid Mets player (are there any other kind?) pulls a groin muscle, that's a four-week paid vacation. A UFC fighter has to pull out of a match, it might be a year before he gets another gig. That's a long time to explain to an angry wife why you can't afford to fix her car.

    Much has been made of the brevity of UFC on Fox's heavyweight fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos—one minute and four seconds. The simplest explanation came after the match. Dos Santos had torn a meniscus in his knee so badly he was still on crutches a week out. He couldn't afford to withdraw; he couldn't afford to let the match go into the later rounds. So he took the highly risky strategy of going all out from the opening bell and TKO'ed his opponent.

    Injuries are a part of every fighter's lore. They might forget their wedding anniversary, but they remember every detail of every injury. And as a kind of gallows humor, they delight in recounting them in detail.

    I spent two years training to be an MMA fighter for my new book, Tapped Out. As an out-of-shape, overweight, 38-year-old writer, I lived in terror of an injury that would ruin my project. So I was extra cautious, or as my wife would say "lazy." Luckily I avoided major injuries, but it is impossible in MMA to avoid at least some minor ones. And they are as vivid to me today as they were when they happened.

    CRACKED RIBS: Concussions are, rightly, the talk of the sports world for their debilitating long-term damage. But for short-term pain and suffering, a headshot is nothing compared to a brutal body blow. In a Muay Thai clinch lesson, my coach dug a sharp knee into the left side of my ribs. I collapsed to my knees. "I'll avoid your left side," he said. So then he dug a sharp knee into my right side, leaving me unable to move.

    With injured ribs, it is nearly impossible to draw in a deep breath without howling in pain—so no running, and especially, no laughing. My jiu-jitsu coach John Danaher made a joke about how my training—given my pear shaped body—was the Battle of the Bulge. I laughed until I cried. That was only the daytime. At night, I couldn't sleep. Every time I'd doze and roll to my side I'd wake up screaming. It took three weeks before my ribs healed and I could stop sleeping on my back.

    STAPH INFECTIONS: In a sport where sweaty men spend hours trying to dislocate each other's limbs, abrasions are inevitable. Roll with the wrong guy and you'll get the gift that keeps on giving: an antibiotic-resistant infection. I spent several weeks training jiu-jitsu in Brazil. When I returned home I noticed an eight-point rash on my right thigh—tiny red pustules. Uncertain what it was, I went to my lesson with Danaher, and showed it to him. He jumped back like I had leprosy. "That's staph, mate," he said. "Don't come back until it goes away."

    Not only was it good, precautionary advice, it was necessary. Staph infections attack the immune system. For two weeks I lay on my couch watching reruns of CSI Miami, completely spent, suffering from chills and fevers. I could barely move. My white blood cells finally won the battle and the rash went away, but the fear of catching another one never left.

    BROKEN NOSE: By far the most common injury in MMA is a broken hand. Skulls are hard; the 27 bones in the human hand are exceedingly fragile. Padded gloves are not to protect the face; they are to protect the fists. (If sports commission really wanted to protect fighters from concussions, they'd ban gloves. They don't, so they won't.)

    After hands, the most common broken bone is the nose. Mine was busted by a left cross from my Southpaw opponent at a kickboxing smoker in Las Vegas. Blood was pouring out of my nose, but I didn't realize the extent of the damage at the time. It didn't look any different, so for days I couldn't figure out why I suddenly needed to eat with my mouth open. Broken noses turn you into a literal mouth breather. I'd wake up each morning with my face pressed into a drool-covered pillow.

    I went to a doctor recommended to me by my MMA coach and he said, "We could re-break and reset your nose. But I'll tell you what I tell the other fighters. You're just going to have it broken again, so what's the point?" After about two weeks my nose seemed to reset itself, and I stopped drooling into my pillow.

    EYE POKE: Boxing gloves are closed and rounded; MMA gloves are fingered for grappling. It is a necessity for the sport of MMA, but it comes with this caveat: a jab in the eye. The most famous case was between Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture (UFC 52). I asked Randy about it several years later and he was still angry.

    At my MMA match, my opponent either poked me in the eye or grazed it with a right-hook. (In the middle of a fight it's impossible to tell.) The contact lens in my left eye popped out. For the rest of the match, I had no peripheral vision on my left side and zero depth perception. The poke changed how I had to fight. I needed to finish or I knew I'd be lost.

    STUBBED TOE: Of all the injuries I sustained, and this is only a partial list, the worst was a jammed toe. Let me explain. I was throwing a high right roundhouse at a teammate's head and twisted my left big toe on the mat. Stubbed toes are tricky *******s, because they don't hurt all the time, so you forget about them. And then when you try to kick or run or shoot in for a takedown, a jolt of pain lights up your entire body.

    I was working on some ground and pound with a top pro fighter in Vegas when I made the mistake of trying to push forward with my left foot. Before I could stop myself, I groaned involuntarily. "What's wrong?" he asked. "Should we take a break?" "It's just a stubbed toe," I said, trying to play it off. He shook his head derisively and said, "Yeah, I don't stop for toes." And that's the most upsetting thing about toe injuries. You get no sympathy for them.

    Fighters are never 100 percent. If you are, you didn't train hard enough. There will always be the nagging injuries. The difference between a good fighter and a great one is the ability—given how masochistic the profession is—to discard those concerns.

    Cracked Ribs, Staph Infections, And Poked Eyes: What It's Like To Train MMAMatthew Polly is the author of American Shaolin, which documents the two years he spent learning kung fu in the Shaolin Temple in China. Polly's new book, Tapped Out, is about the two years he trained to become an MMA fighter. That's Polly getting punched in the face to the left. That's also him getting poked in the eye up top.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  10. #10
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    A funny interview

    Makes a great holiday gift.

    November 22 2011 Last updated at 04:00 PM ET
    'Tapped Out' Author Talks Transformation From Pudgy Writer to Formidable Fighter
    By Ben Fowlkes MMA Writer

    The first time I met Matthew Polly he was very, very drunk. I'm sure I'm not the only person who can say this. This was in a hotel restaurant before an IFL event at the Sears Centre in 2007, and I just wanted to eat a chicken caesar salad in peace. Polly, however, wanted to talk MMA, which he insisted he was writing a book on (sure you are, pal, I thought), and he wouldn't take polite silence for an answer.

    Needless to say, I don't remember that first meeting fondly. I doubt Polly remembers it at all.

    It wasn't until months later that I learned Polly was actually the author of a somewhat famous memoir, American Shaolin, about the two years he spent living with the Shaolin monks in China and learning their brand of kung fu. It's a wonderful, hilarious book, and it was hard for me to believe that the dude who slurred at me in a Marriott outside of Chicago had written it. It was even harder for me to believe that he could write a book about MMA that I'd actually enjoy reading, and yet, with his new book -- Tapped Out -- he has done just that.

    Polly eventually sobered up enough to spend about two years training in the various disciplines that make up MMA, and he even entered into and -- spoiler alert -- won an amateur MMA bout in Las Vegas. From Renzo Gracie's jiu-jitsu academy in Manhattan to the Xtreme Couture gym in Vegas, Polly learned from some of the best in MMA and chronicled his experiences in this funny and insightful new book.

    In between throwing up on the subway following training sessions and getting yelled at by Xtreme Couture coaches for his terrible diet, Polly actually learned a great deal about this sport and its denizens, and the book is a must-read for any MMA fan (read an excerpt here, then just buy the **** thing here). Recently, I sat down to talk to Polly about the book, his experiences, and the addictive nature of winning even a low-level MMA bout.

    Fowlkes: I've heard a lot of people say that a book about MMA is a tough sell because MMA fans don't buy books, and the general book-buying public doesn't know or care about MMA. What do you say to that?

    Polly: In my mind, I wanted to write a book that guys who love mixed martial arts would actually enjoy, but also one they could give to their girlfriend who doesn't get it -- or even their mother -- to explain why they love it. So one of the difficulties was trying to write a book that was for the martial arts audience, but also for the mainstream. I wanted to write a book that appealed to the insiders and the outsiders, and that was an issue of tone.

    And I guess you feel like you managed to bridge that gap here?

    Well, it's the same division, and that's one of the interesting things about mixed martial arts. I'll get an interview with, you know, Bulldog in the Morning, and he turns out to be a secret MMA fan. He knows everything, and when I'm talking to him he runs through all this information and I'm like, you know more about this than I do. Then, when I spent the afternoon with Slate, there's this woman who basically says, 'I wouldn't have read this except I was required to, but I still found it enjoyable.' That's really what I hope to do with the book, but it's really very difficult.

    In the book, you present yourself as this guy who would really rather just write about MMA and is initially resistant to the idea of actually doing it yourself. But I read American Shaolin. You're the same guy who trained with the monks and challenged some kung fu expert to a fight in a restaurant, so what gives?

    Part of that's a conceit of the book. A certain aspect of it was me wanting to set up an unwilling hero going forth and doing something that he didn't want to do, but a part of me was also genuinely terrified, because I knew how hard it would be to get back into the kind of shape it would take to get into the ring. I knew I would have to change my behavior and my attitude to get in there and fight, and I was genuinely terrified of that.

    On the other hand, I was sort of excited because this was an excuse to take one last shot at glory. I don't think there's anyone who's ever fought, as I did before, who doesn't want one last chance to do it again. As we see with Wanderlei Silva or Cro Cop, when they come to the end of their careers, they still want one last one. I think there was something in me that wanted that as well.

    The guy you fought, did he realize you'd be writing about him in this book that has now been written up in The New York Times?

    He did, actually. We talked before. He knew I had written a book already and he knew I was writing a book about this experience. I think, to that degree, I had some sympathy for him, because he would end up being a character in my book. I do know what that's like, having written about myself, but he's not the author of it, so I did have some sympathy for him there.

    Did you ever consider the advantage you had over him? I mean, you're getting jiu-jitsu lessons from John Danaher, Muay Thai from Phil Nurse, and basically living at Xtreme Couture for a year. Meanwhile, it sounded like he was just a regular guy training at the Air Force base.

    Yes, I think it's, in many ways, absolutely unfair. But you don't get to choose your opponent. I had the world's best trainers because that's what I was paid to do. I was there to go out and find the world's best trainers to find out if a middle-aged guy could actually get good enough to get in the ring and fight. And he, of course, didn't have that. There's definitely an imbalance there, and the question of who the underdog was in the fight is certainly up for debate. He was younger and more vigorous, and I had better training and a certain sort of background that allowed me to, in the end, win. But the one thing I would say is, he came within a fraction of an inch of knocking me out twice. It wasn't some putz I was fighting. Literally, if the right hand had been turned just a little bit more, I'd have been done. He put on a good match, but in the end I was just slightly better and slightly better trained.

    Do you still train at Renzo Gracie's?

    I'm living in New Haven now, but I do [still train]. There's a little MMA gym that I go to, and I kick the bags and do jiu-jitsu, but one thing I promised my wife is that I will not get hit in the head anymore. I do only have so many brain cells left, and I spent a few on this book project.

    I know that you, as I do, like a drink from time to time. Did this require you to make a lot of changes to your lifestyle, aside from when you thought it would be a good idea to drink an orange soda on the day of your fight?

    [Xtreme Couture] striking coach Joey Varner still talks about that one. He couldn't believe that I would drink an orange soda [on the day of the fight]. But in general, I would say that I got better, but I still wasn't perfect. I ate better, I drank less, I was healthier and clearly worked out much crazier than I ever had before. I went from about 250 pounds when I started the project to fight at 185, so it was a dramatic change in my physical being. I was, you know, taking heart pills before. Over the course of doing this, I met tons of guys who would say, 'I was a football player, then I ballooned up to 300 pounds when I stopped playing. Then I started doing MMA and I slimmed down to 215.' So I think, actually, the MMA diet book might be the best book you could put on the market.

    I remember reading a newspaper article in Las Vegas about your fight, where the reporter was a little ungenerous in his description of you...

    Pudgy, right? He called me 'pudgy' like three times, and I remember you wrote asking, 'Why does he have to keep calling you pudgy?'

    Right. But now that you're putting this book out, and the video of your fight is on the internet, I mean, do you worry about how it's going to feel to be on the other side of the critical lens, so to speak?

    I actually don't worry about that, because the point wasn't to turn out to be this great fighter. I mean, there were little moments when I imagined it in the dark closets of my heart, but I knew that my only realistic hope was that I might win one amateur fight. That was my biggest goal, so I wasn't terrified of people saying, 'Well, he's a little overweight.' That's kind of the point. I was a very overweight person who became a less overweight person doing this. But you do know, when you put yourself out there, especially in the MMA community, there's going to be people on the comment boards who will take a swipe at you. Some of them are actually very funny, and then there's a few that sting a little bit. But overall, it doesn't bother me.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  11. #11
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    continued

    from previous post
    After you did the fight and you won, did you ever think, well maybe I'll do another one?

    You know, the thing that terrified me the most was that I would lose, because then I would totally want to fight again. I had put myself and also my wife and my family through so much to try and get through this whole book process, that I was scared I might feel like I had to do it again if I didn't get a win.

    That said, the high of winning an MMA fight is unlike the high of winning anything else I've ever done. It's better than any drug. When you're done, I literally felt like I was walking on air. You're walking around and women think you're cute and you're just the man. It's this primal thing, and it's so different from winning a football or basketball game, both of which I've done, and they don't feel the same way at all. I could see the addictiveness of it, and I also know why fighters feel there's one more in them. You'll never feel that way again. You'll never be the center of attention like that once you're done. Fortunately for me, since it was part of this project, I remember just how horrible the training was, and I'm not tempted to do it again. And the thing with MMA is, every day it's getting better, so if you win one you should just tuck that in your pocket and go away. Because the next day, there's the next Jon Jones.

    Do you think the things you experienced and felt doing this taught you what fighters felt? Because they seem to be wired differently, in many ways, and what a normal person might go through is not necessarily what they go through.

    In the book, one of the things I tried to be was humble. I wasn't going through what the fighter goes through, because he's planning a career out of this and I'm just planning a book project. But in the book, there was that one moment where I was getting ready to go out for the fight and the [Nevada State Athletic Commission] official called my name and I stood up and said 'That's me,' and he looked at me and said 'No [expletive] way. No way you're fighting.' And he burst out laughing, and Mike Pyle, who is a tough dude and is nobody's sympathetic character, but he stood up and said, 'Hey, that's a great way to build up our teammate.' And when he used that word 'teammate,' he said it with emphasis. Like, tonight, this guy is fighting for Xtreme Couture, and even though he's not a pro fighter, not one of us, he's actually getting in the ring and he's going to do it.

    To me, one of the things I found most wonderful about MMA fighters is, if you're willing to get in there and do it, you pass a kind of fundamental test. Before, they regarded me as this journalist who was kind of annoying to them and who they'd rather avoid. But when I was going to get in the ring it was different. Like, oh, you've got that kind of balls? You're going to actually do it? Okay, you're a part of the tribe.

    My last question is, how many times would you say you threw up in the subway after a training session at Renzo's?

    [Laughs] That's my last question? Man, there must have been about five to ten times. I can't even count them. At least half a dozen, without question. After Renzo's I'd usually be okay, but coming back from Phil [Nurse] at The Wat, that was the brutal one, because Phil is very cardio-oriented. Then, literally I would just puke my guts out.

    When you were puking on the subway did you ever think, man, how many times have I seen somebody doing something gross on the subway and judged them without considering the possibility that they might have a good reason?

    Well, many of the times I was dressed in just sweatpants and a shirt, with my head sweaty, and I'm vomiting and I thought, these people must think I'm homeless. Then I realized, I'm a writer; I'm about a half a step away from homeless.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    So, do you want me to arrange Matt to appear here on the forum for a Q&A? I'll need a little more feedback than just Lucas.
    I like your interview with Matt. It would be neat to have him on here, but I doubt my schedule will let me be online when he is.

  13. #13

    Thanks Gene

    You're an awesome Shaolin brother. Thanks Gene for posting all these interviews!

    Amituofo,
    Matt

  14. #14
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    Mr. Polly,

    I was wondering, for you, was there any transfer from your training at Shaolin to the MMA setting? If there was, what was the easiest aspect of MMA training/fighting? And the hardest?

  15. #15
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    Just picked up my copy of "Tapped Out" and read it over the holiday weekend. All I can say is "great book", and I highly recommend it. I would also recommend his first book American Shaolin.

    Even if MMA isn't your cup of tea, it's a great read and very enjoyable. If you do like MMA, then this book is great and you will love the insights into what these guys go through and how hard they train.
    "God gave you a brain, and it annoys Him greatly when you choose not to use it."

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