Mixed martial arts is the fastest-growing sport in America; all over the country new gyms are popping up and new viewers are tuning in to UFC matches. Although some dismiss it as brutal combat, its fighters are among the most dedicated athletes in any arena. But MMA also takes a heavy toll on the body, and it's a rare fighter who can earn a living in the sport's top ranks.
Beast follows four high-level fighters at the gym American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. Author Doug Merlino had unprecedented access, training alongside the men for two years, traveling to their matches, and eating in their homes. Mirsad Bektic is a young Bosnian refugee who started in karate as a boy in Nebraska and dreams of stardom. Jeff Monson is a battered veteran at forty-one, an outspoken, tattooed anarchist enjoying a bizarre burst of celebrity in Russia. Steve Mocco is a newcomer--a former Olympic wrestler from a close-knit, intellectual family. Finally, there's Daniel Straus, an ex-con who has fought his way from nothing up to title contention. All will experience electrifying highs and career lows, and Merlino is there every step of the way. But along with blood-spattered front-row access, Merlino brings us a blunt examination of the history, culture, business, and meaning of professional cage fighting. Beast is a book for both the uninitiated and the hard-core fan, a fascinating journey into an often misunderstood world.
“Merlino consistently captures the grit, determination, and sheer willpower of these hungry warriors…fascinating.”
“This is more than a tour-guide of a violent underworld. It is also a philosophic statement about conflict, understanding it, facing it, owning it, dealing with it. A wonderful dark read.”
—Bill Buford, author of Among the Thugs and Heat
“Beautifully reported and written with rollicking flair, Beast is every bit as electric as the ferocious sport it chronicles. Doug Merlino’s extraordinary book perfectly captures not only the brutal splendor of mixed martial arts, but also the ways in which so many ambitious young men and women seek salvation through controlled violence. By the time you reach the last page, you will be so emotionally invested in each fighter’s turbulent journey that you’ll yearn for a sequel—or, better yet, a trilogy.”
—Brendan I. Koerner, author of The Skies Belong to Us