Just to show it’s not all about me, I thought I’d feature an interview with my friend and colleague, Jim Genia. Jim is one of the most respected mixed martial arts journalists out there and the author of the book Raw Combat: The Underground World of Mixed Martial Arts, which TV producers are now attempting to turn into a series. Go check out his book or stop by his blog, which is linked under the blogroll to the right.
MJ: How’d you get interested in writing? Was this something you always wanted to do or did it grow out of your interest in mixed martial arts?
JG: I was always interested in writing, even as a child. However, it wasn’t until law school, that I realized how much I wanted writing in my life.
MJ: When did you first become interested in MMA? What was it that drew you to the sport? Were you a martial arts practitioner before this?
JG: I was a judo and karate dude ever since college, but when the first UFC aired, I was enthralled by the sport. MMA, it seemed, held the answers to the questions I’d been trying to answer in my martial arts training – namely, “What works?” and “Should I eventually study sumo?”
MJ: How did you first get involved in writing about MMA? What were some of the important things you learned about both writing and MMA that helped you as you became more involved in MMA journalism?
JG: I first got involved with writing about MMA when I started writing for Full Contact Fighter. The most important thing I learned in my years with the publication – and the thing that helped me the most in both in terms of writing and the sport – is that I should be having fun with it. Always.
MJ: Who are some of the bigger media outlets you’ve written for over the years?
JG: I’ve written for FCF, Newsday, the New York Press, VICE… a ton of places.
MJ: What are some of the more interesting or bizarre things you’ve seen in your time covering MMA?
JG: Just about every underground show I go to has something interesting and bizarre – whether it’s because a particular fighter is a stone-cold lunatic or because maybe a group of thugs will try to bumrush the show, there’s never a dull moment.
MJ: What is the best thing about being an MMA writer? What is the most difficult thing?
JG: The best thing about being an MMA writer is getting to know a ton of great people. The most difficult thing is watching them fail, and having to write about it.
MJ: Who were some of your favorite fighters that you’ve covered over the years and what stands out about them?
JG: Kevin Roddy, a local lightweight/featherweight in New Jersey, and one of the nicest, coolest, friendliest guys in the sport. Over the years, you develop relationships with these fighters – especially since you see them fight for the first time and every time after that when they’re working their way up. Anyway, Kevin always brings it and tries his hardest, and though he doesn’t always come out on top, he’s able to laugh and joke about whatever happened in the fight afterwards. Some people can’t do that, maybe ego gets in the way or maybe they’re just really shaken on the inside, but with Kevin… that’s pure love of the sport right there. Love of the sport. Kevin gets it. For that, he stands out.
MJ: What’s your opinion of how the sport has progressed from its early days? You’re a fan of the old “style vs. style” concept. Do you prefer that to the way fighters train nowadays where everyone is doing the same thing by combining styles into a true “mixed” martial art?
JG: MMA has evolved into a sport, and it’s constantly evolving every time two fighters get into the cage and duke it out. What’s different between now and those earlier days is simply where MMA is on the evolutionary scale. Do I miss style vs. style? Sure, but to a degree that’s still out there. There are still disillusioned people out there who think their expertise in one area will be enough, and of course, there are those out there who are so good at one thing that watching them compete captures some of that style vs. style motif. For example, when Ronda Rousey fights, I always feel like I’m watching a really, really good judoka against someone who practices MMA – and we all know how good that judo is matching up against that other style.
MJ: How do you compare the fighters you see nowadays to the ones you covered in the early days of the sport?
JG: The fighters nowadays are more advanced earlier on in their careers. And of course they are, because the fighters of yesterday are the ones training them and passing on the lessons they had learned.
MJ: One of your biggest interests is in the “underground” MMA fights that are held in NY where MMA has been illegal for years. What is it that draws you to the underground MMA scene?
JG: Being able to watch a fight from about 12 inches away from the action, being able to see some of that style vs. style combat, and being able to see vale tudo matches.
MJ: You’ve written a book about the underground fight scene in NY called Raw Combat: The Underground World of Mixed Martial Arts. How did this come about? How long did it take you to write it?
JG: It took me about nine months to write it, and it came about because I felt I had seen and experienced some very interesting things while covering the underground scene. There are a lot more stories out their than that of Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, and to me, some of the stories about these lesser-known fighters are more compelling. And an agent and a publisher agreed!
MJ: This was your first book. Was it difficult to write it? What was the hardest thing? Were you happy with the results?
JG: It wasn’t difficult to write at all. When writing is something you love and can’t wait to do, it never feels like work. I am thrilled with the results.
MJ: Do you write about anything else besides MMA? What other projects (MMA or non-MMA) are you working on now?
JG: I’m always working on potential manuscripts, it’s just a question of how hard I’m working on them. I’ve been slowly putting together a proposal for another MMA book, and in the meantime, I’ve been writing for some MMA sites, reporting the news.