1. He grew up in a nightmare of a home
Nothing good happend in that home: he and his brothers were physically abused by his dad and his sister was sexually abused by his dad. On top of that, they never had food.
I try to remember any light, fun moments we shared as kids, but it’s hard to find anything. If there were any board games, or holidays, or trips to the movies, or the rugby, or the museum, or anything that parents and little kids do together then I don’t remember them. All I remember about that house is a shitload of beatings and what felt like endless days of hunger.
2. He became a Japanese celebrity very fast
He won the K-1 tournament which pretty much made him one of the greatest fighters in the world. He had commercial gigs that he enjoyed doing.
3. K-1 was kickboxing, Pride was MMA
So, yes, I’m a casual. I didn’t know the difference between the different Japanese organizations. He talks about the transition from K-1 to Pride. Basically: ground game. He had no ground training and everyone let him know it coming in. They’d seen a lot of people try to transition and they couldn’t do it.
4. Multiple fights on the same day
It’s really crazy how they’d just do tournaments in the same day. So with that K-1 tournament that he won, he actually lost one match by decision but moved on because his opponent was injured.
5. No 12 week camps (or 1 week camps)
He would pretty much take fights and train between them. It didn’t sound like he’d go off with a team and train for a few months leading up to fights. And often times he’d find out about fights pretty late. Being a heavyweight, he wouldn’t need to cut until later years when he was even beyond the heavyweight limit.
It was just one of those things. I fucked up in that Miočić fight. I fucked up the weight cut and I went in to the fight weak and powerless. At the top of the tree it’s a long way down to hard ground if you lose your grip like that. I used to be able to just kind of roll into my fights. I used to be able to turn up fat or underprepared, knowing my fists would get me through. It’s not like that anymore, though. The fight game’s changed, and I’ve changed too.
6. What if (but oh well)
He talks about how little he trained for some fights and kicks himself for some of it. He didn’t always take ground training as seriously as he should have for transitioning to MMA. But he’s happy with the career he had. Fighters respect him. He has a happy family.
7. Ongoing battle with fighters on steroids
Pride basically said, hey, we don’t test for anything. You can take whatever you want. He stayed away from them though because he knew he was strong enough and had power and was worried about losing coordination.
At the time I believed that if I worked harder I could beat anyone in Pride, but I now realise there was another aspect of professional Japanese MMA that I hadn’t embraced, which probably put me at a disadvantage.
When I first met with Sakakibara-san and the Pride officials in Japan after signing my contract they gave me a rundown of the guidelines the company expected me to stay within, but there was no mention of performance-enhancing drugs.
When I asked what the story was with PEDs, they laughed uniformly. ‘Mark, you can take whatever you want,’ one of them said.
8. Videogames were a constant in his life
He mentions Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Counter-Strike, and probably a few other games. Here’s how he spent money from one of his early large paydays:
I wanted a ‘Cribs’ crib, man. I found a guy to build a completely specced-out computer for me and set up a dedicated gaming room. That year I managed to put 40 Screaming Eagles on my Counter-Strike account, an honour that’s only possible with more than 60 hours of play a week.
9. He always wanted to challenge himself
He had the mentality that he was the best fighter in the world. When he switched to Pride, he had his eyes on getting the championship. That meant going through Fedor. (He lost to Fedor, but got some shots in!) Toward the end he had his eyes set on fighting Cain. Even when Cain vacates the title, Mark is considering the paths that would lead to being able to fight Cain and get a chance to test himself against the best. (He’d have to beat Stipe, but he got destroyed. He details getitng destroyed in the book.)