The pen may be mightier than the sword, but Matthew Polly decided to test whether a writer is tougher than an uppercut in Tapped Out.  That’s a dangerous proposition for a Princeton grad, Rhodes Scholar, and self-labeled mixed martial arts (MMA) geek.

Polly planned to spend a year in preparation before stepping into the ring against his unknown opponent. Luckily, Polly has some fight training. He spent two years learning techniques from Shaolin monks. But that was years and many pounds of fat in his past.

Photo of Matthew Polly
Matthew Polly

And in MMA, which most people know through the Ultimate Fighting Championship, skilled kicks and punches are only half the battle. Submission and ground fighting add a whole different aspect to the sport. Essentially, the most successful fighters in modern MMA can fight standing or on the ground and anywhere in between.

Where does that leave Polly on the scale between helpless kitten and grizzled combat expert? Somewhere closer to the former, which makes him the everyman trying the thing every man fantasizes about trying.

But Tapped Out is no Rocky story. Look for inspiration elsewhere.

It’s closer to the competition part of Old School, you know when Vince Vaughn is on the rings with a cigarette dangling from his lips. Polly is hilarious as a narrator. He gets beaten, tossed, choked, and twisted like a dishrag on every page, yet maintains a humble sense of humor that is both charming and unique.

Photo of Matthew Polly
Matthew Polly steps in the ring.

This is the book for the older wannabe athlete as well as the casual UFC fan. It is the cautionary story for all those keyboard warriors and loud mouths on the message boards who quickly dismiss fighters after one poor match. And hardcore fans will thrill at the appearances by well known (and obscure) MMA luminaries, including Randy Couture, Georges St. Pierre, and Fedor Emelianenko.

Rest assured the ten-page recounting of Polly’s fight is worth the wait. I suggest you watch the Youtube video after finishing the last page—his memory of the match is uncanny.

For those who are tempted to look it up now, don’t. Like this book, Polly’s journey is the reward. He gains better health and an appreciation of the men who endure endless suffering in the gym, just so they can endure more suffering in the cage. In short, Tapped Out is so in-your-face good you’ll check your jaw for bruises.

Culture Tapped Out by Matthew Polly