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Saturday, October 8, 2011
UFC Encyclopedia comes at the right time

By Chuck Mindenhall

Gerbasi
Thomas Gerbasi took time out of his busy schedule to mingle with fans (and coworkers) on Friday.
HOUSTON -- Whenever the UFC adjoins a fan exposition with a fight card, it becomes a testament to how far this sport has come.

The one going on in Houston this weekend is no different. Thousands of people with cell phone cameras mill about, hoping to bump into somebody/anybody in the fight game. And they do, because the place is teeming with fighters and fighter factions and fight game vendors/periphery ... almost everybody in loud, expressive t-shirts. People like Jens Pulver are happily mobbed. Jacob Duran, the man they call “Stitch” gets mobbed. MMAFighting's Ariel Helwani signs autographs and smiles for pictures.

It’s organized bedlam.

And there was one booth in the middle of it all that could detail the UFC’s long, curving road to the hitherto. That was the booth where Thomas Gerbasi, the UFC’s Editorial Director, was signing the newly released UFC Encyclopedia (DK Books, $50) -- a 400-page undertaking that recaps and glossarizes every event that’s happened from UFC 1, with bios beginning at Andrei Arlovski and ending with Yoshiyuki Yoshida.

Wondering about Anthony Fryklund? He’s in there. The whole fraternity is; anybody who has ever stepped in the Octagon.

For historians who like tactile things, this beats Wikipedia -- and it’s timely.

Realistically, most fans of MMA haven’t been following the sport since UFC 1 in 1993. If the UFC is zeroing in on the 18-34 male demographic, that means the 18-year-olds in the equation were still in bassinets when the martial arts began to mix. There hasn’t been a good, definitive look at the history of the UFC until this chronological tome, which uses graphs, stats, color pictures, blurbs and capsules to illustrate and detail every card (up to UFC 130), every fighter, every TUF season, and every nook and cranny in between (for you fetishists, there are four full pages of Dan Severn).

How author Gerbasi found the time to write it amidst all the other stuff he does at UFC.com (which is a lot) and his beat writing for the Gotham Girls Roller Derby team is beyond understanding.

“You see this red on the book spine? That’s my blood,” he joked. But thumbing through the book, which includes a double-truck on the Octagon girls both past and present, you can’t help but think he’s only half joking.