“From Vale Tudo to MMA: 100 Years of Fighting” Photo Book Review

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Susumu Nagao's Photograph

The shape of MMA in the early days was made not through Youtube or DVD sales, but photographs. In the early days of MMA, I got most of my news from magazines, be it “Full Contact Fighter” or “Grappling” magazine, and occasionally even “Black Belt” magazine, long before they transitioned into covering the sport more attentively. The only way to visualize the fights were through photos, especially since tape trading was a very tight-knit world to crack into. One of the most prolific and best photographers in the world when it comes to MMA is Susumu Nagao. Even if you do not recognize the name, you will know his iconic images that have been used since 1993 to showcase UFC, Pride, and other international events. Finally, a book has been released in the US that showcases these amazing photos, but more than that, showcases the roots of the sport from before the acronym MMA ever existed.

“From Vale Tudo to MMA” is written by Marcelo Alonso, a prolific reporter who started his MMA career as a photographer and reporter for KIAI magazine and would then become editor of “Tatame” magazine for 15 years. spend 15 years as editor for Tatame. Currently, Alonso is a host for the Brazilian “Combate Channel”, and partner of the PVT website and publishing house that helped make this book possible.

Photo courtesy of Sherdog.com
Photo courtesy of Sherdog.com

This book is not just pictures from Alonso and Susumu, as well as other photographers, but is the story of the sport’s earliest days, going as far back as the beginning of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when Master Maeda came to Brazil to spread his style of Jiu-Jitsu. From there, BJJ begins and we jump into the history of the early members of the Gracie family doing style vs style matches and leading into their rivalry with the combatants from Luta Livre.

As MMA begins in America, we begin to see the transformation of the sport internationally, and soon in Japan with Pride FC. Here is where we begin to see Susumu’s legendary shots of the sport that embody the notion that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. It takes a master to tell the story of an entire fight through one photo, and Mr. Nagao’s images speak volumes. I have always wanted to have photos of his gorgeous images on my walls as posters, so for now, this is a wonderful way to see his images in a large format, the way they should be seen rather than on a computer screen.

As I said, the book is not just Susumu’s photos, but Marcelo’s, as well as other photographers, and through their lens we see some of today’s stars in their earliest fights. Dan Henderson, Kevin Randleman, Vitor Belfort, Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva, Royce Gracie, and countless others in some photos that have probably never even been seen in America before. For me, the photos were the stars, but Alonso’s telling of the evolution of MMA is incredibly informative and a story that I only knew bits and pieces of before finishing this. Hearing the stories of the famous old-school matches reminded me of those old boxing reports, where the sport was a very different beast from what it is today, and makes you admire those pioneers who took it from the bare-knucle times to the international phenomenon that it is now.

You can order “From Vale Tudo to MMA” from Budovideos.com for 39.95, and I absolutely suggest you do. Susumu’s photos are meant to be seen as big as possible, and this book is your best chance to have that, along with Marcelo Alonso’s masterfully crafted storytelling to give you a real history lesson on the origins of MMA. I came for the photos, I left with a new appreciation and knowledge of the earliest days of combat sports, and I highly recommend you grab this book and get a lesson in a side of MMA you may not know about.

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