EXCLUSIVE | Part 1: Nick “The Tooth” talks ‘Into the Cage: The Rise of UFC Nation’
Nick “The Tooth” Gullo has almost become a cult figure in the world of the UFC.
A longtime friend of UFC President Dana White, Gullo first started appearing in White’s video blogs and soon became something of a fan favorite.
“The Tooth” has a book that recently came out titled “Into the Cage: The Rise of UFC Nation.” Gullo gives UFC fans unparalleled access to the training, lives, and careers of some of MMA’s most celebrated fighters, including Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Nick and Nate Diaz, Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, and Chad Weidman; and also the people and personalities, from Joe Rogan to Arianny Celeste.
BJPENN.com caught up with Gullo and in Part 1, he discusses the ins and outs of “Into the Cage: The Rise of UFC Nation.”
Why a book?
“I was with Dana and Lorenzo when they were first looking to buy the UFC. We were on a plane together and he was flipping through a mixed martial arts magazine and he said, “Dude, this is going to be big.’ And I thought he was crazy. Everyone had seen UFC 1 and then the spectacle kind of wore off. A few years later I was living in Florida with my wife raising my daughter and we didn’t have a TV. So, I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t watch the fights, I didn’t watch The Ultimate Fighter. I would hear about it from him. … I came back West and one of the first fights I had seen, when I walked out into the arena with Dana, I couldn’t believe it. That’s what prompted me. I had this access, being a writer and a photographer, and that if I didn’t document it I’d feel like an idiot. The intention was never just to write a book. It was to chronicle my experience in learning about what MMA had become. The reality is, that era, the early 2000s, is when MMA became a sport.”
Becoming “The Tooth”
“There are a few of us who grew up with Dana and have been in the video blogs. It was a coupling of the exposure from the video blogs but also the craziness of that grappling match with Joe Lauzon. That was what really did it. It wasn’t just because I was in a blog. I think what people really gravitated towards was here is someone who is a normal fan that gets to, say have a one-on-one, real money down, basketball match with Michael Jordan and just getting smoked. Even if you get smoked, it’s a super fan’s dream. I think that’s what people identified with.”
What do you love about the book?
“I think the best chapter for me is the chapter about the evolution of the sport in which I profile BJ Penn and Rory MacDonald and how they came up during different eras and their approaches are completely different. Where Rory’s is very modern, BJ’s is very boot straps and very scrappy nature and that, let’s scrap mentality. The evolution of the sport is what fascinates me the most. I’m not a journalist but I am a writer and I’ve published several short stories and several screenplays. I’ve been a writer, I’ve studied literature, and I was actually working toward my Ph.D in literature before I started to go to law school. Writing is something I’ve done for a long time so when I approached this subject, not being a journalist, I looked at it from a fanatic’s standpoint and the thing that fascinated me the most was the evolution.”
For the reader
“I really wanted to showcase the art in MMA and the beauty of it. It’s not an encyclopedia but it is something that when you read the journey that I go through and when I showcase different aspects of the fight game that you haven’t seen before, my hope is that they walk away with a much greater appreciation. I really tried to shine an angle on all aspects of the circus.”
“It’s a pseudo coffee table book. They put a lot money into the production. I put in something like, 200 photos in the book. I was backstage at every event, photographing, going to the gyms, it was such a journey.”