Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

A Fighter’s Heart

Inside the Mental Game

by Sam Sheridan

“The obsessive, brutal subcultures Sheridan explores are inherently fascinating, and his behind-the-scenes access makes for a gripping read.” —Sara Cardace, The Washington Post

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 320
  • Publication Date February 19, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4343-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $18.00

About The Book

Since the initial publication of A Fighter’s Heart, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has exploded in popularity, landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated and The New York Times and prominently featured in other major media. A best seller in hardcover, Sam Sheridan’s thrilling, eye-opening first-person report on the world of MMA is set to reach an even larger audience in paperback.

In 1999, after a series of adventurous jobs—working construction at the South Pole, ranching in Montana, fighting wildfires in New Mexico, and sailing private yachts around the world—Sam Sheridan found himself in Australia loaded with cash and intent on not working until he’d spent it all. He quit smoking and began working out at a local gym, where it slowly occurred to him that now, without distractions, he could finally indulge a long-dormant obsession: fighting.

Within a year, Sheridan moved to Bangkok to train at the legendary Fairtex gym with the greatest fighter in muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) history. Driven by a desire to know what only a fighter can—about fear and violence, about the dark side of masculinity, and most of all about himself—he stepped through the ropes for a professional bout.

That single fight wasn’t enough. Sheridan set out to test himself on an epic journey into how and why we fight. From small-town Iowa to the beaches of Rio, from the streets of Oakland to the arenas of Tokyo, he trained, traveled, and fought with Olympic boxers, Brazilian jiu-jitsu stars, and Ultimate Fighting champions. This is the chronicle of Sheridan’s quest, part insightful look at violence as a career and spectator sport, and part dizzying account of what it’s like to reach the peak of finely disciplined personal aggression—to hit and be hit.


“Know someone with a bad case of wanderlust? Sam Sheridan has it and brings it alive in A Fighter’s Heart. . . fascinating.” —Carol Herwig, USA Today

“There’s a world of fighting out there, 10,000 ways to get your clock cleaned, and on his grand tour in A Fighter’s Heart, Sheridan hits many of the high spots. . . . Like Ishmael, the narrator of Moby Dick, Sheridan presents himself as a resourceful, accepting guy who can take care of himself, who tries all things and opens himself to their meaning. . . . Sheridan consistently succeeds in making the reader share his urge to do, to see, to know, to find out what happens next and how much it’s going to hurt. He turns even the most technical fighting lessons into exercises in greater self-knowledge.” —Carlo Rotella, Chicago Tribune

A Fighter’s Heart: One Man’s Journey Through the World of Fighting is a whirling, no-holds-barred account of Sam Sheridan’s expedition into the blood-and-guts arena of professional pugilism. With gutsy, participatory reportage he takes us behind the scenes of Muay Thai kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, tae kwon do and plenty of other . . . fight club disciplines around the world. . . . The world of fighting is dizzying and delirious, adrenaline-addled and addictive.” —Bradley Lincoln, Playboy

“Required reading for all MMA fans.” —Danny Acosta, FIGHT! Magazine

“The obsessive, brutal subcultures Sheridan explores are inherently fascinating, and his behind-the-scenes access makes for a gripping read.” —Sara Cardace, The Washington Post

A Fighter’s Heart has plenty of ‘fighter,’ and an abundance of ‘heart.’ Sheridan’s gifts as an athlete are matched by his gifts as an aesthete. He’s written a fine book. And we’d be making the same pronouncement even if he couldn’t kick our ass.” —L. Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated

“If you like your adventures lighter on philosophical humor and heavier on bloodied noses. . .” —Steven Rinella, Outside

“[Sheridan’s] written two of literature’s best books on fighting: A Fighter’s Heart and A Fighter’s Mind.” —Field and Stream

“Sheridan’s two books are now required reading for our fighters. At most every gathering I tell them to be sure to get the books, because other than the Bible, they are the best fight books ever written.” —Denny Holzbauer, 6-time World Champion kick boxer and founder of American Bushido-Kai Karate Association

“Any honest, serious attempt to understand men should include a survey of sports writing and biographies of athletes . . . Sam Sheridan’s The Fighter’s Mind is as good a place as any to start . . . Sheridan is something of a ‘gonzo’ journalist. He’s a bookworm, sure, but he’s also one of the guys. He writes about fighters because he, too, is driven to fight. He gets the kind of access and honesty and insight he does from his subjects because, clearly, he can hang.” —Jack Donovan, Alternative Right

“From childhood, we search out questions, curiously going places we’re told not to, instinctively testing ourselves—perhaps walking across a thin beam above a construction site—as our heart goes fast then quiet. There is something in man that demands to know what he can handle, and what he can’t or won’t. Sam Sheridan goes to find out—and he takes everyone with him.” —Teddy Atlas, legendary boxing trainer and commentator

“After reading Sam’s book you’ll be sweating like you were there with him, you might even have blood trickling out of your nose.” —Pat Miletich, Five time UFC champion, trainer of 11 world champions

“[An] excellent book.” —BoxingScene.com

“This is an enlightening book for anyone who has ever itched to get into a barroom brawl or wondered why anyone would.” —Oxford Square Books Newsletter

“Oh great, I thought a dilettante from Harvard is going to tourist his way through the world of fighting and then pump out a pompous tome of first person ‘insights.’ . . . Then when my bud asked if I’d read the book and launched into a pretty interesting discussion of ideas he picked up from Sheridan, I reconsidered and I’m glad I did. . . . it is a worthwhile read . . . his conclusions about the reasons men and women train and fight professionally are interesting.” —Kid Nate, BloodyElbow.com


Brandon taped me up, and I Vaselined my eyebrows, nose, and inside my nose, all to help avoid cuts. Mouth guard, cup, fight shorts, wrapped hands, and the fingerless MMA gloves. I was ready to go.

I started warming up and felt good, loose and crisp; my punches felt sharp. I threw a left hook and it barely twinged my rib at all. I was going to be fine. My legs were still a little hot, and I know they weren’t fresh like they should be, but that would be okay. I was going to tower over this guy anyway.

I shadowboxed hard, hit pads a tiny bit, and then, as we were close, just paced, shaking my arms slightly. I felt good. I was mentally ready to beat the shit out of someone. Brandon did an excellent job as a corner; he realized that my mental state was strong and left me alone.

Then we were nearly there. I saw my opponent backstage and I thought, Man, he looks big for 185.

I wasn’t going to have any real reach on him, he was probably 6’1″ or 6’2″. Oh well. Nothing to be done now but go out there and see what happens. The “Why am I doing this?” thoughts had come and gone. This is what we do.

Over the P.A. system they announce the next fight, “Weighing in at two hundred and five pounds. . . .” And I don’t hear the rest. Wait a minute, this can’t be my fight—someone must have given me the wrong fight order. But then I hear the end of the announcement,

” . . . his opponent from Amherst, Massachusetts, Sam Sheridan, one hundred eighty-five pounds.” I could scarcely believe my ears. Two hundred and five! Are you shitting me?

I first think of all those lovely meals the last two weeks I’d skipped, all those nights going to bed on a protein shake with my stomach rumbling. Man, I could have eaten like a king these last two weeks and been fine. I am giving up twenty pounds.

My mind flashes back to Thailand, and I think, They’ve done it to me again. The promoters have fucked me again. I can see Brandon’s angry face, and he is arguing with the promoter, but I’ll fight anybody right now. Then I am up in the cage.