Book Review: Josh Samman’s ‘The Housekeeper: Love, Death & Prizefighting’

By Mike Sloan Aug 9, 2016

In between losses to Tamdan McCrory in December and Tim Boetsch in July, Josh Samman completed perhaps the most gruelling assignment with which he has ever been tasked. A 28-year-old Orlando, Florida, native with strong standup and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, he finished and released his memoir, “The Housekeeper: Love, Death and Prizefighting.” While many of Samman’s peers have utilized ghostwriters for their autobiographies, he chose to go it alone.

A semifinalist on Season 17 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Samman has compiled a 12-4 record as a professional mixed martial artist and owns wins over Caio Magalhaes, Eddie Gordon and Kevin Casey. “The Housekeeper,” however, does not serve as a shout-out to his career. Instead, it mostly focuses on the love of his life, girlfriend “Isabel,” who died in a car accident three years ago. The book also details his struggles with substance abuse and depression.

“The Housekeeper” is wonderfully written and presented in a simple tone, as though Samman is speaking directly to the reader. The Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran takes a matter-of-fact approach with short chapters, which makes it a difficult book to put down.

“I wanted to keep it simple, really,” Samman told “I wanted to make sure people who read this feel as though they are sitting next to me and listening to me tell this story. It was a choice I made before I even put pen to paper, so to speak, because I didn’t want to write in a way that I don’t really communicate with people.”

Samman succeeded in that pursuit. His gripping story has been spliced into two segments of his life, and like iconic film director Quentin Tarantino, he perfectly interweaves both until they intersect. It results in two vastly different versions of a fighter who coalesced around an unspeakable tragedy.

“That was the point, really,” Samman said. “I wanted to try and tell two stories of my life: one when I was a kid to where I became the man I am today and the other part from when I finally got my s--- together and got on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and into the UFC.”

While his life has been a tale of two halves, Samman struggled with the same substance-abuse demons in both. When he was younger, he spiraled into an existence that was defined by drug addiction, recovery, relapse and the struggle to get clean. Samman believed he had freed himself from the bondage, but everything changed when he lost “Isabel.” She had come back into his life and helped him get his MMA career off the ground. Her death brought about a despair and grief that led him back down the path to substance abuse. The book, as one might imagine, opened some old wounds.

“Losing her was the worst thing I’ve ever faced,” Samman said. “I was gutted. I couldn’t even move. It took me a long time just to be able to breathe again, and I think about her every single day. I’ll never get over her, but what was challenging with this project is that even though I’ve been able to live again and move on, doing this project brought back so many memories and sorrow. Getting this book completed was almost as hard as when I lost her, but I think I did a good job in keeping her spirit and who she was alive.”

That he did. While the names of some of the characters in the book -- including his girlfriend, a move done out of respect for her family -- were changed for legal purposes, it is nevertheless an emotional story of despair and recovery. A terrific read from start to finish, “The Housekeeper” serves as a reminder to not take life for granted and to live it to its fullest.

“That was my point with this whole project,” Samman said. “Though I never, ever took her for granted, losing her opened my eyes to everything else in my life. Our time on this planet is short when you really think about it, so hopefully anybody who reads ‘The Housekeeper’ will learn to really cherish the time they have with their loved ones and not take anything in this world for granted.”
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