Is MMA barbaric? Like me, this is a question pretty much all of you MMA fans out there will be tired of hearing. We have heard it all; it’s blood sport, it’s human cock fighting or it’s down right brutality to name but a few. Most recently we had the high profile example of the Australian so called journalist Phil Rothfield calling MMA nothing but “barbaric savagery” and campaigning for it to be banned in his country.
Quite frankly I am sick of hearing such comments and I am sick of feeling like I have to continually justify or explain my passion for our sport to the blissfully uninformed.
It seems the cynics out there are desperate to run our sport down and hold it back, they have seriously latched onto the opinion of how MMA was perceived back when it was originally conceived as a no holds barred, bare knuckle brawl with pretty much no rules.
MMA has moved on since those days, there are clear and sanctioned rules, weight classes, gloves, stringent safety procedures and medical testing. Professional MMA promoters are ticking every box to ensure the safety of their fighters. The fighters themselves are most certainly not ‘barbarians,’ they are professional athletes that display the courtesy, integrity, discipline and respect that we come to expect from years of martial arts training.
MMA has Olympic medal winners within their ranks, former Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin was a math teacher. Need I say more? We see more soccer, football and basketball stars getting into a hell of a lot more trouble in their private lives than we have ever seen from MMA stars.
If these cynics bothered to research how professional MMA’s safety record stacks up when compared to that of some other high profile and apparently perfectly acceptable sports, they would find that it was very favorable indeed.
The obvious comparison is of course MMA versus boxing so this is where I will focus. Firstly, let me be clear, I am also a boxing fan and find the sport hugely entertaining however boxers spend their entire careers enduring countess punches to the head designed to KO for potentially 36 minutes (12×3 min rounds). This clearly puts boxers at a higher risk of suffering brain injury, or worse.
Also, in boxing there is the tendency for promoters to intentionally manufacture undefeated and impressive win columns for talented fighters in the early part of their careers. This of course helps create hype and in turn generate a higher purse when these boxers are propelled into the spotlight for title fights. The reality however is that it’s very likely the wins are made up of intentional mis-matches; poor guys that had one purpose and that was try and last a decent amount of time before being brutally knocked out, essentially becoming a statistic. Bizarrely this practice is rarely mentioned and seems to be accepted as part of the sport.
By contrast, a standard MMA match lasts up to 15 minutes and a championship or headline bout can last up to 25 minutes. There is more of the body to target so every punch or kick thrown is not at the opponents head. In fact, an MMA fight can be over before a single punch or kick is felt by the opponent thanks to submissions. Granted, there is probably a higher chance that you will see blood in an MMA fight as elbow strikes are permitted, but these cuts are often superficial and in no way endangering the fighters health and safety.
My point is that over the years we have seen blood, broken bones and even death in various high profile sports such as rugby, boxing, motor sports, football and soccer, so why is it that MMA is singled out as barbaric when in fact there has been no serious injury or deaths suffered in any of the major MMA promotions ranks?
I fully accept that MMA is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s perfectly ok to not like MMA but I will not accept the sport being unfairly tagged as improper or barbaric, and particularly by members of the media that should know better than to run their mouth without doing their homework. For me, that’s simply lazy journalism.
MMA is a perfectly respectable and safe sport that is here to stay.
As always I am keen to hear your comments and you can find me on Twitter @Heffiejr