Mixed Martial Arts: A Controversial New Breed of Sport “In its December 6, 2006 profile on Ultimate Fighting, USA Today writer Marco della Cava states, ‘Football and baseball may be American pastimes, but for a high-tech generation weaned on immediacy, such sporadic action doesn’t compare with UFC’s short and definitive flurries of violence'” (“Dallas-Based Fight Company Enters the Cage”). According to an editorial in Market Wire, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), commonly recognized as cage fighting, is the fastest growing “Sports Entertainment business in the world” (“Dallas-Based Fight Company Enters the Cage”).
However with the recent success of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), the world’s largest and most highly recognizable MMA organization, a past dilemma has reemerged once again. Opponents of mixed martial arts deem the combat sport as being immoral, and go against the principles that are considered part of the “American way of life. ” The sport has been called “barbaric,” and labeled as “human cockfighting. ” Adversaries also question the sport’s integrity, as it requires two opponents to enter a ring or cage with the intention of hurting or injuring one another.
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Further arguments against the sport are that striking a downed opponent is “un-American. “- John McCain (Silverman). Supporters of MMA strongly disagree with these allegations. One such supporter, John McCarthy, a UFC referee, emphasizes that fighters in mixed martial arts do not fight to inflict pain on one another, but rather they fight for the sake of competition (Inside the UFC). He states that the fighters he has talked to about the issue say that “when they fight, it is all about the sport, and that it is more an issue of dominance, like a game of chess, rather than one of inflicting pain on another human being” (Inside the UFC).
In this element, McCarthy believes the ethics of mixed martial arts are identical as those of other widely accepted sports, such as football or hockey, where inflicting pain on the competition is merely a part of the sport, not the ends of competing. Since the sport of mixed martial arts was first introduced to the United States in 1993, it has been the subject of much heated political debate. The opponents of mixed martial arts have leveled numerous arguments against the sport, and under the leadership of Arizona Senator John McCain, they even succeeded in forcing the sport from national pay-per-view carriers, and onvinced several states to ban the sport (Silverman). The four-year forced hiatus that the sport experienced from 1997 until 2001 was a direct result of the political onslaught headed by Senator John McCain (Silverman). Though on the surface, this event may look to be a terrible set of circumstances for the sport of mixed martial arts, but in reality this hiatus allowed the sport to almost totally reinvent itself. With the sale of the franchise to Zuffa LLC, new owners Dana White and brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta completely revamped and regulated the rules and procedures they felt were appropriate.
Such rules included no eye gouging, fish hooking, groin shots, kicking or kneeing to a downed opponent, enforcement of padded gloves, etc. However the sport still carried much of the negative stigma that was associated with the unruly nature of early UFC events as the sport was dropped from pay-per-view carriers for several years. When the sport reemerged in 2001, many of the sport’s greatest opponents had all but forgotten about it, which allowed it to reemerge under the political radar.
This also allowed the sport to gain a new fan base and to expand its support. Perhaps the chief rival discouraging MMA is the boxing industry. Many boxing promoters, fighters, analysts, and enthusiasts fail to recognize it as a sport and do not consider its fighters athletes constantly associating it with the term “human cockfighting” and accusing companies like the UFC of advocating brutality. Yet recorded deaths and serious injuries between the two sports demonstrate a substantial dissimilarity.
According to UFC President Dana White, “After all the goal in boxing is to punch you opponent in the head until he is unconscious. This is not the goal in our sport. There are many other ways to win. Since 1900[,] there have been over 1000 documented deaths in boxing. There has been 1 in MMA in 70 years. That was in Russia at an unsanctioned event. Ironically the death was caused by strikes to the head” (“Inside the UFC”). Ironically, Senator John McCain witnessed one such death in the sport of boxing, the 1995 death of Jimmy Garcia, as he sat ringside (Svinth).
Strangely, Senator McCain remains a fan of boxing, a sport with a blemished safety record, and over 1,000 recorded deaths in a little over 100 years, but he continues to be an opponent of the sport of mixed martial arts, which has not had a serious injury in the recorded history of the sport (Silverman). Joe Rogan, a UFC commentator and comedian, on an appearance on ESPN’s The Hot Seat states, “mixed martial arts is swallowing boxing”. Rogan goes on to comment, “boxing is just one discipline of MMA and that’s why […mixed martial arts] is more entertaining, exciting, and more people watch it”.
In comparison to many sports that are widely and popularly accepted in American culture, including football, cheerleading, hockey, boxing and basketball, mixed martial arts is relatively safe. There are various explanations that mixed martial arts can be categorized as a “safe” combat sport; The numerous ways in which a fight can end besides via knockout, the great deal of safety precautions taken by promoters, and the attentiveness of mixed martial arts referees to stop a fight when a fighter cannot intelligently defend himself. The UFC organization is regulated and recognized by the world’s most prestigious sports regulatory bodies including the California, Florida, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania State Athletic Commissions. The UFC organization strives for the highest levels of safety and quality in all aspects of the sport” (“History of the Ultimate Fighting Championship”). Presently, MMA is riding high on U. S. exposure and popularity. Its fans and participants can be found all over the country, and in all walks of life. They represent every race, creed and class of people in America as well as around the globe.
They are teachers, police officers, attorneys, truck drivers, accountants, laborers, ministers, soldiers, doctors, students, and family members. They are not savages, barbarians or criminals, nor are they a group of social deviants and scoundrels as people like John McCain would have the voting public believe. They are simply people who enjoy a competitive sport that is misunderstood and as a result, feared and hated. Works Cited “Dallas-Based Fight Company Enters the Cage. ” Editorial. Market Wire. Accessed 14 Sep. 2007. “History of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Ultimate Fighting Championship. 15 Sep. 2007. <http://www. ufc. com/index. cfm? fa=LearnUFC. History>. Inside the UFC. Episode 12. Narr. Joe Rogan. Dir. Unknown. SpikeTV. 10 Dec. 2006 Silverman, Amy. “John McCain Breaks up a Fight. ” The Phoenix New Times. 12 Feb. 1998. <http://www. phoenixnewtimes. com/issues/1998-02-12/feature2. html>. Svinth, Joseph R. “Death Under the Spotlight: The Manuel Velazquez Boxing Fatality Collection. ” Journal of Combative Sport. Accessed 15 Sep. 2007. <http://ejmas. com/jcs/jcsart_svinth_a_0700. htm>.