Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Truth Is Out There

Opponents of Mixed Martial Arts use pictures like the one above of Joe "Daddy" Stevenson bloodied and beaten to serve as an indication of the savagery and brutality of the sport.*

Mixed Martial Arts has been likened to "human cockfighting" and put forth as a sport that is a glorification and promotional instrument of violence with a base purpose of inflicting harm on your opponent.

Those who rally against the sport see only the perceived violence and brutality, neglecting to recognize any other aspects of the sport or the violent and dangerous aspects of the sports they proudly support and enjoy.

For instance, Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan went on one of his usual Bob Ryan angry rants on ESPN's Around the Horn a couple weeks back about their being nothing redeeming about MMA, going as far as to say there is at least some artistry to a sport like boxing.

New York Assemblyman Bob Reilly has been working diligently to try and prevent the sanctioning of MMA in that state on the basis of the brutal nature of the competition.

Both of these men - and all the other blindly oppositional challengers of the sport - need to take the time to investigate what it is they are so vehemently opposed to and see that they are completely wrong.

I can understand opposition based on personal preference; I know a lot of people who just simply don't like MMA. I can appreciate that. I don't like the CFL or watching golf on television. We all have our preferences.

But that is not what either of these gentlemen or countless others who denounce the sport are saying. They call it horrifically violent, predicated on inflicting pain and punishment and the equivalent of legalized street fighting and that is simply not true.

While I will concede that some MMA fights turn into bloodbaths, the same can also be said for a boxing match and the occasional hockey fight as well. Any time one person is striking another person in the face, there is the chance of bleeding, not just in Mixed Martial Arts.

What amazes me is how quickly the opposition clings to images like the one that opens this piece as the staple image of the sport, when in actuality, far more fights result in no blood being spilled.

Sports like hockey and football have a serious "violent" component to them, with big body checks and devastating tackles being seen as momentum changers and "an integral part of the game." What is more dangerous: a strong safety closing from ten or fifteen yards out on a receiver who is looking the other way or Demian Maia pulling guard?

Ironically, one of the best testaments to the sport not being the glorified bloodsport these challengers offer comes from the early days of the UFC, before rules, weight classes and athletic committees became involved.

With all the possible harm one man could do to another in those "anything goes" days, the first superstar and champion of the competition was Royce Gracie, a man of average size who never threw a meaningful punch of spilled an ounce of his opponent's blood. Even then, the technical mastery of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a well-executed strategy won out over beating the living hell out of someone.

More deaths and severe injuries have taken place inside a boxing ring than inside a cage in ten years of MMA's climb into the mainstream.

Fighters like Randy Couture and Dan Severen continue to step into the cage into their 40s and 50s without much more than some bad cauliflower ears, while some ex-NFL'er of the same generation deal with the effects of multiple concussions and brain damage.

Even professional wrestling puts more guys in the hospital with broken necks or backs than Mixed Martial Arts, not to mention the major and minor injuries that simply go untreated as performers do their thing 300 days a year.

Thankfully, people are starting to take a look at the sport for themselves and realize that the Bob Ryans and Bob Reillys of the world don't have all the answers and information.

Legislature to regulate Mixed Martial Arts in the Sate of New York cleared it's first hurdle yesterday, despite a 20 minute presentation of the horror of the sport by Assemblyman Reilly.

Ontario is quickly working towards doing the same after a number of years of opposition.

Just like The X-Files, the truth is out there.

You just have to get passed the loudmouth blowhards that don't know what they're talking about first.

* Sorry the first sentence no longer makes sense. Picture removed at the photographer's request.

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