This past Friday, Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva and Mark Hunt engaged in perhaps the best heavyweight bout of all time and quite possibly the best fight of the year. It was a courageous display of heart and power, tenacity and showmanship. Neither man stepped back and neither man had ‘quit’ in their vocabulary that night.
You may not agree with these statements but guess what, just because someone said it, doesn’t make it true. If you write for an online news site and you’re writing a piece that sways to one end or another on the spectrum of likeability of a sport, is it fair to use negative adjectives as almost a signal phrase just before you repeat the sports name as if the sport’s name itself was a surname to ‘barbaric savagery’?
Well Phil Rothfield of DailyTelegraph.com in Australia did just that. Rugby league’s most experienced journalist published a scathing opinion that trounced the UFC’s effort to push their sport on a global scale, at least in his own mind. He called for a ban in the country and wasn’t too happy with the brutality displayed by the fighters that night.
“Why aren’t fighters getting protection from blood diseases?” he asked, clearly unaware that fighters are tested for such things before a fight.
Also, the fact that there hasn’t been a serious blood disease contracted from even a particularly bloody UFC fight sets the standard for a pretty good track record over 20 years.
It’s not the UFC that does this testing. The respective athletic commission for a given event carries out these duties and has no tolerance for a failed test, pulling the plug on infectious diseases until the condition is cured, if possible.
He was also keen to point out that woman fighting for the organization was a ‘disgrace’ in the article. Who is he to say such things? Women have just as much a right to step in to a cage than men do. In fact, MMA might give them the most legitimacy of any women’s sport in the country, if not the entire world. When is the last time you got riled up to see woman compete in a professional basketball game or soccer match?
Not to take anything away from the extremely talented woman who partake in these sports but the fact is, they have their audience carved out eternally and they won’t grow in the exponential fashion that the UFC is. Women are also given an equal opportunity for both genders to compete side by side on fight cards and steal away Fight Night bonus’ from the men if they put on better performances on a given night.
Rothfield goes on to make another point. He urges his countrymen to rethink allowing children to watch this barbaric display of human ignorance and brutality. He tells his audience to run a Google search on “UFC worst injuries” and bear witness to the horrors within. If you were wondering how to feel upon seeing the photographs when you search, Rothfield tells you do to so if you really want to make yourself sick, a general phrase for injuries of all sorts, professional sports or not.
Instead, you can run the same search for Rugby and find your fair share of blown out knees, protruding bones, and cuts that rival any in the UFC’s history. The difference he says is the fact that skill is involved in Rugby and that it doesn’t involve violently bashing another person in to submission.
I watch a lot of MMA. I have beyond a questionable doubt seen some of the most unequivocal talent possessed by any human being competing in a professional sport on the entire planet thanks to MMA. There is no argument there. If you can find one, please let me know.
Rugby though has plenty of injuries to its name as well. “I have been out cold five times, but towards the end of my career I was getting other forms of concussion far more frequently.” (via DailyMail) retired English Rugby player Lewis Moody said. Moody was infamously knocked unconscious during a game but returned to the pitch just to be knocked out once more. Another scary moment took place when Toby Flood was knocked unconscious for 12 minutes during a match as EMT’s rushed the field, placing him on a stretcher and in a neck brace, all the while requiring oxygen. When is the last time such urgent card has been taken for a UFC fighter, even on the worst of knockouts?
Flood was knocked out by a knee upon being tackled by another player as others are taken out throughout the play.
His point about the severely worse nature of MMA violence is backed up by completely disregarding the statistics put forth by studies like the one done at John Hopkins University which concludes that MMA receives its greatest number of injuries due to broken bones such as the hands or arms, not concussions. Rothfield says these stats aren’t the point. What about these?
“The American Association of Neurological Surgeons says that 90% of boxers will have sustained a brain injury by the end of their careers” (via Askmen.com).
Boxing has experienced 70 deaths in the 8-year period of 1998-2006 with MMA enduring just nine deaths. Of these nine, six were unsanctioned bouts that have received criticism from things like not having pre-fight exams to a failure to procure records from any potential pre-existing medical conditions.
Why though would we disregard these stats? Isn’t that the reason we conduct them? So that we have a basis and even a warning to would-be fighters? Apparently not as they are pushed aside for the sake of making sure that a sport is hated before you get to the end of the page.
When the argument is brought home to the United States of America, we are prone to compare it to the American mainstay of western football. Football is beloved by the nation, creating religious cult-like followings of certain teams as entire families head out each Sunday to watch full-grown men make a choice in their own lives to run full-force in to another human being to stop almost every play over the course of three-plus hours. Adults making decisions about their own life, a clever yet troubling concept to some.
“Concussion is a huge dilemma right now for the NFL. Here’s the difference between the UFC and the NFL as far as concussions are concerned. First of all, if you get a concussion, if you get knocked out or you get hurt whatsoever in the UFC, three months suspension. You are on suspension for three months and you cannot come back until you are cleared by a doctor. You can’t have any contact whatsoever. In the NFL, you’re not going to lose Tom Brady for three months, man. You lose Tom Brady for three months and your whole season is wiped out. So, the UFC, listen, we don’t hide from it, it’s a contact sport and that’s what these guys do, (is) much safer. In the 20-year history of the UFC, it will be 20-years in November, there has never been a death or a serious injury. Never been a death or serious injury in 20 years because we go above and beyond when it comes to the safety of these guys. When you know you have two healthy athletes getting ready to compete, they get the proper medical attention before and after, it’s the safest sport in the world, fact,” Dana White at the New Media Expo (quote via MMAMania.com).
A call for head gear in MMA is also made as the point of the smaller gloves in MMA past the aspect of grappling seemingly passes over Rothfield’s head. In American football, the helmets players wear are absolutely manditory as taking them off mid-play can result in a penalty on that play under the official rule book of the NFL (Section 3, Article 1, H).
Take the helmets out of football and what would you get?
Do you think players would still duck their heads and lower their shoulders when they are about to make a tackle? I think you would find players reverting back to the days of pee-wee football as they grab their opponent with their chest straight up and drive them down without that initial devastating blow.
Instead, are unfortunate cases like Junior Seau’s supposed to be swept under the rug as a guilt-free America gathers around the flat-screen to watch two teams play for a title in the sport that damaged Seau’s brain irreparably?
In boxing, a fighter’s ability to absorb massive amounts of punishment over 12 or 15 rounds is partly due to the padding on the fighters glove which gives a slight advantage to the punchee in being able to stay on his feet, yet they are left to absorb extra blows.
I’m not denouncing football or boxing by writing this though but instead showing parallels between MMA, football, and prizefighting which can pay out upwards of over $40 million on a PPV event that is seen by millions of people worldwide.
We have to be adults about this situation. Sports that involve physical contact are dangerous and MMA is one of them. Steps are being taken however, to make changes and ensure the optimum levels of fighter safety with sports like football and boxing standing as examples previously set on how not to protect a fighter by relinquishing his ability to absorb punishment instead of stacking pads around them so that they can take a hard shot more often.