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MMA’s Fight For Legitimacy Gaining Momentum

Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt BJ Penn and former All-American collegiate wrestler Matt Hughes grapple during a UFC event. Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt BJ Penn and former All-American collegiate wrestler Matt Hughes grapple during a UFC event.

Mixed Martial Arts is one of the world’s fastest growing sports. Fans and practitioners are on the rise, and the UFC is big business. Despite the UFC’s perfect track record of safety and the sport’s overall record of safety, which is comparable to other major sports like football and hockey, many detractors continue to complain that MMA doesn’t belong in our culture. All too often these arguments are fueled by abject ignorance or the nuance, skill, and safety of MMA.

With fewer deaths than boxing, cheerleading, hockey and equestrian sports, the argument that MMA is too dangerous just doesn’t make sense. In fact, the first long-term study of mixed martial arts, conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, concluded that practitioners are not more prone to injury than those in other sports.

The Johns Hopkins report also concluded that the incidents of knockout were fewer than in boxing, making MMA safer in terms of brain injury than boxing. But you don’t hear people speaking out about boxing nearly as much as MMA. Why?

One of the big factors is that MMA fighters wear smaller gloves, and fight on the ground as well as on their feet. To an uneducated person, it looks bad. But fans of the sport realize that an MMA fighter is trained to defend himself and even attack from the bottom position. It’s common to see a fighter on his back slap on a submission hold and win the fight, like UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva did in his 2010 title defense against former NCAA All-American wrestler Chael Sonnen.

Which leads to the next point: MMA is not street fighting, as its detractors seem unanimously to think. MMA fighters are martial artists and athletes. A large percentage of fighters come from traditional martial arts like jiu-jitsu and Olympic sports like collegiate wrestling, judo, or boxing. They use those disciplines in their matches, which are filled with rules. A far cry from barroom brawling or street fighting.

MMA is a dynamic and exciting sport. It’s violent for sure, which means it’s not for everyone. But the only reasons people are so up in arms about it is because they don’t know enough about it. Every Sunday, football players run headlong into each other, and nobody says a thing. Boxing is not controversial for its content, and is sanctioned all around the world. Meanwhile, the milder and safer sport of MMA is still embroiled in a battle for legitimacy. But in time, MMA will become a part of the sports landscape as a new generation of sports fans grow up watching it. The great MMA debate is coming to a close, with some of North America’s last holdouts now starting to sanction UFC and amateur MMA events. You don’t like violence? Okay. You think MMA is somehow a more dangerous sport than what’s already out there? Think again.

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Last modified on Thursday, 20 September 2012 14:14

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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