The Case for Legalization: MMA is a Sport

June 7, 2009

By Kelsey Philpott

I’ve established how and why a fundamental shift in MMA’s approach to seeking legalization is necessary for MMA to progress further. It’s essentially a renewed approach to educating the naysayers and fence-sitters about MMA to correct the misconceptions about the sport. Once MMA is able to clear up any false pretences about its sport and its safety record, it can then move on to preaching the economic spinoff benefits that accompany its events.

The first step in educating the masses about mixed martial arts is to actually teach them how and why MMA is a legitimate, bona fide sport.

It’s certainly strange to write something like this, but it’s necessary because MMA can no longer afford to let assumptions rule the minds of those making decisions. MMA has to state its position outright.

What is a sport? To most it means some sort of activity which requires both skill and physical prowess to compete.

I’d argue that not only does MMA combine several different interdisciplinary fighting styles such as boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and muay thai – all of which require a tremendous amount of skill and physical prowess – but the requisite level of mastery of these techniques easily parallels that of the mastery required at the highest levels of any other sport.

The sport of MMA and its many different disciplines are also highly regulated under a universal set of rules, procedures, and guidelines – including over 30 different in-cage rules and a strict drug testing policy – that have been designed to protect the health, well-being, and integrity of MMA and its athletes.

It’s foolish to assume that the naysayers or fence-sitters know about the rules and regulations that MMA abides by, because, quite frankly, it seems as though they often don’t. And for as much as the MMA community complains of the ignorance of others, it ought to look in the mirror to realize that not everyone cares to find the right information themselves!

That’s why it needs to be said: an MMA fighter cannot scratch, eye gouge, hair pull, groin kick, hit an opponent to the back of the head, or use steroids, amongst other things.

The diversity of technique and strict regulation of the sport also demand that its athletes be of the highest standard. It’s simply not enough to be a one-dimensional fighter anymore; and, as a result, MMA features some of the most physically-gifted, skilled, hard working, and disciplined athletes on the planet. Further, the professionalism and benevolence that is by-and-large displayed by the entire MMA community only adds to the reputation of its athletes.

Georges St. Pierre is the type of person and athlete that exemplifies what mixed martial arts is all about and the community should take greater strides to use him an ambassadorial role.

Answering MMA’s Critics

MMA is essentially bargaining with mass opinion and in order to win that battle, the sport must meet the interests (i.e., answer the concerns) of the public.

The most common complaint or criticism of MMA that I often hear opponents use is that technique, rules, and athleticism are irrelevant when the objective of MMA is to hurt the person standing across the cage. But is that really the true objective of the sport?

I would argue the true objective of any MMA fighter is to be victorious over his opponent, not to bring real harm to his opponent. More importantly, MMA is the ultimate physical and spiritual test that pits a fighter not just against another person, but against himself.

Is the anguish two fighters put themselves through any different than the strife two competing marathon runners experience when pushing each other towards the finish line in the dying minutes of a race? The sport of MMA is as much about conquering oneself as it is conquering others. And that explains why the sport exhibits the level of class and sportsmanship that it does.

MMA is further criticized for perpetuating violence, particularly amongst youth, in our society. I suppose this isn’t really a huge surprise considering that just about everything associated with Generation Y is certain to be responsible for the world going to hell – television, videogames, cell phones, facebook, etc.

It might surprise critics to know, however, that the fact of the matter is quite the opposite. I’ve seen far more evidence of MMA pulling troubled teens off the street and giving them a healthy and controlled way to channel their aggression. Furthermore, I think you’ll find that if you surveyed the incidence of illegal, underground fighting – something that occured well before MMA began – in areas where MMA is sanctioned to areas where MMA is not, you’d find even more correlating evidence to support this position.

Lastly, and this is probably my favourite, there exists this notion out there that MMA somehow compromises the morality of our society; in other words, it’s simply wrong. It’s certainly closely related to the earlier criticisms and misconceptions of the sport and is something I feel will disappear if MMA can manage to do a better job of educating people about the sport.

There will, however, undoubtedly remain some people that still disagree with the idea of MMA and in this regard, I’m not sure there is much MMA can do. Therefore, why worry about it? 

The issue of morality itself opens a whole other can of worms: it’s not only highly subjective but also greatly influenced by one’s surrounding environment (again we broach the subject of cultural relativism). I’m not about to tell anyone what’s right or wrong – apart from the obvious – and MMA certainly doesn’t encroaches upon that obvious line. The sport does not infringe upon any fundamental human rights; it features willing, competent combatants duelling in a controlled setting; and it does not further perpetuate that combat outside of the proper channels.

What more is there to say? Difference exist, I respect those of others, but I’m not about to force MMA on anyone that doesn’t like it. Nor am I about to let them tell me what I should or should not be doing.

Payout Conclusion

The bottom line, here, is the public perception that MMA is a violent, bloodlust akin to human cockfighting could not be further from the truth. Everyone in MMA understands this, and it’s about time the public did too.

MMA is a legitimate sport and deserves to be legalized.

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