The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty


The NY Times screams in fear of MMA. Let’s examine the stupidity contained within.

– Tendentious language: “blood-soaked”, “vicious” etc. This goes along with its friend, lack of actual description. Together they’re pretty much the hallmarks of an evidence-free screed.

– A positive reference to pro wrestling in the article. Pro wrestling, I would bet $1000, has the highest serious injury and mortality rate for ex-participants below the age of 60 of any sport or pseudo-sport in the world. Referencing that hideous mess of an industry as though it were a positive and MMA a worse danger is pretty clear evidence of the authors’ lack of interest in facts as opposed to preconceptions.

– The title itself. “Disturbing” to who, exactly? Using passive language of this kind in an unsigned editorial is about as dodgy as it gets.

“What they don’t tell you is what is allowed,” Mr. Reilly points out. “Kicking in the head, kneeing in the head, hitting in the head.” Ultimate fighters do not wear helmets or shoes or full, padded boxing gloves.”

Yep, the rules are hidden and impossible to find. I couldn’t find info of that kind anywhere.

Also, let’s unpack this. Kicking in the head is allowed in kickboxing, which is legal in New York. Knees to the head are legal in Muay Thai, which I believe is also legal. “Hitting in the head” is the definition of boxing, which has been legal since forever. Helmets aren’t worn in any of the professional classes of the currently legal fighting disciplines; I have no idea what his point is about shoes- wearing them would seem less barbaric? It’s the sort of random thing seized on by someone with little understanding or willingness to learn about grappling or the practicalities of mixed fighting- ignorant and superficial.

The gloves bit is more interesting. MMA gloves are small and jointed, as they have to be for grappling purposes. I don’t know of relevant studies as to whether this leads to a higher KO rate per punch, but I would bet money that it does. The question is, is this bad (or even all that meaningful)? I would argue no: almost every major boxing tragedy over the years, from Benny Paret to Duk Koo Kim to Levander Johnson, occurred as a result of an extended many-rounds-long beating in the ring, coming after several similar beatings in the recent history of their career. Small gloves will probably result in a higher KO rate per punch, but the shorter length of MMA fights (max 25 mins. vs. max 48 mins. for boxing) plus the smaller gloves and less sustained striking style enforced by the addition of takedowns and grappling, plus the greater chance for an MMA bout to end early without the cause being a strike to the head, result in fighters taking fewer blows per minute and per fight. In MMA some of those strikes are focused elsewhere in the form of the (dreaded shoeless) leg kicks and such as well, which further reduces the amount of brain trauma. MMA isn’t easy for the participants of course, but it seems to be clearly safer overall especially as regards blows to the head in comparison to the currently-legal boxing. But don’t let that from stopping you.

“Ultimate fighting’s supporters also argue that at a time when funds are hard to come by, the state would earn a percentage of the big money from these spectacles, which can cost $200 to almost $400 a ticket.”

None of whom are named of course. Personally, I’d argue that it’s something that consenting adults desire to participate in and which millions of their peers are interested in paying for the privilege of seeing, and to overrule that at the legislative level you had better have something much better to argue with than “this is new and looks scary”. I’m not interested in my already insanely paternalistic state and local government protecting me from my own interests, thank you. Incidentally, I don’t see anyone from the Times trying to ban football after what happened to Willis McGahee last week- should I just assume the same reason, new things are scary? It’s the Times, so the answer is probably yes. I’m almost shocked they even have an online edition, sometimes. The paper of William Kristol and David Brooks, ladies and germs.

– They conclude with the obligitory bit about brain injuries, which fails utterly to distinguish between boxing and MMA in relative risk and reveals the real aim of so many of these articles: smuggling in a ban on all fighting sports through the back door without taking time to evaluate whether the fears they have about those sports are A) justified, B) not better exemplified by other sports, and C) of such crucial importance that they should override the personal choices of participants.

Let’s be honest: this is one of those most insanely stupid articles you’ll read all year, utterly uninformed about the most basic of facts which it took me 10 minutes to dig up with Google, and droolingly ignorant about the history of the topics on which it aspires to opine. If MMA were legal in this state it would be beneath contempt and I’d ignore it, but for now it’s fools like the authors of this who are dictating policy in this state. Personally, I intend to answer this by finally getting off my ass and writing to my representatives, and if you’re in my state, please help out and do so as well. For all the hand-wringing of this piece what it actually exemplifies isn’t concern for its subject, but a particularly ugly form of arrogance and contempt for it in taking the position that participants and fans of MMA somehow need to be saved from their own interest in a sport which the authors can’t even be bothered to understand the most basic rules of, let alone the history and context in which it has developed. I find nothing to respect in that; despite the dangers, I find everything to respect in the dedication and work ethic of competitors in MMA and the respect which their fan base offers them. If the Times editorial staff only sees bloodlust in that, it says a lot more about them than it does about MMA.



January 23, 2009 - Posted by | Boxing, MMA | ,

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