Why MMA feels like a multi-million dollar brutality business
May 10, 2018
It was around eight on a Friday night when I walked into my friend’s living room and took a seat on the couch. The baseball game we had planned on watching was already in the middle of the third inning and the broadcast had gone to commercial.
My friend switched the channel and an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fight came on.
Two men were in the middle of the octagon, one on top of the other, with blood splattered on the mat around them—like some sort of barbaric Jackson Pollock painting. The man on top was throwing punch after punch at the man on the bottom, desperately trying to make his face look as much like Rocky Balboa’s in “Rocky 2”.
I watched this scene for about 10 seconds, then muttered to my friend, “Christ, will you change the channel please? This is terrible.”
I can’t stand watching MMA fighting. Not only do I think that being an MMA fighter might possibly be the worst job on the planet, but I genuinely think MMA fighting as entertainment is unethical. I’ll explain why.
For those unfamiliar, MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts, a form of fighting in which techniques from numerous martial arts disciplines are combined to beat one’s opponent. Martial arts require a tremendous amount of technicality, skill and discipline— all of which I consider very admirable, as well as very difficult.
I believe that every person should know how to defend themselves, and studying martial arts is an effective way to do this.
But there is a difference between knowing how to defend one’s self and using these skills for an attack.
It is for this reason that I consider MMA as entertainment to be unethical, not martial arts themselves. MMA is a sport rooted in violence. It is a sport that is won by beating one’s opponent into submission.
It is a sport that is the foundation of a multi-million-dollar business which rewards participants who inflict the most damage on their rivals. Yet, it is also a sport that people, sometimes including myself, cannot seem to look away from.
MMA’s fanbase has skyrocketed in popularity in the last 10 years, closing the gap on the popularity of boxing according to a 2017 Washington Post-UMass Lowell poll.
It is easy to cheer for these fights. They are incredibly entertaining. There are less rules than in boxing, giving viewers the sense of a more real fight in which anything can happen.
However, it is this feeling of knowing we don’t want to look—and looking anyway—that I want to address. I do not watch MMA often, but when I see it, I get that uneasy sensation I had that night while sitting on my friend’s couch. I get the gut feeling that this is something I should not be supporting, no matter how entertaining it is.
The dangerous part about this feeling is that the more we watch violent sports and the more we are exposed to violence as entertainment culture, the more normalized it all becomes.
This is called the law of exposure, which it essentially claims that the worldview we expose ourselves to becomes the worldview we normalize—whether consciously or not.
MMA as entertainment is unethical. It is rooted in violence that strips away our human dignity.
Martial arts skills are important, but using these skills as the foundation for an industry that more closely resembles something that should be found on the History Channel while learning about gladiators of ancient Rome instead of on ESPN does not uphold this dignity.
Of course, this argument may lead to people asking questions along the lines of, “Well, if MMA is unethical, what about football or boxing?”
My point is not to address how far the line should be extended. Rather, it is to prove that there should be a line somewhere and to recognize how this line can be affected in a negative way by what we choose to expose ourselves to on a regular basis.
So that day, sitting on the couch in my friend’s living room, we turned the channel from UFC fighting back to baseball, where—ironically—an all-out brawl took place.
Contact Kyle Lydon at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.