The High’s and Low’s of MMA: The Week that Was
When it comes to where mixed martial arts stands with the mainstream sport’s fan, the past week highlighted how far the sport has come, and how far it still needs to go. Mixed martial arts is the pinnacle of combat sports – as a whole the athletes that compete in the UFC, Bellator, World Series of Fighting and Invicta are some of the most well-conditioned and disciplined in the world. No matter one’s critique of the sport may be, scrutinizing the conditioning level of the athletes is a point of no return.
However, for even the most loyal MMA fan, the brutality of the sport can, at times, be hard to watch. No matter the weight class, when a highly trained mixed martial artist strikes with their harnessed power and accuracy, the results can be frightening. Seeing a fighter lying on the mat, unconscious is a terrifying experience for the uneducated fan. Comparisons are made between MMA and boxing, and the level of protection an MMA fighter has over a boxer – who takes more direct blows to the head over the course of your average boxing match than a mixed martial artist does. With that being said, we still don’t know what the effect will be on a pro MMA fighter years after their careers are over. The punishment their bodies take, not only in a fight, but in training have yet to really be properly analyzed due to the relatively early age of the sport.
When it comes to highlighting the dangers of MMA there was no one more against the sport than Senator John McCain who famously called the sport “human cockfighting” in the early 1990’s. That’s why it was such a surreal moment to see McCain standing with UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, each doing their part to support more research into the studying of long term brain trauma. McCain, still doesn’t consider himself a fan of the sport, but is a supporter of the regulations the UFC has made, in conjunction with various athletic commissions to further regulate the sport.
Changing the mind of one of the sport’s greatest critics is one thing; breaking down all the walls of the sport is another. Seeing the UFC partner with McCain was a great moment for the MMA fan, listening to reports of the problems surrounding Thiago Silva was the exact opposite.
Every sport is filled with colourful characters, personalities and top notch athletes. Some of these athletes are great ambassadors for the sport, and some are black eyes. A sport like football has had their share of ups and downs when it comes to the public perception of their athletes. Basketball, too, is coming out of an era where it seemed as though their top stories where always based on what their athletes were doing at a night club, as opposed to what was happening on the court.
MMA is no different – there are plenty of great ambassadors. Many within the sport are well spoken, highly intelligent men and women who represent the UFC and its competitors with class. When Jon Jones was arrested for DUI, the negativity that surrounded the incident was soon erased by the way he and the UFC handled it. As unfair as it may be, there is still a large portion of the public who perceive MMA competitors as people with anger issues, who are more bar room brawlers, than highly trained athletes. Thiago Silva’s arrest and subsequent release from the UFC for aggravated assault with a firearm – in what the judge called a “domestic violence” issue does the sport no good. This incident will truly test how far the sport has come. Will it be viewed as an isolated incident from a man with some obvious problems, or will the sport as a whole be judged once again?