Let’s take this outside

Dear Phil,

No, this is not an open letter to Dr. Phil. Luckily, I haven’t quite sunk that low yet.

I am addressing this to Phil Rothfield, Sports Editor-at-Large for The Daily Telegraph, and the latest in decades of laymen to express their horror at the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (though he has mistakenly referred to the UFC as the sport, rather than its most prominent promotion, which gives me the first indication that Phil hasn’t done his homework, or at best has hurriedly copied his friend’s on the bus home).

As usual with these things, I am a little late to the party – I’d like to call it “fashionably late” – but unfortunately, typically of any internet debacle, most of the comments and rebuttals on various sites have been aggressive and sarcastic. Now I’m not saying that I am not either of those things, but I’d like to offer my argument as someone who has had some of my own reservations about some aspects of it, but believes in fairness, compassion, and proper research.

SINCE when is kicking, elbowing, kneeing, punching and stomping an opponent classified as sport?

Actually, there is no “stomping”; see Rule 15.A.xviii. Grounded opponents, which could mean as little as having the tip of one’s little finger on the ground, cannot be kicked or kneed in the head.

As for how long it has been classified as a sport, maybe since 264BC when the Romans decided that watching two men slash each other to the death would be a fun day out? Maybe even earlier?

On Saturday night on Fuel TV I witnessed the brutality and bloodshed of the UFC — apparently, and worryingly, the world’s fastest growing sport. 
This was nothing but barbaric savagery that should be banned in this country.
The fact women were allowed to fight on the card was an even bigger disgrace.

Ok I have to stop this one here. Regardless of your views on fighting as a whole, why is it a bigger disgrace for women to fight? Is it because they are intellectually incapable of making their own decisions?

This is itself is a whole ‘nother debate, but usually the responses are along the following lines:

  1. “Women are weaker and therefore may be more easily injured”. Correct, women do not typically possess the same upper body strength as a man. Therefore, they deliver less powerful punches. Ergo, less risk of severe trauma.
  2. “Women are child-bearing vessels and should not risk interfering with this ability/right/obligation”. First, not all women want children. Second, MMA doesn’t directly lead to injuries that would affect the reproductive organs. If we are talking about things like intensive training playing havoc with fertility, that’s a very valid point but one which can affect all female athletes, from track-and-field to ballet to martial arts.

The main event was between Aussie Mark Hunt and Brazilian Antonio “Bigfoot’’ Silva.
The commentators described it as one of the greatest fights in UFC history.
It made me feel sick.
Hunt started with blond hair that finished a blood-soaked red. Both fighters became barely recognisable from the blood and facial wounds of five sadistic rounds.

A few months ago, I watched several medical teams attempt to resuscitate a man who had collapsed 500m from the finish line of one of London’s best-known half-marathons. I didn’t turn around and write a post about how dangerous and evil half-marathons are.

I will admit that I take no joy in watching two human beings stagger around half witless from punches and bleeding from their ears, and I often question the state of mind of fans who boo when blood is not shed, but those two men, who hugged and posed for photos with each other at the end of the bout, chose to be in that cage, and their injuries, although more visible and more shocking, may not be any worse in the long run than those sustained by an anorexic ballerina with shin-splints, bunions and stress-fractures, who may have gotten through her life and career purely thanks to cocaine.

It scared me that the Brisbane Entertainment Centre was sold out with so many thousands of people (including families with young children) who were prepared to pay to watch it.
And all those who lapped it up and loved every cruel moment on pay-TV.

I agree that young children probably don’t need to be exposed to striking sports at a young age. But you could also argue that The Lion King features a pretty grisly scene of a father’s death witnessed by a young child, that Hansel and Gretel were abandoned repeatedly by their parents, and that reality TV is a thing. Oh and at that half-marathon, a family let their young kids stare at the resuscitation process… and then a guy walked up and took a photo. He even zoomed in! Anyway, if MMA is glorified assault, then talent shows are glorified verbal and psychological bullying.

Almost defenceless men being held down on the ground and punched senseless.

I feel for Phil here. It is hard to watch, and the referees often don’t react in time when an opponent has been knocked out and eats another 2, 3, 4 or more blows to the head whilst unable to defend themselves. But the rules clearly stipulate that when a fighter is no longer making an attempt to defend themselves during ground-and-pound, the contest is over. Until then, the fighter has the choice to submit either verbally (i.e. saying, “stop”) or by tapping the mat or their opponent. They are grown men, Phil, and they can make their own decisions. When they can’t, the referee stops the fight for their own safety.

What does it say about our society?

Oh goodness, don’t open that door.

Why do we allow our kids to watch and cheer for something we teach them not to do?

Why do some parents smoke and tell their kids not to smoke? Why does some people’s parenting decisions reflect on the sport of Mixed Martial Arts?

And why are the competitors allowed to do all this inside a cage when it’s illegal on the streets? People have been sent to jail for less than what happened inside a cage on Saturday night.

People also go to jail for animal cruelty but slaughterhouses are a thing. The judicial system is a mystery to me; some people go to jail for killing a person, some people don’t, they get told they’ll spend their lives behind bars, they’re out in a few years. You’re not a lawyer, Phil, as far as I know, so stick to what you know. And for what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure if you rugby tackled someone in the street, it wouldn’t be taken too lightly either.

If you really want to make yourself sick, Google “UFC worst injuries”.

This one is my faaavourite! Phil is so shocked at how many people have watched the UFC, yet he has watched it – and clearly watched it til the end – then has looked up its most gruesome injuries and encouraged us all to do the same! I love a good bit of hypocrisy! In all seriousness though, Google “worst football injuries” or “worst rugby injuries” or, hell, just about worst anything you like and the internet will find its most stomach-churning specimens. What did you expect?!

The images are seriously disgusting and raise the question: why aren’t the fighters at least made to wear headgear?

Wearing headgear often means people will avoid fewer shots, therefore taking more blows. With the power with which those shots will be thrown, you’d need to strap on a full-on crashmat to your head to prevent the impact. A good example is the gloves, which are there to protect the fists, not the head. Can you imagine if nobody wore gloves? They’d never want to hit each other! So if you give them the illusion of safety, can you imagine what situations fighters would get into?!

Why aren’t fighters getting protection from blood diseases?

All fighters have to be cleared by medical professionals to fight. You didn’t actually think a multimillion dollar business would have overlooked this, did you? And did you think you’d get away with a clearly unresearched and, frankly, libellous statement?

Why do the referees and doctors allow mismatches and lopsided fights to continue?

They don’t. When an opponent is too injured to fight, or has submitted or been knocked out or is otherwise unable to defend themselves, the fight is ended by the referee or the doctor. Done.

I know the UFC has statistics to prove there are no more serious injuries than in boxing, but that’s not the point. [What is the point then?]

The beauty of all sport is the toughness and determination of its competitors. The pain they put themselves through to become the best.
The injury risks they face in rugby league and all the footy codes. At least their sport involves a large degree of skill — and it’s not just a contest to ­violently bash another person into submission.

Some people see football as a bunch of rich boys kicking a ball around some grass. Some people might see cricket as hours of standing around in outdated clothing and occasionally hitting a ball in between hours of replay and video analysis. Obviously I could go on forever, but just think about it. Could you narrowly miss a punch thrown at you with full force? Could you then catch your opponent off-guard either with a punch of your own or with a sweep or takedown inspired by respected sports like judo or wrestling? Could you hold a full-grown man of your weight down on the ground whilst he uses all his strength to try and get up? Could you repeatedly punch someone until they black out, without taking a breather? Could you get off the floor if someone was sitting on you and trying to hit you? Would you know how to position their joints such as their elbows so that it caused them to surrender for fear of their limb being broken? Yeah, that’s just some of what constitutes the sport of mixed martial arts. Hence the name.

Anyhow, as I said, I was a bit late to the party but I guess the more the merrier.

One last thing, because this is, after all, a vegan blog. Phil, if you are so opposed to cruelty and bloodshed, do you eat meat? Do you support the enslavement of defenceless animals so you can enjoy a latté? Do you wrap your feet and money in animal skin? At least most humans have a choice what they do with their lives and bodies.