MMA is no barbaric sport

Barbaric, inhumane and dangerous. These are just a few of the words that get thrown into the ring when people discuss mixed martial arts (MMA). Despite this, the popularity of the sport is ever-growing. Experts call it the fastest growing sport in the world.

It is a sport that I train in. One thing that I noticed though is that nobody really knows what it is. Most people know it by it’s alias, cage-fighting. I feel it is a name that invites further bad press.


Boxing has a far higher deaths per year rate than mixed martial arts. Photo: fightlaunch via Flickr

I call myself a mixed martial artist rather than a cage-fighter. After all, that is what it is; a mixture of different martial arts. I box, I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I know certain aspects of Judo, Karate, Tae kwon do, Greco-Roman Wresting, Aikido and a whole host of other combat styles.

Cage-fighting sounds vicious. Animals are kept in cages. Cages are used to keep dangerous things inside. But cages also have other uses. In the past, MMA bouts were contested in rings, like boxing. However, it was found that different combat styles were more advantageous in this setting. Boxers, for example, could trap their opponents in the corner and cause them serious damage.

Another arena needed to be discovered. In the end, it was decided that the shape that provides the least bias was an octagon. Next, it was decided that it would be best to build the octagon with chain link walls as it provides stability and flexibility. However, perhaps most importantly, it is see through and allows the fans to still see the action. As a by-product of this, fights would take place in a cage.

Moving on from the names, the sport was seen as dangerous because of the amount of injuries sustained. I cannot argue that there is a lot of blood in the sport. In any chosen event, you are almost guaranteed to see your fair share of gashes and maybe even a broken bone or two if you are lucky.

Once again, I cannot deny that people get hurt. However, without sounding too callous, a gash and a broken arm are not serious injuries. A few stitches and a cast from the hospital then bang, a few weeks or months later and you are ‘healthy’ again.

Also, how many football matches do you see when the same injuries are suffered?

My point is there is a difference between being hurt and sustaining serious injury. Prior to 2007, their were no documented cases of deaths in sanctioned MMA. Since then, there have been two. That is an average of 0.1 deaths per year.

For such a ‘brutal’ sport, two deaths in almost 20 years is not a bad statistic. If you look at professional boxing, a sport that is not only universally accepted, but respected, around 450 people have died in the last 50 years according to the Journal of Combative Sport. That is an average of nine deaths per year – 90 times higher than in MMA.

Something else that infuriates me is that most people have no issues with the combat styles when they are isolated. Boxing, after all, is one of the biggest sports in the world. Greco-Roman wrestling is a huge part of American culture, with scholarships at Ivy League schools and colleges being given to the sport’s elite. Judo is an Olympic sport as well.

Yet, once you weave all of these together, it becomes too dangerous or brutal. There to me seems to be no consistency.

Slowly but surely though, MMA is becoming bigger. It has now been sanctioned in many countries across the world and the list keeps growing. It has been a struggle for the last 20 years, but my fellow mixed martial artists are starting to get the recognition for their talents and athleticism that they deserve.

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