The sport of Mixed Martial Arts(MMA) has gone through an evolution since it’s early days. There are still many misconceptions about our sport, people think it is violent and brutal. But we know there is more to fighting than meets the eye at first glance.
MMA is sometime called fighting but it is much different than street fighting, and the athletes that compete are more than just thugs. The tide is slowly changing and people are becoming educated about martial arts, but there is still a long way to go.
One of the common stereotypes is that fighters are bullies, or that MMA gyms are full of bullies. This just isn’t true, it’s actually the opposite.
I’m not sure why this stereotype still holds to this day. Maybe it is because of the early days of The Ultimate Fighter, a Spike TV reality show that gave normal people a chance to get a UFC contract. Some of the things that happened on the show didn’t show MMA in the greatest light but it was for entertainment. It was a reality TV series after all. and Maybe some of the things that make the news aren’t great either. Guys like Jones and Mcgregor being aggressive outside of the cage. But these guys are the exception, not the rule.
Most fighters speak out against bullying and do what they can to help spread the word by talking to kids or helping charities. It is part of the martial arts culture to promote anti bullying. Kids can go to a martial arts class and learn at a young age that violence is bad and martial arts should only be used in defense. They learn self confidence and also respect for others. A bully would likely not be welcomed in many MMA gyms.
Former champions such as Georges St Pierre and Ronda Rousey have come out and admitted to being bullied when they were younger. Bullies a lot of time are what make fighters gravitate towards martial arts and that is why many people take a strong stand against it.
So why isn’t it considered bullying when a fighter attacks another in the octagon? Because both parties agreed to be there, they weren’t forced to be there. They have a desire to test their skill in a way that you cannot in training or outside of the boundaries of the cage. They are helping each other test their martial arts, and that is the only way fighting is acceptable.
The scraps and brawls that make a little more mainstream buzz are just the exception and incidents like Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier or Nate Diaz and Conor Mcgregor make the headlines. But they get fined by the athletic commission which is regulated by the government. Many fighters think that this type of behavior is embarrassing. It looks bad on the sport but I wouldn’t judge MMA as a whole based on these type of things.
Some people also think that MMA promotes street fighting.
My argument is this, the people that are going to watch MMA and do it on the street are the type of people that would do it any ways. People who are trained in martial arts or are fans of mixed martial arts a generally the last people to start a fight. The people that start the fight are people that are uneducated and raised poorly. Bad people and idiots will use their physical advantages against people.
If they were part of our culture they would know that physical confrontation is not acceptable. It can’t be MMA’s job to educate all of the idiots of the world. Although that is what martial arts tries to do.
The Code of Martial Arts:
– Do not use martial arts for anything but competition and defense.
– Respect your opponent.
– Humble yourself.
– Train hard and never give up.
Another misconception is that MMA is brutal and many people get seriously injured.
While it is true that fighting can take its toll on your body, so can many other sports. Every fight is regulated by the state athletic commission. If not it operates under the same unified rules that are voted on yearly by a association of commissions. The UFC for example which is the largest and most decorated organization has never had a death in a fight. The rules try to make it as real as it gets but also as safe as it gets.
Mixed Martial Arts has time limits and weight classes. You can’t strike the groin or the back of the head. You can’t eye poke or bite. You can’t manipulate small joints. If your opponent is downed you cannot knee or kick him in the head. It is the Referees job to enforce these rules.
First and foremost the refs jobs is to make sure the fighters are safe and do not get any serious injuries. Not all fights have to end with a person going unconscious and a referee will generally intervene before that happens with exceptions of course. There is a doctor on stand by to assess fighters in between rounds. If a serious injury does occur inside of a fight, the fighter is rushed to the hospital right away there is always a paramedic on site.
Beyond that the UFC takes it the extra mile by helping to fund head trauma research.
For some reason people tend to think that fighters are not intelligent, are all the same. But fighters come from all walks of life. We are all fighters. There is no one mold to what fighters are like. MMA is a sport that requires body and mind. It is a strategic game where so many things can happen and you have to have an answer for it in a split second.
These athletes come from different backgrounds. There has been Olympians, engineers, teachers, marines, and everything in between. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Something else I have to mention that clouds the vision of what MMA is, the entertainment aspect.
These athletes perform for us and they deserve to make money. But they can’t make good money unless the promotion they are fighting for is making good money. Which means getting people excited for fights week after week. Which means getting your chunk of news headlines and marketing to people.
Because of this incentive to get people watching, many fighters build tension and drama leading up to the fight. People like Chael Sonnen have admitted to putting on a character to sell a fight.
It may not be the prettiest part of MMA but generally the promotion does need the extra buzz so that these athletes can make the money they deserve. It is not the best message to send out but it is partially negated with the anti bullying messages. The trick is to be educational to the younger fans about bullying and violence but also be exciting to watch.
For every fighter that is a bad role model there is one that is a good role model. We accept the entertainment aspect and know that is not how you behave in real life, at the office. It is assumed that a good audience would also be educated enough to know. It is no different than a violent action movie. It entertains us, but we know that is not how we behave in real life.
So the biggest problem with violence is education.
People need to be taught the importance of treating people well, and also the dangers of physical contact. All it takes is a little education which MMA is helping to do. The fighters are spreading the message. The gyms are spreading the message. When fighters misbehave, they get punished.
All it takes is to look at the martial arts culture a little to see what its all about. You will find a sub culture of “Just Bleed” MMA fans. but for the most part fighters try to send a good message, and the fans are respectful and passionate.
Let go of your preconceived notions, look past the blood and see the beauty and the art of the sport that simulates self defense.
The only people reading this already know all of this but oh well. Leave a comment below or @MMAFanJesse on twitter.