As a disclaimer, I am not a huge fan of UFC, MMA, or most fighting sports. The thought of watching two people scrap it out on the big screen, to the hoots and hollers of bloodthirsty fans, really does nothing for me. In fact, seeing how fervently entertained most fans are by the sight of such gratuitous violence, this actually makes my blood boil!
I cannot in good conscious enjoy the sight of two people fighting or pounding each other’s faces into a bloody pulp!
As someone who works to prevent violence in the world, my feelings on the subject are pretty hard-set. You’re not going to convince me that it’s an acceptable pastime, just because these people are ‘professionals’ at their craft, or because there’s some sort of respect shown in the octagon. When the promotion of violence becomes an acceptable social norm, there’s an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
It’s frightening how happy this kind of violence makes some people!
I understand my opinion is uncommon here in Hawai‘i, where the majority of people clamor anxiously anytime a fight happens. Whether it’s in the ring, in the streets, or at the playground: there’s a sense of bloodlust that takes over when two people beef it out. Personally, I’ve been jumped in an unfair, 5-against-1 situation, and can tell you, nothing draws a crowd of violence-prone bystanders like the sight of someone getting beat up.
How does this obsession with MMA play out in the real world?
When the template for masculinity is to prove our worth through physical prowess, this becomes the defining characteristic by which we judge men. In this day-and-age, if we can fight and command respect from those weaker than us, we’ll be seen as worthy in the eyes of the community. Being an honest, humble, and compassionate human being doesn’t seem to hold as much weight as the force of one’s punch.
Just say NO to violence!
When someone chooses not to ‘throw down,’ they’re sometimes viewed as less-than, or are further ridiculed. Misogynistic epithets get tossed so carelessly (calling someone a “pussy” or a “bitch”) when they choose not to fight. This further equates masculinity with power and dominance, while feminizing those that choose not to take part in violence.
As if femininity has anything to do with being weak!
When it comes to MMA, the bravado and outright aggressiveness on display becomes a central tenet of the sport. This is especially true with the fans, where fights in and out of the arena are a regular sight. When violence becomes the norm, it gets further perpetrated against those with whom we have conflict.
Punch first, ask questions later…
Nowadays, people are less likely to talk out their problems, or find constructive ways to disagree. Instead, we tend to tap into our reptilian brain (the part of the brain involved in aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritual displays) as a way to prove our worth to the world. It’s a free-for-all, no holds barred type of situation.1
Inevitably, MMA is bound to encourage an aggressive lifestyle.
In a report done by MTV’s Real Sports2, arrests of MMA fighters for domestic violence were double the national rate, with 750 arrests per 100,000. This figure merely represents those arrested for their offenses. Think about all the DV that never goes reported! Many victims fear for their lives, or the lives of family and friends, should they ever report the true nature of the violence.
Some fighters don’t know how to turn off their aggression.
To gain an advantage against their opponent, some fighters turn to illegal substances or steroids. These drugs can cause extreme mood swings, violent outbursts, and short tempers. Aggression gets exacerbated, and can result in an attack on a loved one. Combine drug use with an already violent and angry individual, and you have a recipe for disaster.
But it’s all just friendly competition… isn’t it?
To see the real life effects of a violent sport like MMA, look at a fighter like War Machine (aka Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver). Recently, he was sentenced to life in prison for the 2014 assault, rape and kidnapping of his ex-girlfriend, Christy Mack3. Upon discovering her with a male friend in the house, Koppenhaver beat and strangled her, as well as assaulting the friend, whom he accused Mack of sleeping with. During the first court hearing, War Machine could be seen laughing about the incident, showing no sense of remorse for his crimes.
When news first broke about War Machine’s attack upon Christy Mack, the internet set to blaming her. She was nearly beaten to death, had her teeth knocked out, and suffered from a lacerated liver, but still she was faulted for starring in adult films. Likewise, she was blamed for having a male friend at the house, as though that’s justification for Koppenhaver’s brutal response. The fans that excused War Machine’s behavior could not seem to fathom that a fighter (who is literally paid to pummel) could have acted out such violence upon his ex-girlfriend.
War Machine is not alone in committing brutal displays of aggression against an intimate partner.4
For example, Thiago Silva put a gun against his wife’s head and threatened to kill her during a standoff with SWAT, as well as attacking the owner of a gym. After the incident, Silva was suspended by the UFC, but later reinstated after charges were dropped. When video proof of the attack surfaced, the UFC permanently terminated his contract.7
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson was charged with domestic violence, battery, death threats and destroying a phone to prevent the report of a crime. He was charged with attacking the mother of his child and knocking out two of her teeth. As well, Johnson was convicted of assault in 2009, in which he slammed a woman, put her in a headlock and dragged her down a flight of stairs.8
An Australian MMA fighter, Julian Wallace, known as Julz the Jackal, admitted to assaulting his partner for bringing home the wrong noodles. According to the Daily Telegraph Australia, “He started to shout, pulled her t-shirt and accused her of cheating on him, before he kicked her in the head.” He then demanded she return the engagement ring he’d previously given her, threatened to break her fingers if she refused, and then punched her in the head and put her in a chokehold when she tried to leave.9
Here’s a video of Julz the Jackal acting like a real classy act:
The UFC alleges a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence, but their response is pretty terrible.10
When the UFC president Dana White isn’t calling female reporters “fucking dumb bitches,” or referring to other reporters as “faggots,” he spends his time concealing his fighters’ domestic violence histories.5 He’s the type of person who claims that the need to make a living outweighs a fighter’s alleged crimes. 6 And so they get suspended temporarily (pending investigation), and then welcomed back wholeheartedly, their violence ignored.
MMA thrives on dangerous, aggressive individuals.
The fact of the matter is that UFC and MMA draw out people with violent histories. Some fighters come from broken families, where all they knew was abuse. Others have a history of crime, or are currently embroiled in felony charges for violence, vandalism, destruction of property, etc. In many cases, their abusive backgrounds are ignored by the UFC or other fight companies.
To be eligible to compete, most fighters are not required to submit a background check. As long as they pass a physical exam, there’s nothing from their past that will raise the red flag. This lack of accountability gives a free-pass for criminal offenders to compete. And in the case of fighters like War Machine or Silva, current offences get swept under the rug in the hope that public scrutiny will fade in time.11
A violent sport like MMA enables violent individuals. If things don’t change, one of these fighters is bound to kill someone.12