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The Hypocrisy Of The MMA Come-Up

Lawmakers keep telling us that football is dangerous, and yet, mixed martial arts is getting all types of love. There's no way that makes sense.

By J.R. Gamble March 08, 2013, 09:04 AM EST

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While the safety of NFL and youth football is under the national microscope, mixed martial arts and ultimate fighting is getting over big-time.

These days, scared parents and the government debate the future of football in America, and fight vigorously to find medical evidence affirming the sport as barbaric, brain- threatening and physically damaging.

While resources and energies are expended on this crusade, according to The New York Post, NY Assemblyman Sheldon Silver  is ready to “throw in the towel over his long-running battle to block ultimate fighting and sees the legalization of the sport as inevitable.”

With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his parade of panic-stricken parents focusing their energies on exposing the pitfalls of playing football—a sport that has already proven its social, educational, entertainment and athletic value to American society—an even more baseless, brutal sport has permeated the blood stream of American culture, and has kids as young as three learning to break noses, snap necks, kick to injure and draw blood—all in the name of MMA.

How ironic that while Goodell lectured on the NFL’s most pressing issue of player safety, at the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of North Carolina on Wednesday, a bill to legalize ultimate fighting competitions in NY passed the state Senate, as it has the past three years. This time, however, understanding the cash cow MMA-sanctioned bouts would be to a growing state budget deficit, the once-adversarial Silverman-controlled assembly is expected to put the bill to vote and let it rock.

MMA—which is football times 10 because its sole purpose is to mutilate, maul and crush your opponent into violent submission—is knocking on the door of total big-market infiltration.   

Forty-eight other states have already legalized ultimate fighting, and according to UFC chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, more New Yorkers watch UFC events on pay-per-view than residents of any other state.

Meanwhile, Goodell, is back on his golden throne and says, “he’s encouraged by the enhanced national conversation about player safety and the growing awareness about the danger of football-related concussions.”

Having rebounded from the embarrassing Bountygate blunder, Goodell again has the eyes and ire of a nation supporting him.  

Proponents of mixed martial arts have argued that the artistry and beauty of contrasting styles being executed flawlessly by equal opponents in a battle of strength craftsmanship, stamina, intelligence and guts, embodies the most character-building elements of sports. Save for a few labor and faith-based organizations, the American public increasingly agrees.

In addition to airing clips and promoting sanctioned bouts, YouTube is littered with video of underground local fights and contests between tough guys from all over the world, from the back-shacks of Alabama to the frozen hockey ponds of Minnesota. The myriad videos serve as a minor league recruiting pool of sorts for the UFC and similar organizations.

Partially inspired by the classic Brad Pitt/Ed Norton movie, Fight Club, the ultimate fighting subculture exploded with the click of computer buttons, and created overnight cult-icons out of down-and-out street brawlers, like Kimbo Slice. Social media and pay-per-view has helped ultimate fighting fuse ethnically diverse audiences with a thirst for blood, hand-to-hand combat and ultimate tests of manhood.

The increasing number of facilities like Tiger Shulmann’s, teaching MMA to the growing number of students seeking hand skills, is indicative of MMA’s rise to becoming the next big thing in American sports.

The school has 47 locations across five states and is named after Daniel “Tiger” Schulmann, an American Kyokushin Karate and mixed martial arts trainer.

By some accounts, it’s the next big blunder, but, overall, people are more concerned with tackling technique than the hyper-aggressive behavior mix martial arts may incite in our youth.   

These programs exploit the fear of parents and suck them in with Anti-bullying campaigns and self-defense classes. Every parent wants their kids to be able to two-piece The Gooch. I get it; getting bullied is a miserable experience.  

At least football players use helmets, and smashing cats is just one aspect of the art form. What will be the fallout from a culture infested with kids who are bred to express themselves with violence? Are we trying to develop the leading technological minds of the future, or preparing for WWIII?

This all falls in line with a society that has pushed the envelope of extremes into the mainstream. We preach against violence in our schools and homes, yet ultimate fighting is all good and your kid can take a class on rearranging faces along with his soccer tots and lacrosse buddies package.

I’m not knocking it. It’s getting a little soft out here for my tastes, anyway. But if we are going to celebrate mixed martial arts as having socially redeeming value, then layoff dissing football. Lay off the NFL. There’s risk in every sport, and technology and education are our saviors in regards to progressive sports safety. So let’s keep our kids’ “Heads Up” as USA Football and the NFL would say, and away from gladiator training. At least set an age participation requirement on the sport. 

As mixed martial arts continues to soar on the youth level and we begin to see numerous concussions, fractures and possibly even deaths, maybe bored soccer moms, topic-starved radio hosts, and opportunistic politicians will fall back from their football attack. Hopefully, it won’t be too late to stop a generation of kids who grew up on smashing homies into wood tables at home and learning how to settle childhood disputes with Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai.     

 

 

Jr_gamble

J.R. Gamble writes for The Shadow League. He's been covering pro sports as a radio host and journalist since 1996. He's written for The Raleigh News & Observer, Newsday and SLAM Magazine. He has co-hosted Sportsrap Radio with A Tribe Called Quest legend Phife Dawg. Follow him @fanalyst1 & find him on Facebook.

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