2009 30 Jul

It’s a tired, bluenosed argument, and it refuses to go away.

MMA is ‘human cockfighting.’

MMA is ‘human dogfighting.’

A writer for boston.com gives us this little gem of misinformation and moral outrage:

dogfightingSupporters say tighter rules – such as eliminating head butts and groin kicks, while adding a requirement that fighters wear small, fingerless gloves – were sufficient to quiet critics. Yet, at the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, a Los Angeles Times writer observed: “The blood is gushing out. . . just a beautiful sight for the UFC 100 crowd, the folks here in Mandalay Bay screaming with hunger for even more.’’ Another reporter noted that the eventual winner “used at least 17 unanswered blows’’ while his opponent was flat on the canvas.

If dog fighting were to be sanctioned and televised, there would undoubtedly be a sizeable audience, consisting of the eager, the curious, and even the repulsed. Presumably that would lead to expensive ring-side seats, video games, and a beer sponsorship. But lawmakers, media, and business people would never condone it. Why they are willing to view “human dog-fighting’’ differently is something the culture of Dr. Phils ought to consider.

The criticism has always been the same – combat sports are too brutal.

Perhaps the critics who make these claims just don’t understand sports in general. Football is the dominant sport in the United States, and there is literally no sporting endeavor more brutal in all ways than football, but the argument that football is ‘baby-crushing’ is never put forward.

That’s strange, because the ‘baby-crushing’ argument is more appropriate than the “human cockfighting’ song and dance. Athletes are signed directly out of college and immediately thrown into a gladiatorial realm where they are both neophytes – and physically disadvantaged against seasoned and older professionals.

In football, athletes are assured short and injury-plagued careers sure to leave them permanently hobbled, but football rarely suffers the kind of scrutiny which plagues MMA events.

Just ask former Oakland Raider, Jim Otto.

Otto punished his body during his storied NFL career, resulting in nearly 40 surgeries, including 28 knee operations, nine of them during his playing career. He also went through multiple joint replacements. His joints are riddled with arthritis, and he has debilitating back and neck problems.

At one point, Otto nearly died on the operating table. He fought off three life-threatening bouts of infection due to problems with his artificial joints, and during a six-month stretch, was without a right knee joint at all as he waited for an infection to clear up before another could be implanted.

Today, Otto is handicapped, but he says he wouldn’t change a thing if given the opportunity to do it over again.

It’s detailed in his book, “The Pain of Glory.”

Jim Otto had his right leg amputated on August 1, 2007, but he made the decision to play and was willing to live with the consequences – as do the athletes who compete in boxing and MMA. It’s their call to make and not a decision which should be made by some candy-pants in a state legislature or squatting in a cubicle at a newspaper sports desk.

So a note to any writers out there readying their morally-outraged screeds against MMA; give it a rest and come up with a new metaphor…

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