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MMA, opinion

My take on the 8 year old Cage Fighters.

Thanks to the good folk at The Daily Mash for injecting a bit of humour into the “crisis” in MMA at the moment. http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/opinion/columnists/the-first-rule-of-toddler-fight-club-is…-2007042180/

For those of you who haven’t yet seen this particular storm in a teacup, let me illuminate it for you. On Tuesday, The Sun, Sky News and the BBC ran a story about two eight year old boys who were videod “cage fighting” at an English MMA promotion. The two were fighting “without gloves or headguards” and as usual, they trotted out someone from the British Medical Association to give their usual outraged statement. I think they honestly must have a stock, fill-in-the-blanks, answer to every question asked about combat sports.

“We at The British medical Association are opposed to *insert sport here* on the grounds of safety. This example of *insert injury or disturbing incident* is why we are opposed. Blah blah blah won’t somebody please think of the children/working class who can’t think for themselves”

On the face of it, they have a point, but here’s the problem with lazy journalism. It’s, well, lazy. So lazy in fact that not one person from The Sun, the BBC or Sky News showed even a modicum of journalistic endeavour to ask someone in the know about martial arts or MMA to give their opinion. If they had, they would have quickly found out that this was not “cage fighting” or MMA, but a grappling match. That’s why no gloves or headguards were used, because no one was going to get hit.  Of course, what we do have to ask is if these enquiries were made and when it was pointed out what the competition format was, whether they decided to run with the cage fighting angle anyway. I apologise to any readers of The Sun or habitual watchers of the other News Corp vehicle Sky News, but they’re hardly engines of serious intellectual rigour, and their marketing crosshairs are clearly centred on the lowest common denominator. Let me give you two headlines and see what you think:

“The Cage Fighters… age EIGHT”

“8 year old Jiu Jitsu players filmed in dubious environment for children”

I can’t imagine the second one running, and you can also see why my CV was returned by News Corp for that headline writer’s job. Anyhow, the first is what The Sun ran with and the second is my own creation, in case for some reason you weren’t sure. The first is an alarmist, knee jerk and reactionary headline meant to engender shock and horror in the reader. The second is what actually occurred. An incident occurred in which questionable judgement was exercised by a promoter and two sets of parents. I don’t think that sells as many papers though, and you’re unlikely to get the BMA to comment in horror on kids trying to throw and pin each other.

However bad the journalism, and it really is appalling, the situation itself is something I can’t condone. It’s a regular occurrence outside of MMA circles to get asked questions by people who don’t see what people inside the sport see. They see bloodlust and violence where we see skill and athleticism. Those questions are usually not necessarily moral in nature; most of them are of the “are you mad?” variety. But some people think of the sport as barbaric, and if you really remove yourself from the equation and look inward, you can see why.

People see a sport in which two contestants try to do the most damage to each other, to knock each other out, to bring each other’s limbs and joints to breaking point, or strangle each other. Actually, reading back on that, it’s a perfectly accurate description of the goal of a fight. I’m comfortable with that. That’s the nature of the sport. Denying that or hiding behind platitudes is just condescending. I’m not interested in the goal of the sport, I’m interested in the skill that gets the fighters there. It’d be like describing rugby as “a sport where a ball has to be placed over a line”. It doesn’t do justice to it. Nonetheless, without a reasonable knowledge of either sport, that’s what you would see, and indeed, that’s what people do see. Giving newspapers and nanny organisations like the BMA an excuse and a platform to yell out their usual Nanny-State platitudes is foolish, but MMA promoters do it every weekend. It seems to me that to promote a show, you have to make it sound as much like Thunderdome as possible. My tag line for The Fight Before Christmas 4 will be “Two men enter, one man leaves!” and then in smaller print below “the second man leaves shortly afterwards, hopefully unharmed after a sporting contest”. Others don’t seem to have that sense of irony, and it does seem that people make a rod for their own back. They shoot for the market labelled Xtreme and then wonder why they get bad press when it comes to bite.

As for placing 2 kids in a cage in front of hundreds of fans and having them grapple? I get really frustrated when talking to people about this. I don’t know if I’m a million miles away from people morally anymore or if I’m just a fuddy-duddy. I’m a liberal minded guy, I believe in allowing people to make their own choices, but I also believe in sport as a vehicle for children to grow. I can’t understand why anyone would think that putting an 8 year old child in to compete in a room full of drunk MMA fans would be in any way beneficial to their kids sporting career. Maybe they regret it now, or maybe they lacked perspective or information at the time, but it has turned into one of the biggest bad news stories I’ve ever seen in MMA. I can’t condone it, even though I love both the sport they were competing in and the sport they were an addendum to.

I have a 6 year old son, and I wouldn’t bring him to watch an MMA show given the level of drunkenness, loutish behaviour and idiotic things shouted at shows. Corrupting my son is my job, not someone else’s!


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