A push is on to legalize mixed martial arts fighting in Connecticut, which is one of a handful of states that still prohibits Thunderdome-style combat within its borders. The bill sailed through the public safety and security committee with a lone dissenting vote and now will go to the House floor for further legislative grappling.
There is a bloody logic to the argument in favor of legalizing the sport. The state already licenses boxing events, which are every bit as brutal.
Evidence for this can be seen through a 2006 study at Johns Hopkins University, which concluded knockout rates are now lower in MMA events than in boxing. Since knockouts involve beating someone about the head until they are no longer able to stand, this fact would seem to work in MMA’s favor.
Plus, if we let the octagon come to Connecticut we can tax it. Ka-ching!
No. Seriously, Ka-ching! MMA’s growth since its blood-soaked beginnings in the mid-1990s has been exponential, especially among 18-to-35 year old men. Legalizing these fights and bringing them to Connecticut would allow the state to generate much-needed revenue. Plus, New York is one of the states where such exhibitions remain illegal. Those marshmallows. Their loss is our gain as we can quickly corner the tri-state market for blood sports. Ka-ching! Ka-ching!
All of it makes a certain ruthless sense until you ask a simple question: Do you want your child to grow up to be an MMA fighter?
Before you answer, lets take a closer look at the data. The Johns Hopkins study, which is one that MMA-advocates like to reference, also includes these uncomfortable facts:
- Of the matches they studied, more than 40 percent ended with at least one injured fighter.
- Most of those injuries were to the face.
This study was done before two fighters died because of injuries sustained inside the steel cage.
Then comes the fine print.
“There are several limitations to this study,” the researchers wrote. “the injuries reported were based on the physical exams performed at ringside by the ringside physician. No labs or radiologic studies were ordered and no diagnoses were confirmed. The incidence of injury in these fighters may have been higher than reported.”
Also, the fights were all conducted in Nevada where supervision is excellent. The authors admit injury rates may change under different conditions with less supervision.
And finally, knockouts and technical knockouts were not considered to be injuries, even though they obviously represent the most serious long-term risk to fighters.
Maybe you say, so what? If two guys want to act out a Jean Claude Van Damme movie while others get their kicks out of watching, so be it.
Now for a theory unsupported by anything other than experience.
If MMA comes to Connecticut, youth MMA training centers will follow. You will see them pop up in Enfield and Manchester and Tolland. The sport’s cartoon brutality (as opposed to the uncomfortable brain-rattling brutality of boxing) has made it incredibly popular among kids too young to understand the long-term impact of such punishment.
How long will it before some enterprising would be Cobra Kai wannabe starts offering to train our kids in the fine art of the submission hold?
Make no mistake, MMA utilizes the martial arts but completely misses the point of them. Parents who send their kids to learn karate can be confident they will learn the discipline as well as the art. The object of karate is to learn how to defend yourself. By the time you have learned how to seriously hurt someone, the discipline required to attain such knowledge acts to prevent you from doing it.
But the object of MMA fighting is to fight. To hurt the other guy so badly he gives up. And to sell as many tickets as possible along the way.
So let’s ask it again: Do you want your kids to become MMA fighters?
And here the MMA-advocates’ argument returns to boxing and once again they have a point. But boxing goes back more than a century as a regulated activity. If it were new it would be just as controversial as MMA and there would be every reason to keep it out of our state.
Would MMA events in Connecticut makes us some money? Sure. So would putting slot machines in the mall but it doesn’t seem like a good idea. Hard economic times test who we are. We need to be better than this.