MMA Handwringing

From a NYT Magazine piece on MMA:

The Octagon is the ring for the U.F.C. It has eight sides and is enclosed by a chain-link fence. The name “Octagon” really seems like a way to keep you from calling it what it is: a cage. In spite of this and other efforts to make Ultimate Fighting seem less thuggish — the immaculate pay-per-view display, the visibility of women in the audience and the intelligence of the spitfire commentary — you can’t miss the raw, back-alley character of the fights. Veins bulge and faces go blue as fighters seem intent on choking their opponents. Blood is shed; bones break; contusions develop before your eyes. Men are felled by “accidental” strikes to the groin (along with eye-gouging and biting, such strikes are prohibited, but I saw several). The commentators insist that everyone’s obeying regulations, but the fighters seem murderous nonetheless. Until, that is, each fight is over, and the fighters are typically praised for showing “class” in making sure an opponent is still breathing.

Earlier in the piece, the writer draws stark contrasts between MMA and the “classy, literary” sport of boxing. I would submit that every word in the paragraph above–save for the cage riff and the term “choking”–could be applied to boxing. Also, I’ve watched substantially more MMA than the author of this piece, and I’ve seen exactly one eye gouge and zero incidents of biting.

I don’t particularly like MMA. That’s not because I find it revolting or anything like that. I just find that most of the time–and this goes for boxing, as well–the matches are boring. I am, however, put off by the inconsistent standards the media applies to MMA. I’ve written about this before with regard to the NFL, and the same goes for drawing facile distinctions between MMA and boxing. Yes, it’s a violent sport. But it’s probably less dangerous to the athletes than a career in boxing or the NFL. Maybe it’s time we in the media allowed this reality to inform our coverage of MMA.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Joe Rogan, in particular — the comedian, TV actor and host of “Fear Factor” — is so intense, relentless and silver-tongued that he made me feel as if I had wasted my life among slow-moving hayseeds and listless moralists until I lucked into the white-hot center of existence here with him.

There are many things in this world that give me existential pause. Joe Rogan is not one of those things.


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