MMA v Boxing - A debate

Action from a  UFC contest at the Capital FM Arena, Nottingham.
Action from a UFC contest at the Capital FM Arena, Nottingham.

A YEAR ago, as part of our East Yorker series of columns, we printed an article criticising MMA (mixed martial arts) and UFC. It provoked a response at the time from MMA.

Now, Brad Ward, who has been working on the sports desk at the Bridlington Free Press and Beverley Guardian, and who writes for the website, writes a passionate defence of MMA.

Here’s the original article from October 2011.

“WHEN I was a kid, we called it Twister.

Before Playstations and X-Boxes, board games were the best source of indoor home entertainment. A bit of card

board and a touch of imagination was the best we could do in the 80s.

It was more powerful than a ZX Spectrum Sinclair, anyway.

The idea of Twister was simple, you had to secure a limb on a coloured circle determined by the spin of a cardboard disk.

Left foot red, right hand green and so on. The last person to have all four limbs touching the circles and still have the rest of their contorted body off the ground, was declared the winner. Simple.

Twenty years on, and the game has since been re-packaged and is sold as a multi-million-pound mainstream sport. It now goes under the name of the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC).

This is a sport that should be done under the Trades Description Act - it’s anything but ultimate.

Despite being virtually bare knuckled and with few blows deemed illegal (hence the ‘ultimate’) the majority of bouts continuously seem to end up in a five-minute clinch on the floor.

It’s a step up from pub brawling, just, and marginally more impressive than two schoolyard mates rolling around the floor playing ‘mercy’.

Now I’m not against sporting violence as such, I think boxing really is the noble art, an intoxicating

blend of strength, stamina, testosterone and above all else, controlled aggression.

Former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan once described the UFC as “dirty” and “undignified”, and

got a verbal black-eye for his troubles from the growing band of UFC followers.

He said: “Take away the kick and they would not stand a chance against a boxer”. He felt the punching techniques of the combatants were inferior to those who know their ringcraft, and the level of spilled blood was more to do with the thin gloves they wear rather than their power.

I’m sorry UFC fans, but I have to agree.

The sport recently had its nose bloodied after images of two young boys cage fighting to a drunken, goading crowd in Lancashire was leaked to the tabloids.

But while the sensible world wagged its collective finger at the footage, the fans of this feral form of fighting hardly batted an eyelid.

But why would they? I mean, the Mary Whitehouses of this world were hardly going to be ringside in the first

place now are they?

Having been dragged by my friends to one of these UFC-type events in Manchester some years ago, I actually

found the crowd to be just as hostile as the blokes in the middle.

There was more than a fair share of those types who like to punch people in pubs, or even worse, those who goad others to hit people in pubs.

Cocksure promoters now reckon the UFC will soon surpass boxing as the biggest combat sport on the planet.

Indeed, I can see similarities between the UFC’s rise and that of the old American WWF wrestling (although that’s where the similarities end).

Despite its cringeworthy playacting, WWF gained a huge following, somehow. Eventually, its popularity waned and I fully expect the UFC’s to as well.

It may be within grappling distance of boxing at the moment, but that’s only because boxing is going through a bit of a slump.

As soon as another heavyweight comes along who can ignite the world’s interest- another Mike Tyson perhaps -

then the UFC can go back to its clubs in Lancashire.

The quicker the better, may I add.”

And here is Brad’s reply:”

Firstly, I just want to say that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is not a ‘sport’ it is a promotion within the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), others include Bellator, Strikeforce, Made4TheCage and many others.

So before MMA and the UFC is called ‘useless, farcical and cringeworthy’ lets make sure we know the facts.

From 1993 to now, MMA has been very successful in establishing its place alongside mainstream sports in America, Asia, and Europe on the top end of the entertainment spectrum. It has been widely regarded as the fastest growing sport on earth.

But there are still many sceptics, I don’t blame people for thinking that the sport is violent and dangerous because it is, but so is snowboarding, and rugby. It a sport that will only be appetizing to a certain niche group of people.

But what I don’t accept is for those skeptics to pit MMA against boxing and blurt out drivel like ‘boxing is safer’ or describe boxing as a ‘noble art’ these are the words of someone who is completely uneducated on both sports.

An interesting quote from MMA referee, John McCarthy sums up exactly what is going on in boxing, and has been for years. He said: “The only goal of boxing is to either hit one’s opponent in the head so hard that he can not get up or to hit one’s opponent so many times in the head that the referee has to step in and stop the fight.”

In a 12-round championship boxing match there are between 400-600 punches that land, 90% of these are to the head. Boxers commonly suffer from major brain trauma, swelling and hemorrhaging of the brain.

There has been only one recorded death in the last 10 years in MMA, which was Sammy Vasquez who had a pre-existing blood clot that directly resulted to his death, whereas in the past 16 years boxing has had over 110 deaths, this is an amazing death count for a sport that is a ‘noble art’.

MMA incorporates many different martial art disciplines including Muay Thai, Karate, Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu and many more. So instead and standing there trading punches in the middle of the ring there are different places where the fight can take place: on the mat, using locks, weight, dexterity, and technique to out-fox your opponent and catch a submission. There is also a clinch game where your opponent can hold someone against the cage which is extremely grueling, and consists of a lot of upper body strength and toughness, this differs from boxing because it gives a hurt opponent an option and time to recover before taking any more damage whereas in boxing, clinching is illegal so the referee will split the fighters up and they carry on taking shots even if they are hurt, basically there is no way out but to get knocked out or get beat up that bad the referee has to stop it.

Some may think its boring but I personally think two people hitting each other in the face for 12 rounds is boring but if this is your cup of tea just go to a bar and wait for a fight and hope someone gets knocked out. MMA is only three five minute rounds so its less time taking shots.

MMA seems to get a bad name in the press for been the catalyst for unsanctioned kids fight clubs, but what did we blame when kids would fight before the UFC was mainstream or before MMA was even on TV screens? Was it Marilyn Manson’s lyrics? Or could it have been the influence of boxing? Who knows, my personal opinion is that we are a primitive and naturally violent race.

Boxing is a very corrupt sport nobody can deny that, hand picked fights, managers and sponsors calling the shots, it is time for the old dog to step aside for a new, explosive, exciting sport called MMA.