Should Boxing be Banned?
Mixed martial arts, widely known as MMA, is a hybrid combat sport believed to date back to the Olympic Games of ancient Greece in 648 BCE. At the time, the combat sport was a method of martial training for Greek armies (Mixed). Now, in the 21st century, MMA is the subject of the debate of whether or not the sport is competitive, or simply violence for the sake of violence (Wyman). MMA has become increasingly popular through the Ultimate Fighter Championship organization, or the UFC, which is the leading promoter of MMA events.
Currently, there are rules in place that protect fighters such as the prohibition of punches or hits to the throat, spine, and back of the head, as well as “head butting, gouging (thrusting a finger or thumb into an opponent’s eye), biting, hair pulling, and groin attacks of any kind” (Mixed). However, these regulations do not protect competitors from repeated blows to the face, chest, stomach, or front of the head. Regardless, it can be argued that MMA provides benefits to one’s health, such as improved balance, coordination, and flexibility of joints, muscles, and ligaments. Exposing oneself to an MMA training environment can also teach self-defense skills, which is “an invaluable quality for self-protection” (Becic). Moreover, evidence of derogatory slurs directed towards competitors has led to its current ban in the European countries of France and Norway.Furthermore, the UFC has proven to provide a huge economic benefit to the locations where its events are held. Ticket, pay-per-view, and merchandise sales account for an immense amount of money for the organization. In 2016, the UFC was sold to talent agency WME-IMG for $4 billion, providing evidence of its great economic impact (Smith). Consequently, the accessibility of these events to the youth calls into question their morality. UFC fights could influence the younger generation to act in a violent nature. As the popularity of MMA grows, further debates arise about the effects that the sport has on our global society. Approaches to this problem can range from implementing more rules and regulations to banning the sport altogether. These moral, safety and economic factors must be explored further to understand the issue and form an educated opinion on whether or not MMA should be banned.
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The MMA bans in France and Norway mean that competitions and events are illegal. The French Sports ministry, which is in charge of public sports associations in France, addressed equality and safety issues in their report in 2013, stating that MMA destroys equality in French sports (French). This information comes from ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, a very reliable source on the subject. Additionally, although there is no official ban, plans have been put forth and arguments presented in Australia against cage fighting, which encompasses UFC (Wyman). In Norway, knockout sports have been banned since 1981 for medical considerations.
The biggest medical concerns in MMA are injuries of the brain. Head trauma, or more specifically concussions and concussion-related diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE, are a high risk for MMA competitors. The sport has been glamorized by repeated blows to the head, which is “exacerbated” by several of those hits occurring “after they have already been put out cold” (Blackwell). These unconscious “defenders” are, in reality, unable to defend themselves any longer. It has been researched that a “traumatic brain injury” is inflicted upon a fighter in almost one-third of professional fights (Blackwell). These researchers are calling for the banning of MMA, stating that the health risks are too great for the safe continuation of the sport. Moreover, there is little attention to concussions in MMA. The prevention of head injuries is the “hot topic” in hockey and football and it can be argued that MMA is more dangerous than either of these sports. Although the hit count is similar in each of these sports, it is the method of scoring in MMA. In football and hockey, scoring points is represented by moving a puck into a goal or moving a ball into the end zone. However, in MMA, points are scored by inflicting harm on one’s opponent. As a result, about ninety percent of combat fighters will have suffered from some brain injury (Becic). These statistics come from the research of the American Journal of Sports Medicine and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. All contributors to this study are experts in the field of brain damage and provide valuable insight to the understanding of the health dangers. Also, the author, Tom Blackwell, is an award-winning journalist who has remained in his expert field of health. These credits make the article seem credible. However, the article is biased towards safety and health over economics and popularity. The author does not weigh how regulations might affect the overall popularity of the sport. His use of language in “strong argument that MMA should be banned for youth” and “UFC should consider a rule,” make evident his stance that the safety of fighters should be the top priority. The author also seems to criticize some MMA events for providing incentives for inflicting injury, such as “cash rewards for the ‘knockout of the night’.”In 2016, João Carvalho, a Portuguese MMA fighter, was beaten to death by opponent Charlie Ward in the third round of a welterweight fight in Dublin, Ireland (MMA). The 28-year-old Carvalho was taken through “normal procedure”, but his life could not be saved. Carvalho is one of several to have their lives taken by the “violent” sport. This raises the question of “Is mixed martial arts simply violence for the sake of violence?” (Wyman). According to Wyman, an MMA specialist, not considering MMA violence “does a disservice to the sport”. The definition of violence is “behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt…someone” (Definition).
Since boxing involves using punches, kicks, and other strikes in order to knock an opponent unconscious, there is no doubt that it should be considered as violence. Although a “competition” takes place, one simply cannot deny the fact that MMA is a violent sport. The accessibility of MMA to the world’s youth through television and the Internet has sparked the debate of whether or not the violent nature influences the younger generation to behave more savagely or aggressively. This negative impact could have lasting effects for years to come. On the other hand, with a growing fan base across the globe, MMA, through the UFC, has only continued to enlarge its economic value and social impact. MMA is currently legal in many countries in addition to all 50 US states. New York became the latest state to legalize the sport in 2016. The New York state legislators have found an opportunity to use this sport to “generate substantial revenue for the state” through taxes, arenas, tickets, television deals, and industry. The legalization of MMA in New York was made possible by the bill No. S05949, which lifted the 1997 ban of combat sports in the state. However, the sport will not exist without tariffs or levies; MMA will be taxed “at a rate higher than boxing or wrestling.”
According to S05949, “the state will impose an 8.5% tax on receipts on ticket sales to MMA fights…S05949 also imposes a 3% tax on the combined gross receipts from broadcasting and Internet streaming rights.” Furthermore, the average ticket price for a UFC event can range from $500 to $2000. During a UFC event, a full twenty-thousand-seat arena such as Madison Square Garden can make approximately $10 million to $40 million dollars in ticket sales alone. Although most of the money transfers into the UFC business, the tax on ticket sales allows for millions of dollars to go to the state. The broadcasting tax also earns tens of thousands of dollars per event, depending on the relative popularity (McCann).As for the television deals, the UFC’s access to the New York market allows it to “attract more fans and more corporate sponsors.” In 2011, the UFC and Fox signed a seven-year deal that is worth approximately $700 million and will expire in 2018. With MMA legal in all 50 states and thus fully legitimized, the UFC should be in a superior position when negotiating its next TV deal, as well as accompanying Internet, radio and video game deals. The last economic benefit of the legalization of MMA fighting in New York is the opportunity for industries to profit from organized fights. For example, the insurance industry would see its members “compete to insure MMA events hosted in New York” (McCann). This information came from Sports Illustrated, a widely used sports news site that covers every major sport around the world. The author, Michael McCann is a legal analyst and writer for Sports Illustrated and the founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute (SELI) at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where he is also a professor of law. He also works as a Massachusetts attorney. McCann is very experienced in law and his work is highly credible.As one can see, MMA and the UFC business have extreme fiscal impacts on the locations in which its events are held. For instance, the biggest fight ever in combat sports history was the Mayweather versus McGregor bout in 2017. According to Dave Metzler, “All in all, the total gross for the event looks to be in the range of $615 to $620 million…the biggest event of its kind in sports history.” This figure accounts for all of the revenue from televisions, tickets, sponsorships, movie theaters, and bar and restaurant airings of the event (Golightly). This proves that MMA is one of the top money-making sports in the world. Moreover, MMA can help the body stay healthy throughout life by providing increased flexibility, which helps with posture. This will “improve your quality of life as you age, injury free.”
Additionally, MMA training increases power and self-defense, which correlates with strength and speed. MMA can also improve one’s concentration, a key mental tool that can be used in multiple aspects of life, including occupations that are not related to MMA. Overall, these qualities are invaluable skills that contribute to the improvement of one’s fitness. This results in a longer, healthier life for the participant of the sport (Becic). After consideration of both sides of the argument, banning MMA is not the best way to prevent its negative effects. The main goal of an MMA ban is to eradicate the health concerns for its competitors. However, banning the sport would not discourage current competitors from continuing to fight. As seen throughout history, such as the alcohol ban during the 1920s, a ban would only lead to illegal, underground bouts that would arguably be more dangerous. These fights would not be regulated or protected by rules, referees, or judges. Still, the banning of MMA is a relatively small-scale initiative, and in the few countries that have banned the sport, it has proved unsuccessful. For example, in France, resentment toward MMA legislation is clear. Francis Ngannou, a French fighter, says the ban “makes life extremely difficult for anyone hoping to become a professional fighter in the sport” (Barry). Furthermore, it would forbid current fighters from doing what they have devoted their life towards. A better solution for the issues associated with MMA is to improve the health care availability for fighters during matches. This would permit the continuation of the sport while increasing the safety and protection of the competitors. This is a more realistic and achievable goal that would assure everyone that MMA should not be banned. If further research was done, it would be on the lives of those affected with brain diseases, such as CTE. It would be interesting to learn more about how they currently view MMA, now that the sport has had lasting negative effects on those retired fighters.