Sun | Jun 24, 2018

Tanya Lee | No way, MMA!

Published:Friday | May 25, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Last week, a friend of mine asked for my views on the Ultimate Fighting Champion-ship (UFC) title fight in which a coach told his 'athlete' to keep fighting even though she had taken a significant pounding in the cage. He wanted my view on whether the coach was at fault as the fighter was later hospitalised.

The entire ordeal he described was gruesome and disturbing and the coach was the least of my concerns. I am confounded as to how mixed martial arts (MMA) is even a sport, to begin with. For me, any sport predicated singularly on the idea of causing bodily harm to another opponent is legitimised violence.

I tried to watch MMA once. A fighter was trapped in a headlock, incapable of breathing for four minutes. It felt like an eternity. As I watched, I, too, couldn't breathe. How is that entertainment?


MMA dangerous


MMA fights involve random punches, elbowing, kicking, head-butting, blows to the genitals, the spine, the back, the head, the throat, and most gruesome of all, fighters putting their fingers in the eyes, mouth or nose of their opponents. I have even read where there was a case in which an MMA fighter, Nakai, went permanently blind in one eye because his eye was gouged by his opponent's thumb in the heat of battle.

MMA is downright dangerous to fighters. Having done some research, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that points to the high incidence of brain damage, broken bones, hospitalisation, and death. The MMA files read like a docket of horrors!

Researchers from the University of Toronto found that UFC fighters experience concussion-like injuries in 32 per cent of MMA bouts. This is way above any such numbers across any other sport. Comparatively, in boxing, the same study suggests that these injuries are limited to less than five per cent, while American football is less than nine per cent, both well below the MMA's average. Every concussion makes someone a prime candidate for long-term brain disease.

The MMA is real-life mortal combat, with a long list of fatalities! In the past 11 years, there have been over 13 deaths recorded in the sport.

Just six months ago, Tim Hague, a 6'4" father and former MMA fighter, died of traumatic brain injury, at the young age of 34, just two days after being knocked out in a boxing match. Reports are that he was declared brain-dead by doctors. His opponent, Adam Braidwood, was not pleased with the backlash levelled at the sport by journalists after Hague's death and was quoted on Canada's CTV News as saying, "What kind of country-club lifestyle do they live, where they get to call the shots on what we do in there?"

A year earlier, in 2016, a fighter known as "The Mongrel" was rushed to the hospital after his fight. He passed away from injuries sustained. Dennis Munson Jr died after a kick-boxing bout where he reportedly sustained brain damage and organ failure.

'Mike' died in a ring in Bolivia. 'Felix' suffered a cardiac arrest and died immediately after his first fight in Michigan. Mark Fowler was knocked unconscious and died from head injuries sustained in Australia.


Blunt trauma


Sam Vasquez, 35, died in Houston due to complications of blunt trauma to the head, with a subdural haemorrhage. He was knocked out in the third round of his sanctioned fight. One fighter reportedly died from injuries sustained while training, and another died in a sauna before a weigh-in after losing 33 pounds in one week to make weight for a fight. While I've attempted to highlight a few, the list is much longer and quite senseless.

Sports is supposed to be fun and entertainment. The tears usually come from the pain of defeat. Any sport that is essentially a matter of life or death, or where the possibility of brain damage is one in three is repugnant. I can understand why MMA has been banned in Norway, France, and parts of Canada and Australia. As to the huge fanbase, to each his own. There are droves of people daily who rush to crime scenes and accident scenes and who share gruesome photos on social media. I have no such morbid fascinations.

One Love.

- Tanya Lee is a Caribbean sports marketer, author, and publicist. Follow her @tanyattlee on Instagram.