Counter strike - Local MMA fraternity responds to claims that sport is dangerous
Members of the local Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fraternity have described opinions made recently by columnist Tanya Lee as lacking enough clarification to label the sport "dangerous".
In her column published on Friday, May 25, in The Gleaner, titled 'No Way, MMA!,' Lee described MMA as "downright dangerous to fighters".
"MMA fights involve random punches, elbowing, kicking, headbutting, 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!," Lee said.
However, MMA Jamaica Sports Federation (MMAJSF) president, Daniel Chacko-Wilmot, said that Lee should have done more research and fact checking before making claims.
"More research should've been done, especially when it comes to things like the eye gouging, strikes to the back of the head, strikes to the spine, hits underneath the belt," he said. "I think more clarification should've been done. Ask people who are in the know."
But Lee stands by her statements, saying that adequate research had been done before coming to her conclusions.
"While I understand the position of the local MMA body in trying to defend the sport, as would be expected of any stakeholder, the truth behind the statistics related to the incidence of brain trauma, hospitalisation, and death makes the dangerous nature of the sport irrefutable," she said.
Brain trauma has been a recurring topic regarding contact sports, including MMA, in recent times.
University of Toronto researchers said their analysis of fight videos suggested that 90 per cent of knockouts in MMA were a result of repetitive strikes.
"The 30 seconds before match stoppage was characterised by the losing competitor sustaining a flurry of multiple strikes to the head," the researchers said.
They said that half of the knockouts occurred because of blows to the lower jaw, while 85 per cent of knockout blows were due to a punch, with the remainder due to kicks. The report added that an average of 2.6 head strikes after knockout-blows were inflicted on unconscious fighters.
Local fighter Imran Hall, who recently defeated Venezuelan Henry Galindez in his debut bout last month, agrees with Chacko-Wilmot by describing what he was told by the referee before the fight.
"The ref said that you cannot knee to the face," he explained. "While you're on the floor, with both hands on the mat, you cannot be kneed to the body or kicked. You cannot put your fingers to your opponent's face, you can only strike with a closed fist. This means eye poking is illegal."
Lee, however, points to the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports' 2017 Unified Rules of MMA "Fouls" that address infringements not limited to, but including, eye gouging.
"Eye gouging by means of fingers, chin, or elbow is illegal. Legal strikes or punches that contact the fighter's eye socket are not eye gouging and shall be considered legal attacks."
Hall said that he does not worry about potential injury or death, getting into the ring, as his training makes him confident that he can protect himself effectively.
Fellow fighter Matthew Colquhoun agreed.
"Being a fighter and training for a certain amount of time, you eat, sleep, thinking about the fight," he said. "When you get there, you have no thought that 'If I go in there, I might get injured.' That's not it. You go in there with the intention of going into combat and coming out victorious. Injuries are the furthest thing from your mind."
Chacko-Wilmot said that MMA is like every other sport in that they all have rules and regulations and risks.
"Every sport has its own risks. People love the (respective) sport and they accept the risk. They try and limit it. In terms of research, yes you can get concussions, but MMA takes the experience from boxing and NFL, where they have suffered from concussions. MMA has brought in rules where if someone gets knocked out, they can't even spar for a certain amount of time after, much less fight. This is known as a medical suspension."
Chacko-Wilmot also invited Lee to visit some of the MMAJSF's training sessions to get a better understanding of the sport.