Fighting for Legitimacy


Mixed martial arts is a form of combat that most closely resembles a real-life fight. And mixed martial arts is in the literal fight of it’s life.

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In boxing and kickboxing, competitors can’t take each other down. In wrestling and jiu-jitsu, competitors can’t strike each other. Mixed martial arts took all the traditional martial arts disciplines and meshed them into one sport. Competitors are usually locked in a cage together, but in instances across the world, and even some competitions in the United States, a ring is used instead of the cage.

Although the sport sounds brutal in its nature — and it is a test to see which fighting style best meshes with others to make the best fighter possible – it is no more brutal than sports like boxing, football and rugby. And these sports are universally recognized as some of the biggest and most popular games in the world today.

“The first impression is, hit him, knock him out, hurt him, but believe me, it goes far beyond that,” MMA legend Renzo Gracie says. “There’s so much technique involved, that I, to be honest, I think when I see a good fight, I think it makes a Russian ballet look like an uncoordinated body movements.”

So, why is it that mixed martial arts are still not sanctioned in 19 states across America?

A close examination of the problem indicates that it stems from the roots of the American-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). When the first UFC was aired, it was billed as a street fight — anything was legal, including fish hooks, groin strikes, head butts and eye gouges. They also had no time limits or weight classes.

As the years progressed and the spectacle started turning more into a sport, steps were taken to legitimize the fight, since politicians were starting to condemn the promoters and supporters of this activity. After the UFC was purchased by casino magnates Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta in 2001, 31 rules were instituted, which outlawed such barbaric techniques and hair pulling, fish hooking, head butting and groin strikes.

According to UFC fighter Jon Fitch, the sport isn’t about hurting somebody else, it’s about testing yourself against the best. “I fight to fight, as long as they are a tough guy. There’s not one individual that I’m like ‘Oh, I want to fight that guy.” If you’re tough and you got skills, I want to fight as many of those guys as I can,” Fitch said. “Really I want to fight everybody that’s tough. Is there one particular guy I want to fight? No, I want to fight everybody.”

With new owners and rules, and a blossoming stable of top fighters, the UFC has become the go-to destination for mixed martial artists. But, 19 states, including New York and Massachusetts still haven’t lifted their ban on the sports. Although Minnesota has, and they will be hosting the UFC in August, there is some cities that have still outlawed the sport, including Blaine, Spring Lake Park and Andover.

After a close examination of the rules, and the skills of the fighters, only one question remains. Why is the legitimate sport still outlawed?