Another UFC event has wrapped up, which can only mean one thing: we’ll soon see at least one or two articles floating around the internet, berating mixed martial arts, and calling for a ban, pointing to the franchise with self-satisfied gusto, the same way a little kid tattles to the teacher in the schoolyard.
“Miss Anderson — MMA just made society a more violent place!”
And, while it’s easy to point out all that is wrong with those articles – particularly the hypocrisy of treating MMA like an illegal dogfighting ring while boxing is seen as a gentleman’s sport, to be watched with a cigar and whiskey – my focus is purely on the mindset that we somehow need to ban things like professional fighting because they are making us violent people.
Because the only thing more flawed than singling out MMA is the argument that a violent sport makes us violent people.
Why? Because it’s operating under the assumption that we are a naturally peaceful species that gets whipped up into violent frenzies due to evil outside forces. And hey, maybe human beings once were. But our ancestors soon killed them off when resources got scarce.
We are not a peaceful species. Not too long ago, a water main break occurred in my hometown, forcing the city to switch to its untested reserves. The water still flowed through our taps, and the likelihood that it was at all contaminated was incredibly small. And even if it had been, 3 minutes of boiling would have killed any evil microbial. And if you had taken your chances, drank straight from the tap, and guessed wrong, you’d get an upset stomach at the absolute worst. And still, people flocked to the supermarkets, crowding around the bottled water aisles, fighting over the last cases of Poland Spring. People were getting punched out over spring water — simply because there was a slight chance that the water that was still coming through our pipes might make you have to go to the bathroom a lot.
Create the tiniest little blip in our structured, civilized way of living, and people start swinging fists. For crying out loud: we don’t even need a disruption in our day-to-day lives for this part of us to come out. The number of people assaulted, wounded, arrested — even killed — on Black Friday this year was downright unfathomable. Forget hoarding the Dasani: people were pulling knives because they wanted a good deal on an Elmo doll.
To reiterate for the folks at home: we are not a peaceful species.
We are around today because our ancestors were aggressive, territorial, jealous, and never fully satisfied. Crack open a history book to see what happens when one society stumbled upon a civilization that just so happened to be a little less aggressive, or a little more trusting, or a little less able to kill. We all have this in us, and it doesn’t take much for it to come out. If you’re reading this and shaking your head, check your emotions the next time you’re stuck in rush hour traffic for hours on end and some douchecanoe nearly bangs into your car as they cut you off.
We are not a peaceful species. To deny it is to deny a huge part of who we are at our most basic level. Violent sports cannot make us violent if those tendencies are already there in the first place.
So, now that we’ve established that we are not peaceful, let’s bring it back to MMA. Let’s bring it back to boxing, to hockey, to football, to any sport where physical contact and force and a touch of violence meet. Let’s look at these sports that require skill and proficiency and strategy. Let’s look at these sports where there are strict rules in place, overseen by referees and judges and a whole damn panel of experts. Let’s look at these scenarios and realize that it doesn’t take too keen of an eye to see the “art” in “martial arts”, the chess moves in the game plays, the beauty in the brutality.
And let’s look a little further into these professional fighters. Let’s look at how they high-five and touch gloves before they start swinging those fists. Let’s look at how, when the last round is over, they are shaking each other’s hands and giving hugs. Take a second to appreciate that pattern: respect, violence, admiration. Because that right there best encompasses the beautiful dynamic of what it means to be a human.
We are aggressive, territorial, violent creatures with a huge capacity to love and respect and admire. We are flawed, greedy creatures who want to do right in this world, whatever that “right” might be to them. It is the coolest, most fascinating part of the human condition and we ignore it so intensely, swearing up and down that we are all civilized now. That those kicking their feet or ramming their grocery carts are the different ones.
Watching and participating in violent sports is no more linked to our violence as playing Hungry Hungry Hippos is linked to the obesity epidemic. And who knows: maybe if we accept that we all have that side of us, resting dormant in our climate-controlled homes and comparatively abundant supply of resources, maybe we can gain a better understanding of what makes us tick. Maybe we’ll stop pretending we are something we’re not, and instead find a way to live with this incredible dichotomy. Maybe we’ll find a way to coexist without immediately descending into said swinging fists when our easy way of life is disrupted.
Nah, you’re right. Better to ban MMA.