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Warrior poets? The ethos of MMA




Mixed Martial Artists often get stereotyped as mouth breathing goons who just like to hurt people. This is just not the case. Many possess college degrees having paid for their educations through wrestling scholarships. Former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin has a Masters in Education and was a high school math teacher before he started competing in MMA. Although UFC Welterweight Champion, Georges St. Pierre never graduated college, he reads extensively, cites Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as an influence and is known to enjoy a spirited game of chess in his spare time.

What then makes these civilized and reasonable people get in the cage and physically punish each other? Dan Hardy has stated that, ""I happen to enjoy testing myself against another, well-trained human being, in the controlled environment of my favourite sport. I understand the risks, as does my opponent.", he goes on to say that "Since 1995, there have been 123 deaths in Cheerleading, do we make it illegal? Cheerleading has also left 782 people paralyzed. Do you know how many deaths or serious injuries in Mixed Martial Arts? Zero." Dan Hardy, before becoming a MMA fighter, was a Visual Art student and looking back in history we find many other examples that defy the common perception of who fighters are…

Tommy Douglas, the man who was known as the "father of medicare" in Canada, and was voted The Greatest Canadian, by viewers of the CBC television show of the same name, was an amateur boxer before his career in politics. In the fight which he won the Lightweight Championship of Manitoba he sustained "a broken nose, a loss of some teeth and strained his hand and thumb." Douglas took his fighting spirit with him into politics, and became a champion of the working man, promoting universal healthcare as the premier of Saskatchewan and later in the Federal Government.

Another person known for his pugilistic talent and also his great humanity was Muhammad Ali. Perhaps the greatest fighter of all time Ali became just as well known for his dissention against the Vietnam war as his legendary fighting prowess. Ali also described himself as pacifist remarking "I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world."

I say all that to say this. While people may see the growth of the UFC as another indication of how the world is becoming more violent, it is actually the newest incarnation in a long history of combat sports, and many of the people that enjoy these sports and compete in them are intelligent, compassionate and dare I say true artists.

The increasing violence that is most abhorrent in the world is the violence of economics; the strong countries oppressing the weak in order to obtain resources cheaply. The violence of the consumption of oil which necessitates the waging of war in countries that most of us haven’t ever been to and don’t know much about. The violence of ecological destruction, that continues to eliminate species of plants and animals that our children will never see.

The savage nature of modern life is harder to recognize because it is dressed so nicely in our cultural assumptions and advertising jargon. The blood sweat and tears that are shed in the UFC are easy to criticize because they are so graphic and visceral, but it is the ink signed onto declarations of war by politicians that causes the most violence in the world. Maybe if people took this loss of life seriously they would organize politically to stop it. Like many things in life however, peace won’t come without a fight.

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