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Tony Kornheiser: 'Ultimate Fighting Celebrates Savagery'

A brief segment today on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption examined the Sports Illustrated cover story on mixed martial arts, and asked whether the Ultimate Fighting Championship is the next big thing in sports.

The discussion that ensued was a wonderful encapsulation of the way the sports media's approach to mixed martial arts breaks down along generational lines. Tony Kornheiser (who is 58, according to Wikipedia) said he found the rise of the sport disturbing because "Ultimate Fighting is a sport that celebrates savagery." Mike Wilbon (48) didn't share Kornheiser's outrage but was lukewarm about UFC, saying he has watched it a few times. Tony Reali (28) stepped in to tell the two old fuddy-duddies that mixed martial arts is a great sport.

I'm 30 and share Reali's enthusiasm for the sport. But I want to examine Kornheiser's claim that UFC "celebrates savagery." Is that really the case? I'm a fan of football, boxing, mixed martial arts and other sports that have a violent element to them, but that doesn't make me a violent person or a proponent of violence in my everyday life. If savagery is confined to the field of play, what's wrong with celebrating it there?

Note: Kornheiser, like most members of the mainstream media, doesn't seem to get the distinction between "Ultimate Fighting," the league, and mixed martial arts, the sport. There's an interesting discussion about that topic going on right now at UFCjunkie.com.