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As MMA Arrives in Ontario, Anti-MMA Voices Surface

We're used to it by now. Those of us who love mixed martial arts have come to accept that our sport will be subjected to ignorant, unfair commentary from people who don't understand it and don't care to understand it, and that the anti-MMA voices will grow particularly loud any time the sport becomes regulated in an area where it had previously been banned.

But even if we're used to it, and it would be easier just to ignore it, sometimes it's valuable to point out some of the over-the-top assertions about MMA that come out in the local media whenever the sport arrives in a new town.

So with MMA recently being legalized in Ontario, let's take a look at some of the problems with this Windsor Star column by Anne Jarvis.

Jarvis starts with this:
So, Maximum Fighting Championship 29: Conquer is coming to Caesars Windsor next month. They'll have to hose the blood off the floor of the Colosseum.

Mixed martial arts is the full-contact, almost no-holdsbarred sport combining boxing, wrestling and martial arts. Bouts are fought in a cage. It's bloody barbaric, and I meant that pun.
Good one.
Half of bouts end in a knockout, technical knockout or "choke out," all of which can cause brain injury. Some of these guys will likely suffer chronic traumatic encephalopathy, like hockey player Bob Probert.
This is where we start to see a couple of the recurring themes of the anti-MMA media. One is the reference to the "choke out," which, to the average Windsor Star reader who knows nothing about MMA or jiu jitsu, sounds horrifying: Do they really choke someone until he's unconscious? Of course, anyone who has seen the sport knows that the vast majority of fights won on a choke end with the fighter tapping out before he loses consciousness, and that the small number of fighters who are actually choked unconscious are OK within seconds and easily able to walk out of the cage. Anyone who has seen both MMA and hockey knows it would be far better to have a UFC fighter put you in a choke than an NHL player check you into the boards.

And that brings us to the other recurring theme: The odd comparisons of MMA to other sports. Jarvis writes that it's "likely" that MMA fighters suffer brain damage similar to the brain damaged suffered by an NHL player. And she might be right. But if her major concern about MMA is that it's likely to cause some of the same injuries that hockey causes, where are her arguments that hockey should be banned? There are a whole lot more hockey games in Ontario than there are MMA fights. If your concern is that people are getting hurt in contact sports in Ontario, it's absurd to focus on MMA and make only a passing reference to hockey.
Forearms snap like toothpicks in this sport. In one match, if you turned up the volume on your television, you could hear an elbow break. In another, an ankle was torn off the tendons. Cuts to the face are the most common injury, and they bleed like faucets.
There are certainly MMA fighters who suffer injuries to their forearms, elbows and ankles, although injuries like that are far more common in football. But it's telling that Jarvis tries to make "Cuts to the face are the most common injury" sound like a bad thing. In reality, a cut to the face is not a big deal: You get stitched up after the fight and go on your way. Football players only wish cuts to the face were the most common injury in the NFL.
The government that approved MMA in Ontario last year is the same one that will confiscate your driver's licence if you have .05 blood alcohol
This is where the anti-MMA arguments really start to get offensive: Not only comparing MMA to drinking and driving, but actually suggesting that the government has its priorities out of whack by allowing MMA while getting tougher on drinking and driving.

Jarvis concludes with this:
I won't be buying a ticket to the match at Caesars Windsor. It turns my stomach.
And you know what? That's actually completely reasonable. If she doesn't like MMA, she shouldn't buy a ticket. MMA isn't for everyone. But what's frustrating is that instead of just acknowledging that MMA isn't for everyone, this is the one sport that still faces opposition from those who think it shouldn't be allowed for anyone.

Some day, after the places that ban MMA (like New York) have finally seen the light (like Ontario), we'll be able to ignore writers like Anne Jarvis. Until then, MMA fans need to push back against those who misunderstand and misrepresent our sport.