Reason: Banning UFC no answer to our woes

MARK REASON
Last updated 05:00 22/06/2014
James Te Huna
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DIRTY CHEAP SHOT: Maurico "Shogun" Rua smashes an already out of it James Te Huna.

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OPINION: One man's leg breaks at a grotesque angle as he tries to smash a kick through the chest of his opponent. Another man lies unconscious, but his bouncing head is still being hit and spurts blood in random directions. The combatants call it a fight to the death and a ride through hell. The fans call it entertainment.

UFC is a blood sport and it is coming to New Zealand. We are importing violence. We ban Mike Tyson from talking in this country, but we promote savagery. Illegal assaults are routine on the streets , but the law allows people to make profit from human cockfighting.

And before you think I'm going to get all moralistic on your ass, I will confess I am ambivalent. There is a part of me that doesn't like being told what to do. There is a part of me that has had enough of soft furnishings and the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood.

I don't want to know how to make an American quilt or a British cushion. I don't want to weave baskets or upholster chairs. There is a part of me, primeval, lurking and undernourished, that knows I would have a hell of a good time in a front row seat at the coliseum.

Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club, said, "I just don't want to die without a few scars."

A lot of men can identify with that statement. A few women can as well, but let's not get blinded by political correctness here. Fighting is primarily a male instinct. Fight or flight. Blokes are programmed. You see a lot more boys wrestling in the school playground than girls. We like a bit of biff.

So should anyone be able to tell us men what we can do with our bodies? It's a serious question. Women have fought for the right to choose. Some of them choose to have cosmetic surgery against their partner's wishes.

"It's my body," they say.

And so it is. But men could make the same claim about consensual fighting. The New York State legislature disagrees. It is having a long legal battle with UFC, but MMA, mixed martial arts, is banned in the state, presumably because it is violent and it promotes violence.

Of course, there is the argument that if you ban an activity, you risk driving it underground where it will be even more out of control. But that's a sideshow. The central question is whether men have a right to do what they want with their bodies.

The answer could depend on perceived consequences. If a UFC fighter is more likely to pistol whip his girlfriend or king hit a drunk who spills his pint, then maybe New Zealand should not associate with the sport. If the fans who attend are more likely to go out for a bit of GBH on a Saturday night, then maybe New Zealand should not associate with the sport.

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But without such causal proofs, it is hard to make a case against UFC. Distaste is not enough. Boxing was the working man's sport for 50 years, it drove a big part of American newspaper advertising, but its rise and decline seems to have no correlation with levels of violence in society.

There is plenty not to like about UFC. It exploits the fighters. Its frontman Dana White, a sort of Andre Agassi gargoyle, is the Don King of the 21st century. "Maybe who I am is too much for the real world," he says.

Even his mum doesn't like him.

Tito Ortiz, a "hall-of-famer", says, "UFC pay out to the fighters, in general, about six percent of the revenue that is collected from the fans. That is it. Six percent is what the fighters make. Does that sound fair to you? So they're making 94 percent of the money all across the board. The fighters don't make anything fair, zero. They're giving their life and everything they possibly can, and they have nothing to fall back on."

Now that might be worth state legislation. The state could grant a license if the fighters got 50 per cent of the profits. But I am not convinced about legislating against the right to fight.

The UFC has its own rules. One is that fighters "must be clean and present a tidy appearance" and can be be banned for "dangerous" hair. It's not just schools that have tonsorial rules. The UFC also regulates against "timidity". This lies close to the heart of it.

There is a powerful young male demographic that has bought into the whole idea of mixed martial arts. It is their thing. The fights are real. The fights, the chat, the games and the reality show are fired out through modern media sources. The kids can take possession.

When UFC took action against New York State they did so on the grounds that "expressive activity is protected by the First Amendment".

That made me laugh at first. Who are they kidding? But a lot of young males out there crave expression for their fighting instinct. Are we just going to ban them? Or would a properly regulated UFC that paid its fighters satisfy the rage in the cage? There is no easy answer.

- Sunday Star Times

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