MMA fighters hurt people for a living. Nevertheless, some are fit to be the role models that society needs them to be.
Athletic figures have been akin to living gods since the dawn of celebrity culture. Whether it was baseball, football, boxing, the most gifted and talented athletes were looked up to and idolized by millions of children.
As the UFC grows and the sport of MMA becomes more popular, will MMA fighters, too, become role models? Will MMA fighters ever become legends like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Michael Jordan?
Believe it or not, these two questions aren't the most important.
More important is the question of whether American society (or western society in general) believe that these "violent" men should be recognized as role models for young, impressionable children.
And there is certainly some merit to their hypothetical worries.
MMA is grim. It's the business of hurting people. As such, it's likely to attract all sorts of sordid characters (see: Brandon Saling, Lee Murray, Joe Son, etc.) who are worthy of reproach rather than admiration.
However, for every man of questionable moral fiber in MMA (and most of these "degenerates" are now at the lower levels of the sport) there is a more pure man who has the makings of a true role model.
One such fighter is former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. Edgar is humble, hard-working and he never gives in. No matter how badly hurt he his, he some how manages to come back.
How can Edgar or a figure like Edgar not become a role model when the sport is popular enough? He displays qualities that are admirable and that all parents would want their children to emulate.
Unfortunately, like with other sports, MMA has a (burgeoning) problem with PEDs that damages the luster of the fighters.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion and Pride legend Quinton "Rampage" Jackson turned the MMA world upside down when he said that the UFC suggested he use testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) and even hinted that other fighters were doing it.
The issue of PEDs transcends the small world of MMA and encompasses the entire world of sports.
It's impossible to know if every great athlete has done PEDs, but it's certainly known that PEDs are there and if athletes are "cheating" with PEDs, they can't be the role models that society needs.
So, in a way, the most important question isn't if society will accept fighters as role models along with other athletes, it's if society should even accept athletes as role models at all and they probably shouldn't.