It would be uncontroversial to say that mixed martial arts is still somewhat misunderstood by society at large.
Ever since the UFC debuted in 1993, with its celebratory emphasis on its aversion to rules and regulations, MMA has been remarkably prone to the creation of myths.
What follows is a brief discussion of several of the most enduring fallacies that have followed the sport over the years.
As fans of MMA, many of you will be familiar with some of the more famous falsehoods that have persisted. So, if you feel like I’m covering old ground, simply view this as another attempt to debunk these robust fantasies.
Without further delay, here are the top five myths about MMA.
The myth that one should abstain from sex in the weeks preceding competition originated in boxing circles, but this myth applies equally to MMA.
When ol’ Mick told Rocky that “women weaken legs,” he clearly hadn’t consulted the scientific literature.
The truth is that, if anything, having sex before you compete will likely aid your in-ring performance. Indeed, Ronda Rousey apparently subscribes to this philosophy, claiming that she tries to have “as much sex as possible” before a fight.
Studies have shown that prolonged abstinence actually lowers testosterone levels, while regular sex boosts testosterone and increases aggression. Helpfully, this goes some way in explaining why I’m so passive.
Fighters, rejoice. You may copulate with giddy abandon.
What else have we learned, folks? If you’re jonesing for a fight, seek out a virgin, not a porn star.
Bob Arum once famously stated that the MMA fans and fighters are “a bunch of skinhead white guys…”
This is, of course, both wrong and offensive in equal measures. However, the real tragedy here is that thousands of UFC fans who suffer from male pattern baldness have been branded Nazis purely because they lost the genetic lottery.
That travesty aside, the impression does exist that MMA attracts “white trash.”
I hesitate to speculate why, given that Arum followed up the aforementioned comment by saying that mixed martial artists “roll around like homosexuals on the ground.”
In a nutshell, then, MMA attracts gay Nazis, according to the elderly boxing promoter. From this, I can only conclude that we are also extraordinarily confused philosophically.
In all seriousness, one look at any UFC event is sufficient to dispel this myth. MMA crowds are generally extremely diverse, as are the fighters.
Take the various UFC champions as a small sample: two Caucasians, two African Americans, one African American of Korean descent, one Mexican American and two Brazilians.
That’s more diverse than the cast of Glee.
Not too long ago, I wrote an article that examined the differences between boxers and mixed martial artists. Where they tend to part ways is both in their upbringing and their level of academic achievement.
Dana White often points out that boxers tend to have the same story, while MMA fighters come from many different backgrounds. This is largely the result of cultural differences that exist between the sports.
In the aforementioned piece, I elaborated on those differences:
Boxing has a history that is steeped in blue-collar tradition, with its long line of working class heroes who serve as inspirational tales for those who seek a better life. It is in many ways mirrored by the hip hop culture that has developed over the past several decades.
In contrast, mixed martial arts can be viewed as more of a cultural mongrel, comprising elements of East and West, the spiritual and the material, the meditative and the impulsive...etc.
One must also consider the fact that many mixed martial artists have, while wrestling and playing football, earned their college degrees.
This notion that the athletes who compete in mixed martial arts are meatheads or, as Floyd Mayweather once put it, “beer drinkers” is pure fantasy, dreamed up by the sport’s detractors.
While it would be disingenuous of me to say that MMA is entirely safe, it does not carry the kind of risks that many people imagine.
With that said, the perception of MMA as an excessively dangerous sport is to some extent understandable, particularly given its barbarous beginnings.
Indeed, the sport’s early leaders enthusiastically promoted and, albeit briefly, cashed in on its contumacious reputation.
But modern MMA is so well regulated that this perception belongs in the past, along with Tank Abbot, Kimo Leopoldo and Bill “Superfoot” Wallace.
As the good folks over at CagePotato.com point out, people should be more worried about cheerleading than mixed martial arts. You want to talk about a real blood sport? Don’t let the pom poms fool you.
John McCain once famously claimed that MMA is akin to “human cockfighting.”
This was never true, of course. The athletes weren't forced to fight and certainly not to the death.
Despite this exaggeration, McCain sort of had a point. I’m very much opposed to censorship, but the sport’s early image limited its growth. The ceiling was always going to remain low while MMA was marketed as a spectacle rather than as a sport.
Even John McCain admits that his earlier description of mixed martial arts no longer applies, stating simply: "The sport has grown up. The rules have been adopted to give its athletes better protections and to ensure fairer competition.”
Unfortunately, some people will never change their minds. The visual of the cage, the idea of hitting a man (or woman) when he’s down, is simply not something they can stomach. And you know what? That’s just fine. Not everyone has to like it.
Just don’t pretend that it is in any sense immoral.