Underground MMA: The Biggest Danger to Our Sport

Mark Hopps@HoppsyMMACorrespondent IMay 18, 2009

I was spurred on to write this article based on the human cock fighting argument of MMA's most vocal of detractors of late Bob Reilly. We have some fantastic arguments in our favour and the sport has become a vastly more accepted worldwide.

The fact is New York will inevitably become the host of a UFC event, MMA is already crashing on its shores and the tide will soon rise and enter the city but ammunition is the last thing we want people like Reilly to have as fans.

Anyone who recognises the intimidating figure in the picture of this article as Roy "Pretty Boy" Shaw will likely know where I am headed. and if you think he looks scary, you should have seen him in his prime.

Illegal and unsanctioned fights have always took place in the UK and USA in England a rivalry between Roy Shaw and another bare knuckle and unlicensed boxing legend Lenny Mclean (the cousin of world famous boxing promoter Frank Warren) was hugely publicised to the point Mclean was interviewd on the highest rated talk show on British TV at the time. There fights can be seen on you tube, Underground wasn't exactly underground in the '60s and '70s.

Thankfully we have came a long way since these times but to think its still not happening would be naive, I speak from personal experience.

The unlicensed game can still be found in both countries, promoters use loop holes to stage these contests when otherwise they would be illegal. Loop holes such as not paying the fighters, the fighters get paid believe me as I say I speak from experience, it is however under the table.

The rules in unlicensed MMA and boxing may well be there but they are rarely strictly enforced and this kind of event is a breeding ground for bad press, i'm surprised the opposition has not picked up on this more and used it against sanctioned MMA.

They are not all bad I have attended and participated in such events that have been run well, although never perfect.

Although the dangers of these events exist they are where many fighters we see in proffesional bouts started out and i belive they will always be there and to some extent, if done correctly have many good points. You have to start somewhere.

The real danger to our sport if the media decided to focus on it are the completely illegal events. In the UK we have a phenomenon called Field Rage. An underground event taking place all over the country secretly promoted to those "in the know."

People involved in the fight game inevitably here about the events especially ametuer and semi pro fighters and the less than law abiding element who attend and run gyms all over the country.

In America the likes of Felony Fights and other illegal fight clubs much like Field Rage in the UK have exploded and the major difference between now and then is who's taking part.

I expect some harsh judgements for this but I have attended a field rage event more than once in support of friends who where fighting.  It may be easy to shoot me down for this but its certainly not easy to let friends and training partners down.

In the past such bare knuckle events took place in the gypsy community on the whole in the UK but now, and i hate to say this, due to the popularity of MMA and the explosion of gyms across the country anyone and everyone from all walks of life where attending and participating.

In the states this phenomenon has also grew, you only need look at the popularity of Kimbo Slice and the fore mentioned felony fights to see this. Frat boy fight clubs seem to be the in thing. of course this would have happened before but is far more prevalent now.

The danger of somone getting badly hurt or killed is far higher in these events and loosley oraganised fights and if that happens it will set back the progression of MMA ten-fold.

Imagine what Bob Reilly would say to a story like that breaking whilst the UFC is still fighting for acceptance in New York.

It is difficult to offer any advice or point of view on what should be done about the more illegal fights, obviously they will always take place and the authorities do nothing more than break them up, at least in the UK.  This does not change the fact they are a huge threat to the sport.

I only hope that nothing serious ever happens in these illegal events as they grow and that they eventually fade out. The influence of MMA will always be there just as the influence of professional wrestling, another sport that similar controversy followed is still there.

The media is yet to fully pick up on this dangerous aspect influenced by MMA, if we are lucky nothing will happen that will fire it into the spotlight.