MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world. The biggest organization in MMA, the UFC, is broadcast into half a billion homes, in 19 languages and more than 170 countries yet the sport has struggled to pass legislation in certain states and countries just to hold an event within their boundary.
The failure of legislation is often boiled down to that of an uneducated general public who have little or no knowledge of the sport. These people tend to forget the aspect of the athleticism and skill that goes into the sport but rather focus on the violence and bloodshed that goes hand in hand with a combat sport.
Just asking people I recently met at university of their opinion on the sport and the general consensus was that of MMA being barbaric and human cockfighting. Socially, the sport has often been condemned within the media and public with the average person conditioned to see the sport as unethical and depraved due to the use of knees, elbows and punches to a ground opponent.
Recently on talk back radio in Melbourne in the wake of UFC 127 in Sydney, listeners called in voicing their displeasure that referees don't stop fights that have a fighter administering punches to a ground opponent. These same people often prefixed their rant with, "I am a long time boxing fan," a sport that allows fighters to be knocked down repeatedly and continue to get up and have damage inflicted. MMA knockdowns, on the other hand, usually result in the end of the fight.
These people often rub off on fellow members of the public that further encourage the opinion that the sport is barbaric. It is often this perception that has stopped MMA being legalized in certain parts of the world.
In Victoria, Australia the sport of MMA itself is not banned but rather fighting within a cage is banned. To the educated and even part-time fan of MMA, it easy to see why most organizations such as the UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator use cages for their fights. You don't have to know all the intricacies of MMA to tell that the cage is the safest venue in which to house MMA competition, yet it is the uneducated politicians and public that forces such legislation like "no fighting in cages," to be in effect.
In the state of New York, MMA is still currently illegal with a small vocal minority affecting the decision making of politicians. It is the vocal minority that often refer to their misinformed view of the sport that holds back legislation being passed in certain areas.
The main argument against the sport is that of its safety. Ultimately though these miscued perceptions are not backed by hard evidence and statistics. The safety record of the UFC is impeccable with no death occurring at a UFC show and only two deaths occurring under sanctioned events in the USA.
To put into perspective, there have been 56 High School Football deaths according to the Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury between 1993 and 2009 whilst the sport of MMA had one death prior to 2009. To say that a sport is unsafe when a High School sport causes more deaths is ridiculous.
Further arguments go to that of the level of blood that is shed within the sport. It is hard to watch fights such as Joe Stevenson v BJ Penn and not cringe at the site of pools of blood dripping from the forehead of a fighter. Many like myself don't see blood as a major part of the sport, however, in the eyes of the uneducated public it is often linked to that of a barbaric undertaking.
Most of these people fail to see past the violence and blood to that of the athleticism and skill that it takes to be a Mixed Martial Arts fighter. Being skilled in one or two areas of combat is often not enough to cut it in the professional MMA world, just ask James "Lights Out" Toney.
The men who enter these events are highly skilled in a number of martial arts that takes years of dedication. These areas are often derived from socially acceptable Olympic sports such as Judo, Wrestling, Taekwondo and Boxing. Yet when these martial arts are joined together to form a sport, that would somehow seem unethical.
To block a sport from occurring in a certain area due to grounds of excessive violence and risk of death or serious injury is unacceptable when the evidence clearly points to the opposite. Denying the rights of fighters and the public alike to see MMA fights at the Madison Square Garden is unjust.
Since the UFC's inception in 1993, you could say the the MMA era is occurring within the combat sport world. Increased competitions and organizations are beginning to sprout at the regional, national and worldwide level. It is clear that the world is infatuated by a sport described by UFC colour commentator Joe Rogan as "the sport of fighting," yet it is to the determent to the sport that a small minority continue to hold it back.