Sunday, 9 March 2008

The BMA vs. MMA

Since 1982, the British Medical Association have had a strong anti-boxing stance. It has called for a total ban on all amateur and professional competition. However, everyone has ignored this and many people continue to watch and enjoy the highly trained competitors in action.

Now the BMA are taking on the world of Mixed Martial Arts:
"As with boxing the BMA opposes mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting and calls for a complete ban on this type of contact sport. Ultimate fighting can be extremely brutal and has been described as ‘human cockfighting’. It can cause traumatic brain injury, joint injuries and fractures.

The BMA believes that doctors cannot stand by while violent fighting tournaments are allowed to take place. Large amounts of money can be earned by participants, promoters and others linked to ultimate fighting but no amount of money can compensate for permanent brain damage and premature death."
There are two things in that first paragraph that really annoy me. First of all, it would be good if the BMA did their research properly so that they could get the terminology right. 'Ultimate Fighting' is a term that's linked to one promotion - the Ultimate Fighting Championship (which happens to be the first and biggest of the promotions). Mixed Martial Arts is the sport.

'Human cockfighting'
This was the second annoying thing about the above quote. It was the Arizona Senator (and current Presidential candidate) John McCain who used this to describe MMA back in 1997. This article tells you that he has attempted to get shows banned in the past. Back in those days, MMA was still relatively young and there were fewer rules. It was closer to Vale Tudo fighting, which means 'anything goes' (that particular style became popular in Brazil).

However, that was 1997. On November 17, 2000, UFC 28 was the first event organised by that promotion to follow the Unified Rules of Conduct, which were implemented by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. Now, all MMA events in the USA must follow these rules. In the UK, Cage Rage (the buggest British-based promotion) also follows these rules, even though they don't necessarily have to.

In the second paragraph from the quote, the BMA state that can cause "traumatic brain injury, joint injuries and fractures". You can get joint injuries and fractures in football and many other sports - why aren't the BMA banning those? You can get brain injuries if you're involved in certain types of driving accidents, so why doesn't the BMA ban both the sport and non-sport versions of driving? That's what you call double standards!

The rules of conduct
The following is what you aren't allowed to do if you follow the Unified Rules of Conduct:
  1. Head-butting
  2. Eye gouging
  3. Biting or spitting
  4. Hair-pulling
  5. Fish-hooking
  6. Groin attacks
  7. Intentionally placing a finger in any opponent’s orifice
  8. Elbow strikes that point downwards
  9. Small joint manipulation
  10. Any kind of strike to the spine or the back of the head
  11. Heel kicks to the kidney
  12. Throat strikes
  13. Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh or grabbing the clavicle
  14. Kicking a grounded opponent in the head
  15. Kneeing a grounded opponent in the head
  16. Stomping on a grounded opponent
  17. Abusive language
  18. Unsportsmanlike conduct
  19. Attacking during a break
  20. Attacking the opponent if he/she is under the referee's care
  21. Being too timid
  22. Interference from a fighter's team
  23. Throwing your opponent out of the combat area
  24. Ignoring the referee's instructions
  25. 'Spiking' an opponent to the canvas on his or her head or neck
A classic theory of martial arts is that technique can overcome power and weight. However, as an additional safety measure, weight classes have been introduced in a lot of competitions. There is also no inter-gender contests.

What about non-mixed martial arts?
After doing several searches, I cannot find a single article which states that the BMA have similar campaigns against non-mixed martial arts, e.g. Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Muay Thai. As a brown-belt in Gendo-Kai Karate, I know that both minor and major injuries can happen e.g. dislocations and breaks. However, I also know that there are and regulations (e.g. these) that have existed for a long time. Competitive Karate has referees and you can be warned and disqualified for breaking the rules. The BMA should either drop it's campaigns against boxing and MAA or make attempts to get all competitive contact sports banned.

Recent news
The BMA reminded us of their policy recently because the first English-based women's MMA bout took place at Cage Rage 25. It was a short fight, but it meant that anyone doubting the ability of female fighters was proved wrong. It should be noted that there was a female MMA fight in Wales a few years ago and matches between women have been taking place in the likes of the United States for ages (competitiors such as Gina Carano have enjoyed considerable success). Yes, they get both minor and major injuries (proven in the match at Cage Rage 25) just like the men. However, if they have the talent and determination, there is no reason for them to not compete.

Criticism from the fighters
In this article, Ian Freeman (a veteran MMA fighter who has just announced he's coming out of retirement), expressed his annoyance at the BMA's stance and reminded us that they had a similar policy with Kickboxing a few years ago:
"You had people saying guys were going to get maimed, they were drawing comparisons with boxing and saying it’s more brutal and guess what? There wasn’t a single KO for something like 6 months."
We have learned that the British Medical Association are basing their opinions on outdated information. In reality, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts is well-regulated and has been for some time. Many promotions have drug testing policies and events have on-site medical staff in case there are any injuries. The BMA also use double standards in their reasons for wanting to ban the sport. In short, their campaign is incredibly weak.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Mixed Martial Arts, British Medical Association, Regulations


MattJ said...

For balance, this is what I think:

To suggest that there isn't greater risk of serious injury in a full on contact sport vs every day tasks that carry a risk, or non-contact sports (athletics, football) is a ridiculous stand point. There is a direct and undisputed relationship between regular and heavy head trauma and brain damage.

Ultimately the doctors are probably over reacting but then they are doctors and they see people deliberately engaging in activities that will almost certainly result in injuries as a little dumb.

I think you can disagree with them but to suggest that their position is completely spurious, as is drawing comparisons with incomparable activities - its the kind of tactic I expect from a tabloid but not from you Dave! 'Are they going to ban driving?' - come on, you can do better than that!

I am inclined to agree with your position but I don't like the way you've gone about phrasing your argument, portraying doctors as idiots seemingly based on a single extract from a single press release, I hope I'm wrong but this post seems extremely partisan to me.

As I say, I am inclined to agree but I would still take the medical advice of a Doctor over a professional fighter.

Andrey Marchenco said...

Then they should prohibit almost all kinds of sport, cause professional sports aren't good for health. As for me I think that MMA is safer for health than boxing. There are many ways in MMA to stop opponent punches: clinches, guard positon and so on. It's not only about punching. So MMA fighter get much less punches in fight then boxer. MMA history has only one lethal outcome in all it's entire history.

Norman said...

i agree with you
im an ontario guy and i hate the government here, they won't allow any MMA fights to happen which means UFC also can't come here til they change the law =/
anyways, wanna exchange links?

Anonymous said...

MMA has as its' purpose to knock somewhat out or submit them using violent methods. As we see in the Houston fighter's case, deaths do and will happen. Boxing and MMA take no precautions to protect competitors with head gear or body gear, so it is essentially a blood lust in both "sports". It's another sign that society as we know it is degrading. Now kids are taking MMA classes. Folks, the empire is in decline.