Listen. We get it. MMA isn’t for everyone. That’s okay. It’s a violent sport with the potential for a lot of blood, and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. That it took nearly 20 years for the sport to get a spot on one of America’s flagship national networks, despite the fact that its entire existence has taken place in the “television era,” speaks volumes about the divisiveness of MMA, but thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of people, the sport has become a welcome attraction everywhere in the world.

Well, almost everywhere.

There still remain small portions of certain countries that, for one reason or another, have chosen to enact or maintain legislation to restrict or outright ban the sport. The most famous example, of course, is the state of New York, which remains one of two U.S. states where MMA is illegal (Connecticut is the other). As much as the UFC has lobbied the Empire State to overturn its ban, the sport nevertheless remains prohibited from being held in the country’s most hallowed venue—Madison Square Garden. This, of course, despite the fact that boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu competitions are all legal in New York.

New York’s ban on MMA while allowing each of the sport’s individual elements (and even creating a gray area for amateur MMA) illustrates wonderfully the often silly nature of laws restricting the sport, but it’s certainly not the only place with seemingly illogical laws concerning caged combat. This week, officials from the state of Western Australia, which occupies the western third of Australia, announced that they would be outlawing the use of a cage in MMA events.

This one is a real head-scratcher, because the sport itself is not being banned outright, but just required to be held in a traditional ring. That’s the only aspect of the sport that’s being changed in Western Australia. Every bit of the violence inherent to MMA will still be taking place, but the fact that it will be surrounded by ropes rather than a fence apparently makes it more palatable to the state’s lawmakers.

There has not been a whole lot in the way of justification for the new restrictions, aside from a general notion that the state’s regulatory body “does not believe it is in the community’s best interests to endorse and encourage the use of cages in mixed martial arts contests,” as Minister for Sport and Recreation Terry Waldron was quoted as saying in The Border Mail, an Australian newspaper. Perhaps it’s best that Western Australia’s lawmakers remain silent on their decision, since there’s pretty much no way to justify this half-hearted attempt to somehow make MMA more acceptable.

New York’s outright ban on MMA at least makes sense in the context of an anti-violence argument. Sure, the state has hosted dozens of exponentially more violent professional wrestling events, but if legislators’ stated goal is to not increase the bloodshed in the state’s many sporting venues, prohibiting MMA is in line with that thinking. For the Western Australian government to pretend that removing the least violent aspect of MMA (the cage) is going to make a bit of difference in the “community’s best interests,” then the people running the show are simply out of touch with their constituents.

This doesn’t even get into the fact that MMA in a ring has been proven to potentially be more harmful to fighters due to the risk of falling through the ropes. Fighting in a ring makes perfect sense for boxing or kickboxing, since the grappling in those sports is minimal. In MMA, however, where grappling on the feet can comprise a large percentage of any given round, the tenuous barrier between the ring and the floor can prove disastrous to the combatants. Clearly, Western Australia’s legislators have not thought this move through.

There’s really not a lot more to say on the matter. Western Australia has become the latest in a sad list of places where the people in charge are steadfast in their refusal to accept the fact that MMA is here to stay. The state’s stupid ban on cages (without actually banning MMA itself) is only going to reduce the number of events held there, and thus reduce the revenue that local promoters and fighters can hope to earn. What’s more, the state has effectively nixed any chance that the UFC will come to Perth, its beautiful capital, and bring with it an economic boost for the area.

MMA isn’t for everyone, but as the sport continues to grow in popularity, those places that take misguided principled stands against it are only going to be making themselves look antiquated. New York, while a leader in many areas in American culture, is looked at in the MMA community as a relic of the sport’s “dark ages.” UFC President Dana White and his partners will continue to try to change the state’s mind, but only because it’s one of the top media markets in the world. Places like Western Australia, which is probably as far from White’s mind as it is from his body, will simply become laughingstocks until they wise up.

Photo: The UFC Octagon (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Eric Reinert
Staff Writer

Eric Reinert has been writing about mixed martial arts since 2010. Outside the world of caged combat, Eric has spent time as a news reporter, speechwriter, campaign strategist, tech support manager, landscaper and janitor. He lives in Madison, Wis.