Why You Should Be Proud of MMA Matt Juul September 15, 2014 Spotlight As we’ve seen with the NFL’s recent domestic violence controversy involving now former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, sport has the power to speak to fans on a more important level that transcends what happens on the field. In my opinion, it’s our duty as journalists to not just report on these issues, but to also frame the conversation and talk about these topics in a way that can, hopefully, inspire a change for the better within society. Now, football, of course, isn’t the only sport that has to deal with issues of race, misogyny, domestic violence, homophobia, etc., as the majority of sports are forced to confront these topics, including MMA. Just taking a look at some of the stories that have popped up over the last year and a half, the MMA community has been a buzz with plenty of similar issues, including Joe Rogan ranting about race playing a factor in Jon Jones’ popularity, domestic violence cases with War Machine and Josh Grispi, transphobic comments made about Fallon Fox, and the list goes on and on. Going forward, I hope to tackle each and every one of these issues head on, as the combat sports world as a whole could do an increased job of discussing these larger topics. However, before we delve into the underbelly of MMA, I want to take the time to first recognize some of the things that make the sport we all know and love not just great, but actually a force for good in society. I’d argue that there is no other sport in the world that is as inclusive as MMA. Sure, some may scoff at the idea, but let me tell you why they are wrong. First, what other sport features women as prominently as MMA? Aside from tennis and to a lesser extent golf, women are virtually invisible when it comes to mainstream sports. Not only are they not allowed to play with men in most cases, but even when there is a league devoted totally to female athletes, it usually gets less coverage than its masculine counterpart. For many years, the same was true for MMA, but with the rise of Ronda Rousey and the UFC’s various women’s divisions as well as Invicta FC, that’s no longer the case. Not only are women getting the chance to fight, but their fights are being billed just as highly as male bouts. Hell, the massive popularity of Rousey shows that not only can women compete, but also bring in a plethora of eyeballs. Second, what other sport, save for soccer, speaks to a global audience as much as MMA does? Fighting may not be in everyone’s blood, but it’s definitely present in every culture around the world. There’s a reason why the UFC is trying to get into markets in India, China, and elsewhere, and it’s because they know that MMA has the potential to flourish pretty much everywhere. Having such a wide roster and fanbase are great because it allows for perspectives from around the globe to be seen and heard. An ideal example of this would be how both Ramsey Nijem, a Palestinian fighter, and Noad Lahat, an Israeli fighter, were allowed to wave their respective countries’ flags inside the Octagon despite the divisive turmoil in Gaza. The fact that two people from two totally different perspectives, politics, and world views can express themselves without backlash from the UFC shows just how accepting of diversity our sport is. Juxtapose that against the fact than an Irish club was fined for a FAN waving a Palestinian flag during a game speaks volumes to the level of discourse that MMA is accepting of that other sports are not. In addition, in what sport other than MMA do you see athletes of various disabilities get mainstream attention? You can have a hearing disability as did UFC veteran, Matt Hamill, or compete with just one arm as does, Nick Newell, and still be permitted to compete in MMA. What’s great about our sport is that these athletes aren’t relegated to a special league, like the Olympics, but are allowed to prove their mettle against the best of the best, just like everyone else. Nowhere else will you see such a progressive stance taken towards these kinds of athletes. I think that this openness to talent from any country, faith, gender, or background is what sets MMA apart from other sports. Of course, there’s a lot of work to do to make us truly great, but the sport is already on the right track and, I hope, will continue to improve as a force for social good. Maybe I’m just an optimist, but as a whole, I’m proud of the direction MMA is going.