Here’s how the Lebanese Youth and Sports minister views mixed martial arts: Two men step onto a mat. They kick and punch each other until one falls to the ground. Then the action really gets violent. And oh, they’re fighting in a “cage”.
Uniformed and tainted by the images shown in media, many critics claim MMA is barbaric and brutal. The exact same way Lebanon is portrayed to Western media as a war-zone terrorist country. It is those images that the Sports Minister chose to showcase during a TV appearance trying to back up the MMA-ban decision.
People, of course, are rightful to judge based on their perceptions. And many find MMA distasteful. However, the reasons cited for such verdicts fall to pieces under the most gentle examination.
The violence? This “violence” occurs between consenting – and professional – adults in a highly controlled environment. If anything, MMA controls the violent tendencies that we all have inside us living in a country where daily struggles serve to boost our stress levels. Believe it or not, most of the martial arts artists prefer non-violent conflict resolution to the violent one. It teaches you to refrain from violence. People who practice martial arts are taught to use what they learnt only for self-defense and when it is the last resort.
The danger? They might be right. But then, so is boxing, kickboxing, horse racing, rugby, and motorbike racing which is more likely to end in a fatality. In fact, all of the above sports have more blotches on their copybook than MMA in terms of athlete safety.
And why is that? Here’s why as stated by the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation IMMAF
- An MMA athlete on the professional level has approximately 12-14 training sessions per week but only 1-3 bouts per year. The physical shape required to be successful in a competition is very high and hence every athlete will have long periods of rest and training in between each bout.
- Athletes in professional MMA are examined by doctors before, during and after competitions. If an athlete is found to have an injury, that will prohibit his or her performance, during a pre-bout medical check by a physician, the athlete will not be allowed to compete to protect their safety. In addition, if an athlete is injured during a competition, the athlete will be given medical suspensions prohibiting them from contact in training until an appropriate time period or being cleared by a physician.
- The most important reason however is that an elite MMA athlete is trained to be offensive as well as defensive and hence knows how to protect himself. Compare this to being unfairly tackled when trying to score in soccer or accidentally falling off a horse when jumping a fixed obstacle during an equestrian race. One reason that injuries are relatively low in MMA stems from this, that MMA is a sport where you are prepared and trained for impact, not where your key task is something else and you might get injured in the process.
And let’s not talk about our basketball and football games where it has become a habit to end the game with savage brawls and riots.
The betting? Another of the Sport’s minister’s arguments. By definition, a sport an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. Like it or not, sports betting is a billion-dollar worldwide industry, with football taking up a big piece of the pie. And yet, MMA in Lebanon is still nothing close to a betting industry, as fans truly tune in and follow for the love of the sport and their favorite athletes.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was designed as an exhibition of various martial arts including wrestling, boxing, karate, jiu-jitsu and more. Ironically, all of these fighting disciplines are individually legal in Lebanon.
Bottom line is, MMA is one of the greatest rapid-success stories of the past 5 years in Lebanon and the Middle East, and does not seem to be losing momentum. The sport is no more violent and has no more influence on kids then boxing, pro-wrestling, violent movies or violent video games. In fact, it’s a discipline that has been shown to grow confidence, teach self-defense, and boosts discipline of the body and mind. It requires great self-control to maintain your body physique, eat right, sleep right, and train hard.
Ask a martial artist to describe the sport, and we bet you will get the following answer: Honor and Respect!
Legalize MMA, there’s no reason not to.