[October 11, 2014] My grandmother was always trying to make a “man” out of me. She had the most ingenious of methods to ensure that I grew up tough and unafraid of the world. One way was to bribe me into participating in various sports – “It makes you stronger, young man,” she would say. One sport she would have surely approved is Mixed Martial Arts. Mixed Martial Arts, MMA for short, is a full-contact combat sport that allows use of the hands and feet for striking and grappling.
MMA is a manly sport. Does it meet the standard for savage manliness? Yes, it does in its original form. But since its introduction in the United States in 1993, rules making the sport less violent has also made it “safer” and, in a word, less “savage” … also more appealing to a wider audience. With the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)1, the sport has become popular worldwide and encourages the use of martial arts requiring considerable physical fitness and mental dexterity.
At the original introduction of MMA in 1993, the UFC tagline was, “There are no rules!” It did, however, ban biting and eye-gouging. It also discouraged hair pulling, headbutting, groin strikes, and fish-hooking but allowed them. In the early days, UFC events had a reputation as extremely violent. U.S. Senator John McCain called it “human cockfighting” and asked that the sport be banned nationally. In response to the criticism additional rules were incorporated. The “savage manliness” of the sport declined as the trend in Western societies evolves toward safer behavior.
We commend the UFC organization for its successful leadership efforts in promoting the sport and making it one of the more popular sporting efforts in Americas. Adaptation is a leadership trait and the UFC has adapted rules for MMA to both ensure its survival and make it more attractive for general audiences.
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