MMA fighters – athletes or thugs?

As a sports writer with no meaningful political leanings it is not often that I feel compelled to jump into the political ring and throw a few punches at the people who run this country.

However, this is one such occasion where I feel I have no choice but to don the gloves, pop in the gumshield, look out my spitbucket and ready myself for action (fear not, the fighting analogies will become apparent in a minute – just as soon as the bell rings). 

 Ding ding, round 1.

My opponent for the day is Sandra White MSP and the reason for this verbal joust is her comments towards the thousands of people in this country (and millions abroad) who partake in the sport of MMA (mixed martial arts).

Despite the fact that elite competitors in this sport will train upwards of four hours a day, spend years learning specialist techniques and skills from a variety of fighting disciplines and look after their bodies with the utmost care and attention by stringently regulating intake of fats, sugars and alcohol, the right honorouable Sandra White has branded it human cock fighting rather than a sport.

Her comments, on a Scotland Today news bulletin – which asks whether fighters are thugs or athletes – can be seen on the video below.

Mrs White has saddled up and mounted her high horse on this particular occasion because of the upcoming MAX Xtreme Fighting event in Glasgow next month. The event at the Braehead arena on 15 March will attract around 4000 spectators and will see some of the most highly trained fighters on the planet compete.

However, her attitude is a real roundhouse to the face of these fighters who display the kind of dedication and determination that is so lacking in this country – including from many of our MSP’s.

Who is she to detract from the skill and athleticism of these fighters and to brand their sport “human cock-fighting” when she has never been to an event? What makes them any different from footballers, rugby players, racing drivers, jockeys and boxers?

Every time they participate in their chosen sport they risk serious injury or even death. Just last weekend Arsenal forward Eduardo saw his leg shattered in a challenge and I could spend all day listing other serious injuries (and sadly, worse) in other sports.

Yet they are not faced with the same derision and calls for their sport to be outlawed. There can be no doubt there is an element of danger to MMA but that is the edge on which many sports are based and  is what separates elite athletes from normal human beings.

MMA fighters have spent years becoming expert in accepted sports such as boxing, Karate, Tai Kwon Do, ju-jutsu, wrestling and Muay Thai to name just a few. They then pull all of these disciplines together to perfect the ultimate combat style.

Sandra White on the other hand, spends her days bickering with opponents, engaging in political one-upmanship, trying to make the most friends, arguing about which party has the best ideas and telling anyone who will listen that they could do it so much better. The Scottish Parliament – powerful political chamber or primary school playground?

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