April 30, 2007

Baby Jesus Wept

This is the kind of thing that just makes me want to punch dirt.

MINNEAPOLIS -- A half-dozen cities across Minnesota have banned or restricted ultimate fighting as the growing sport that mixes martial arts and street brawling gains popularity.

Got that? It's mixing martial arits and street brawling, eh? Street brawling? What would it take for a reporter filing something like this to actually, you know, research the topic they're reporting? Because, if they did, they might then accurately report that ultimate fighting mixes martial arts--primarily Muay Thai and boxing--with grappling andr jiu-jitsu, fighting disciplines that take some seriously intense and dedicated training to master, whereas street brawling is. . . well, if I have to explain the difference, you're pretty much brain dead.

The sport is likely to draw more restrictions by public officials concerned about safety, unruly crowds and the sport's reputation for lack of regulation.

Public officials who wouldn't know mixed martial arts from a watermelon, who instead react with knee-jerk "restrictions" because Old Grandma Gertie raised "concerns" about safety during a city council meeting consisting of an audience of three people a month ago.

"It's very, very violent," said Tim Sletten, the police chief in Red Wing, which recently prohibited the sport. "It's street fighting in a ring. Until it's regulated and done as safely as possible, I don't want it in Red Wing."

The day I see a street fight that ends in an armbar or a triangle, with one guy tapping out, and the other guy releasing him amiably, Tim Sletten and I can have a nice conversation. Until then, Tim Sletten can go leap off a cliff, in a nice, regulated and safe way.

A ban is also approaching in Willmar, where a resident had hoped to hold an event next month.

"I think that the image people have is that it's street fighting, no-holds-barred, kicking, punching and wrestling," Willmar Mayor Les Heitke said. "People say, 'It's not really a discipline.' Well, it probably is ... but it doesn't come off that way."

What? You're banning something because "it doesn't come off as a discipline?" Well, in that case, why not ban, say, chocolate, because it doesn't come off as a fruit? Jesus Mary Kay.

Willmar Police Chief Jim Kulset said the crowds for ultimate fighting can easily get out of hand. "You get very aggressive entertainment like that, just add alcohol, and it's instant problems," he said.

Add alcohol to knitting and it's instant problems, you gonad. Add alcohol to St. Patrick's Day, and it's instant problems. Add alcohol to football, and you have a typical Sunday in October, as well as instant problems. I wonder if Police Chief Jim Kulset would be okay with ultimate fighting if the venues were alcohol free. Likely not.

While rules vary among venues, ultimate (fighters generally compete in a caged ring in timed rounds. They punch, kick and use submission holds and martial arts moves that take years to perfect.

Wait a minute, wait a minute: I thought it was street fighting and brawling. Now I'm so confused. Which is it? A highly trained discipline, or aimless fist throwing?

Proponents say criticism is overstated and stems largely from ignorance about a competition that has evolved from its anything-goes beginnings into a skilled athletic contest. Done right, it's safer than boxing, they say. What's more, they welcome state oversight.

Proponents sound like a downright rational, logical bunch of people, don't they?

"There's a difference between a sanctioned show, with trained referees and security, and a 'sign-up-and-fight' type of show," said Mike Reilly, who trains fighters in his Bloomington garage.

Seems like a pretty cut and dried difference to me.

Still, an attempt to bring mixed martial arts under supervision of the state Boxing Commission failed, in large part because Reilly and others weren't convinced that commissioners knew enough to regulate the sport.

And since the boxing commission very likely knows jack-shit about ground fighting, I wouldn't want them regulating it, either.

"I think they'll regret it," said state Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, who is on the commission. "Something is going to happen ... and somebody is going to get hurt."

Look, Dick. You listening, Dick? It's called "Ultimate Fighting," so yes, somebody is going to get hurt. In fact, probably during every fight. How many people have gotten hurt during boxing? Oh, A LOT, despite the existence of a boxing commission? Okay then. Boxing averages somewhere along the lines of 11 deaths a year. Ultimate fighting has, I believe, one death chalked up since its inception. So go suck it, Dick.

Only a decade ago, mixed martial arts bouts were taboo in most states, where they were commonly referred to as toughman competitions. U.S. Sen. John McCain called the sport "human cockfighting" and urged states to ban it.

Oh, for fuck's sake. While ultimate fighting may have it's roots in Toughman, ultimate fighting and toughman competitions are completely separate entities. There's no groundfighting in toughman competitions. There's no Butterbean in ultimate fighting.

But the excitement of the competition, with its well-sculpted athletes and trash-talking personalities, combined with increased regulation and the popularity of the reality TV show "The Ultimate Fighter" has pushed it toward the American mainstream.

Well-sculpted athletes? As opposed to those beer-swilling, armchair-sitting athletes we've come to know and love, I guess. As for "trash-talking," I must be watching the wrong UFC fights. Or maybe I've just been de-sensitized to the trash talk, what with Mike Tyson saying he was going to eat his opponent's babies and chomping on ears.

"Ever since that show started, our phone has been ringing a lot more," said Andy Grahn, program director for the Minnesota martial Arts Academy in Brooklyn Center, which trains about 250 martial arts students and a few fighters.

Ringing a lot more, why? Because of complaints? Because of people interested in training? Why the increased ringing? Are people dialing the wrong number? Are we readers just supposed to come to our own conclusions? What a great, inconclusive quote.

Today, 22 states regulate it with help from athletic commissions, said Marc Ratner, vice president of regulatory affairs for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world's largest mixed martial arts promoter.

Good on them.

In Minnesota, responsibility for hosting events and providing medical attention and security is placed on individual clubs, promoters and, often, communities.

Good on them, as well.

Several years ago, West St. Paul, Fridley and Spring Lake Park banned or restricted competitions. Fridley's decision came after a fan was severely beaten in a parking lot during an event at a bar. Police believed that the victim and his assailants had been drinking.

So, let's see if I have this right. A FAN was beaten, IN A PARKING LOT, OUTSIDE of an event. Quick question: how often do drunken parking lot fights happen outside of bars that DON'T host ultimate fighting events? Count me as unsurprised if the answer comes back "Oh, about every night."

"They got on top of him like they do in ultimate fighting and just kept pounding his head," Fridley police Capt. Brian Weierke said. "That's what put him in a coma."

They? As in multiple assailants? Or they, as in gender-neutral singular? And even then, SO WHAT? It was a drunken fight outside of a bar that happened to be hosting an ultimate fighting event. What if it had been a drunken fight outside of a bar that was hosting a Super Bowl gathering? Should the Super Bowl be banned? Or, hey, let's just ban restaurants.

Posted by Ryan at April 30, 2007 09:34 AM | TrackBack

See, MMA and UFC are bad because people like them and, in liking them, they get riled up and sometimes get in drunken fights.

Without the UFC et al., there would be no violence of any kind, anywhere.

Besides, these people would ban alcohol, fun and bars if they could. Heck, they'd probably ban Twinkies.

Posted by: Erik at April 30, 2007 02:23 PM

You are a thug that glorifies violence and the world will be a better place when you die in a fire.

Posted by: fudspong at May 1, 2007 06:56 AM


Thanks for the vote of confidence.


Posted by: Ryan at May 1, 2007 07:23 AM

Hey, just kidding, and just letting you know that I'm still alive. Nonetheless, for the benefit of those amongst your readers with a more contemporary disposition, do you think you could try to be a little less reactionary?

Posted by: fudspong at May 1, 2007 07:31 AM

I tend to be reactionary here because I don't have a lot of time to blog/thunderjournal. Only about once a month, if that, I find myself with the luxury of being able to sit for three hours at home to sanitize a post and be more analytical. As it is, I only have a quick five minutes every other hour to rip apart something, while also thinking about other work-related tasks. So, I come off as snarky and reactionary.

Now, if I were blogging for living, you'd likely see more thoughtful, analytical, less reactionary content. As it is, however, it's a hobby that I use to make my job as a technical writer/editor a bit less dry.

Posted by: Ryan at May 1, 2007 08:13 AM

Fair enough, but what may not immediately present itself as obvious to you, is that your readers ("us") are also short of time, and consequently have to be choosy about how they ("we") spend it. And as much as we all wish it were otherwise, unless you're out to pick a fight (naming no names, Jehovah or whatever you're calling yourself at the moment) you tend to gravitate towards those with the same world-view as your own. And personally, 'cos that's all I have to offer, a reactionary opinion is one I'd rather not indulge in the rare moments I have to spare. Hey, but it's your bl . . um, thunderbox, so you write as you see fit, but I find it a shame that I don't 'check you out' nearly as often as I used to. But fuck, it's not like I'm a major sponsor or nothing.

Posted by: simon at May 2, 2007 05:31 AM

Keep in mind, Simon, I write in this space for me, not for others. If others enjoy it, fine, great, dandy, but this is a personal journal first, and pretty much everything else, second. Now, as you say, if I was doing this for a living, and you were a sponsor, I'd do more to woo you and keep you coming back. As it is. . . I like you and all, but it was just that one night, and we were drinking. . .

Posted by: Ryan at May 2, 2007 07:15 AM

As it happens, I still have trouble sitting down . . .

Posted by: simon at May 3, 2007 04:58 AM

If it makes you feel any better, it's illegal to engage in trick knife-throwing with a human target in Washington State. So you can use a human and a trick target-- where you don't actually throw the knife and one pops out of of the target at the appropriate time --or you can use a real knife and and no human targets. But you can't do the thing where you throw a knife and narrowly miss a human target.

Which just seems stupid to me. I mean, consenting adults and all that.

Posted by: Joshua at May 4, 2007 09:07 AM

That's the part that gets me. Two guys who agree to a fight, and a grown audience that agrees to watch them. Try to ban that, and they'll just go underground and fight anyway, with an audience.

Posted by: Ryan at May 4, 2007 09:48 AM

Uh. I was actually kind of being ironic. I mean, if the money's right people will consent to play Russian roulette. That doesn't mean we should let them, or have paying audiences watch them.

Like yeah, the knife thing seems stupid-- until you picture some poor schlub with a knife sticking out of her eye socket.

I guess I'd be in favor of MMA fights if there was more certification and health rules, like in pro boxing, to keep people from killing themselves.

Posted by: Joshua at May 4, 2007 03:33 PM

I guess I'd be in favor of MMA fights if there was more certification and health rules, like in pro boxing, to keep people from killing themselves

The ruleset in MN is a direct emulation of the NSAC (Nevada State athletic comission)rules and regulations. The reality of the siutation is that Pro Boxing is more dangerous and "lethal" than MMA. Quickly pointed out by the fact that in Boxing fighters are given 10 seconds to try to regain their footing (regardless of composure) up to three times, one per knockdown-even if they forget arithmatic, their name or age etc in the process. Whereas in MMA or "Ultimate Fighting" or whatever you decide to label it if a fighter is even percieved to be in danger it is more than likely that the engagement will be stopped, IE no 3 knockdown rule. People cannot get over the unorthodox attacks seen in MMA bouts and I believe this and general "Lady Marmelade sop box antics" will sadly be the death of this new sport in Minnesota. Although its not entirely new, just new for us-case in point, look up the term Pankration. Also 4 boxers have died THIS YEAR SO FAR, and the sole death attributed to Mixed Martial Arts was in 1998, in the FSU. AND the deceased had a documented heart condition....his name was Douglas Dedge. I love talking to a digital empty room I feel better inside....

Posted by: Your Mom with a wooden spoon at May 11, 2007 06:18 PM
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