The Shotgun Blog
Sunday, February 24, 2008
John McCain vs. MMA
This post started off as a simple plug for the upcoming Mike Miles/CAKMA-sponsored Muay Thai event in Calgary, but I’ve included a little something for US presidential primary watchers.
With friends and business associates, I’m a regular sponsor of Misty Sutherland (Download misty_sutherland.jpg), a great 125 pound amateur female fighter who is on the “Malicious Intent” card with Jesse Miles, Sandra Bastian and some other great Calgary fighters. The event is on March 1, 2008 and you can get tickets by calling (403) 244-8424. Mike Miles and CAKMA always put on a great show to sold-out crowds.
But this isn’t a blog for fight enthusiasts, so here’s something for our political news hounds:
Mixed martial arts (MMA) and combat sports like kickboxing and Muay Thai are extremely popular these days. Fighters like Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell have become celebrities and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the biggest organization in the sport, even has its own reality show on Spike TV.
However, huge pay-per-view audiences and mainstream acceptance in the sporting world hasn't come easy for MMA or the UFC. The sport was once under attack by Senator John McCain, who called it “human cockfighting”:
The UFC became a hit on pay-per-view and home video almost immediately due to its originality, realism, and wide press coverage, although not all of it favorable. The nature of the burgeoning sport quickly drew the attention of the authorities and UFC events were banned in a number of American states. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), was sent a tape of the first UFC events and immediately found it abhorrent. McCain himself led a campaign to ban Ultimate Fighting, calling it "human cockfighting", and sending letters to the governors of all fifty U.S. states asking them to ban the event. (Wikipedia)
The Republican presidential primary candidate who sings playfully about bombing Iran once thought voluntary combat among highly trained athletes in safe and controlled environments was just too violent.
Posted by Matthew Johnston on February 24, 2008 | Permalink
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For anyone who remembers hearing about ultimate fighting when it was still relatively unknown, McCain's view of it is not all that unreasonable. There was an underground aspect to it along with playing up the "no rules" slogan that made it sound more like "Fight Club" than anything you see on television today. I remember news stories talking about how fights would end only by surrender or death. And while the UFC might always have been a more legitimate organization than this, there were lots of imitators that were inspired by them that might have been much closer to the "Fight Club" image than to the UFC. So to think of something so described as "human cockfighting" is not all that outrageous.
Boxing has long been a sport that requires its participants to have a license, so the idea that other forms of combat sports should be regulated is not new or crazy. I don't know of their being much resistance in the boxing community to the requirement of government approval for individual fighters, so the idea that ultimate fighting should need government sanction is not special to it.
I suppose that ultimately a true libertarian would have to say that if people really want to freely choose to fight to the death and charge people to watch, then it is not the place of others to stop them, but that would be a view takers.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-02-25 6:21:20 AM
[correction to my last sentence above...]
... but that would be a view with few takers.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-02-25 6:24:46 AM
I highly doubt that McCain actually sees MMA , a sport , to be ' too violent ' as compared to bombing Iran .In his years of real combat and imprisonment I don`t think he would be impressed by some fancy but usually unworkable arm bar or round kick . Rather he probably sees such a rise in its popularity as a sad commentary on how violence and war may become and is becoming reduced to a triviality , not to be engaged in , seriously.
Posted by: daveh | 2008-02-25 7:25:54 AM
Verb tenses are important here. McCain's opposition to ultimate fighting was in 1996. Twelve years ago the sport was little known, advertised that fights might end in death, and the tape McCain saw well could have included a man being punched repeatedly in the groin while he was down or being hit after he was already unconscious - things that did happen. UFC today is a much kinder, gentler version of ultimate fighting then - either as it really was or as it was advertised to be. For McCain to have opposed it then is completely different from what it would mean for him to oppose it now.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-02-25 7:59:45 AM
There have been a few rule changes since the UFC first arrived on the scene. The first time I saw it I couldn't watch an entire match. It reminded me of the back alley fighting I grew up around. I eventually became desensitized, and now actually enjoy watching.
My involvement in a different combat sport makes me curious about different aspects of the mixture of fighting styles. For the most part, it's pretty boring compared to a good old fashioned Tijuana boxing match. Face it, every sport has rules, otherwise the UFC champion would be the guy who could shoot the straightest.
Mike Miles has done a great job of promoting, and improving Muay Thai and kickboxing. I share a facility with a kickboxing club, and have gotten to know the community fairly well. I hope that their association can eventually be recognized as a legitimate amateur sport.
Posted by: dp | 2008-02-25 9:09:25 AM
FC and dp - I think my premise remains , maybe even more so .In `96 , the violence was even more gratuitous . And the knuckleheaded ' spectators ' , living out their power trip fantasies ,hoping that they too , by osmosis, could kick ass by watching ceremonial martial arts , were more in need of chastisemen. At least now , there is an element of entertainment to it . This ' community ' for the most part is composed of a bunch of boorish dolts , hoping to grub some money . Take a hard look and listen to these dimwits try to communicate.
Posted by: daveh | 2008-02-25 9:34:20 AM
Mike Miles is no dolt. He's a pretty good businessman, as well as being a 3 time world champion.
I actually find it a bit hard "listening" to you, trying to communicate. The overuse of commas makes it difficult to follow the subject of your sentences.
I do agree with you on the subject of the spectators. I once went into the crowd when some guy started jeering me after I got stopped in a rather bloody fashion. I've learned to accept these idiots for what they are, ticket sales.
Posted by: dp | 2008-02-25 9:59:30 AM
You are grasping and OK you`ve made the point that you`ve seen action in your time , as have I.
I thought that the use of a comma would denote a pause , before the next related thought. To make it simpler I will , from now on , strive to end one sentence containing one piece of information , with a period . Then I will start a whole new sentence with the next piece of information .
Also , should I really care who Mike Miles is ?
Posted by: daveh | 2008-02-25 10:26:59 AM
Hi, Fact Check. This may be a sad admission, but I've watched every UFC available on pay-per-view, VHS and DVD, including a recently re-released UFC 1-5 DVD collection.
Even these early UFC events had rules, referees, judges, doctors, etc. The changes made to the rules from the early 1990s until the UFC was first sanctioned by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board in 2000 were primarily intended to improve the event theatrically. Introducing timed rounds and weight divisions, banning head butts and groin strikes, making fighters wear gloves, etc was all intended to improve the fights and increase the action so that easily-bored American fans would be entertained. (I can explain why this improved the action if you’re really interested.)
Some concessions were admittedly made purely to accommodate those who regulate combat sports, but full contact MMA is actually very safe and the number serious injuries is much lower than in hockey and football for examples. Furthermore, an unregulated sport is better in my mind than the gangsterism of athletic commissions. These organizations will let you put on an event as long as they get a percentage of the gate. They want a taste...a piece of the action, or they’ll shut you down. (The athletic commissions are sometimes the only people making money off smaller events.) Call me a cynic, but it’s not safety these people are concerned about; it’s money.
As for the McCain connection, it is important to note that the man who tried to ban today’s fastest growing sport will likely be the Republican candidate for president. It wasn’t a “sissy” Democrat (as Adam Yoshida would say), but a nanny state Republican who led this petty campaign against freedom.
Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-02-25 10:29:26 AM
I was just messing with you. Made you look though, didn't I?
You don't need to give a hoot about Mike Miles. It's entertainment, and all entertainers/athletes understand that not everyone appreciates their craft. If they can't deal with rejection, they'll never make it in the industry. My son had a fight in Edmonton last year, and when he was introduced not one single person cheered. Not much fun for a teenager.
As far as me seeing action, it's ancient news. Is that an oxymoron?
Not even the President could stand in front of the steamroller that is MMA right now. It's turned into a multi-billion dollar industry. It's real life Rollerball. You'll probably see McCain shaking hands with Kimbo Slice, and accepting the endorsement of Dana White before this campaign is over.
Posted by: dp | 2008-02-25 10:52:02 AM
Sorry dp to get my shorts in a knot . If you want to hear a real mangling of the language just go to CPAC and get a load of Dion trying to outline his position in Afghanistan . This man should be arrested for murdering the English language. What a dufus ; sorry professor dufus.
Posted by: daveh | 2008-02-25 11:09:42 AM
Mccain's hostility to mma in that era, while perhaps knee-jerk, was not entirely unjustified, given how it was presented and unregulated at the time.
In any event, he's softened his stance with the regulation and reform of the sport, so the issue seems largely moot now.
"They have cleaned up the sport to the point, at least in my view, where it is not human cockfighting any more. I think they've made significant progress. They haven't made me a fan, but they have made progress," McCain tells NPR.
Posted by: Chris | 2008-02-25 11:14:11 AM
FC: I'd be one of those takers. I believe in a free society.
dp: I train at Mike Miles club. He's a 4 time world champ and has trained 30 world champions. Train under him for just a few lessons and you'd see why. He's a meticulous perfectionist.
daveh: It's true that some fighters lack a command of English, but so do some people in every job/sport. There are also many degree holders in the UFC and at Mike Miles. Degrees don't mean as much as they used to, but my point is that many of them are good thinkers and are articulate.
Posted by: Veteran | 2008-02-25 12:03:57 PM
Fact Check is framing the debate dishonestly, which is quite unlike him to do. The UFC was never a no rules, fight to the death event, to which many natural rights libertarians would actually be morally opposed. It was a typical full contact mixed martial event backed by some overdone promotional hype that you see before most fights. The UFC was different than countless other tournaments in one respect – it was bigger and on TV.
What I find disappointing about the comments made so far is that nobody really cares that McCain’s first response to being offended was to call on the nanny state to ban the sport. This is the man freedom loving people want as their president?
Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-02-25 12:48:38 PM
It would seem to be an unusual reaction from someone who values rights and freedoms. If he's still queazy from his stay in Hanoi, maybe he isn't ready for the job.
veteran- I hope you'll show support for your fellow athletes, and come to "Fists of Fury 4". I am not part of the show, but I always support my friends who put it on. Ask Mike, he'll have the details.
Posted by: dp | 2008-02-25 1:04:52 PM
dp: Is that a Miles event? I don't go to MMA because of the clientele, but I sit behind Mikes corner at all his events. It's nice to drink scotch and watch everyone kick butt.
Matthew: No one who loves freedom wants McCain as president. They're voting for Ron Paul. Why would pro big gov't voters be offended by big gov't acting as it always has? Why would people be shocked and awed?
Posted by: Veteran | 2008-02-25 1:17:56 PM
OK Veteran , point taken . I`m merely trying to highlight the extreme WWF - like mantra that some of these fighters seem obliged to utter. It`s canned and boring and I know they are not that stupid. Just once I`d like to hear a hockey player or fighter go beyond the usual ' you knows ' and team efforts ' and % 110 `s and say something , anything interesting and controversial and not cave in to the happy talk media , with their agenda for pap and jingoism .
I respect anyone who takes it upon themselves to work on this stuff ; just let clowns like Don King do the promos. They are naturals at making asses of themselves.
Posted by: daveh | 2008-02-25 1:31:07 PM
I've seen plenty of athletes dumb down when talking to reporters, or even fans. I can't explain it. I've seen Alberta born rodeo stars speak with Texas accents. I see lots of snow white teenagers talking like 50 cent. Strange aint it?
veteran- It's actually in Medicine Hat, but there'll be Miles fighters on the card. I'm not into that particular sport, but I share a facility and have been treated very well. My son gets to spar with a 3 time Canadian champ, Kim Morris.
Posted by: dp | 2008-02-25 1:39:48 PM
You'll find a much more respectful attitude in Muay. It's not even close to the MMA crowd.
Posted by: Veteran | 2008-02-25 4:31:31 PM
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