By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly
With the rising popularity of the UFC, now having a hit show on cable television, it was only a matter of time before some of the major news outlets started picking up the sport of mixed martial arts and it’s growing market. Tucker Carlson, who has a show on MSNBC, ran a small segment along with boxing analyst, Max Kellerman, a couple of months ago, and Time magazine, ran an article featuring the sport just recently.
Now, Donny Deutsch, whose program “The Big Show” which runs on cable station CNBC, featured a main segment about the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts. On the show were “Ultimate Fighter” winner Forrest Griffin, UFC Middleweight champion, Rich Franklin, UFC Welterweight champion, Matt Hughes, “Ultimate Fighter 2” welterweight contender, Luke Cummo, UFC owner Lorenzo Fertita and UFC President, Dana White.
The representatives did very well to defend the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts, even when badgered with the constants that have been felt throughout the sports’ history that it is “barbaric” and described as “human cockfighting.”
When the show first started, Deutsch was quick to point out the UFC’s intense show of brute force and the dangerous nature of the sport. Forrest Griffin quickly pointed out that the UFC is sanctioned by state athletic commissions for all of their events.
The host of the show then asked of the show’s guests if the UFC was too violent for children watching at home. When the fighters brought up professional wrestling, Deutsch was quick to point out that pro wrestling is “entertainment” and “it’s fun,” totally moving past the fact that on a weekly basis more abusive language is used, more blood is seen and more violent tactics are employed, fake or not, on a WWE broadcast than during any UFC fight ever televised.
UFC Middleweight champion Rich Franklin, who is a former Cincinnati public school teacher, was also quick to chime when the host referred to the possibility of two people fighting each other at home simulating the fights on the UFC, that it is routinely seen and publicized in the brutal nature of backyard wrestling, where spectators of the WWE or whatever wrestling organization, will jump off of roofs and put each other through wooden tables to immolate their favorite shows.
Matt Hughes, who was obviously perturbed by the lack of knowledge on the subject that Deutsch showed, also was quick to point out that mixed martial arts is a full contact sport, where in no one has ever died from injuries sustained, where as in other full contact sports such as football, boxing or even pro wrestling, their participants have suffered multiple deaths during competition.
In the next segment, Donny Deutsch then referred the UFC as a “business of blood” and then proceeded to ask the fighters about the lightweight nature of the gloves that are used by participants. Forrest Griffin pointed out that gloves were not made to protect the other fighter but to instead protect the hands of the fighter throwing strikes.
An article that was featured in the New York Times recently was the next topic of discussion, where promoters in South Dakota are known to have pulled people off the street and just put them into a fight. Again, the UFC fighters defended with the fact that those fights are not sanctioned by any athletic commission like the UFC events so clearly are. Matt Hughes had one of the most intelligent statements of the entire show when he declared that comparing those fights to the UFC is like comparing street racing to Nascar or Toughman competitions to professional boxing.
Deutsch then talked about the “gladiatorial” nature of the sport, putting two men in a cage to fight “no holds barred” as he called it. Rich Franklin stated that the cage is there to protect the fighters. The sport of mixed martial arts combines many elements of kickboxing, submissions and wrestling, and the cage could prevent two fighters from falling through ring ropes as opposed the walls of the cage stopping the combatants from suffering any kind of injury falling out.
Clips were shown of many different fights from UFC, a few of which were from Matt Hughes and his fights with Carlos Newton and Hayato “Mach” Sakarai, and in the segments shown it was mostly Hughes in a mount position reigning down punches and elbows onto his opponents. Again the host of “The Big Show” pointed out what he called a “brutal” type of fight where one man has the other pinned down and is punching him. Franklin asked the question if it would be better for the other fighter to be knocked down, get a standing 8 count, and then while still gathering his senses is allowed to take more punishment from his opponent as happens in the sport of pro boxing.
A neurosurgeon, Dr. Peter Carmel, was then brought on to give medical facts about the dangers of mixed martial arts competition. His brainstorm began by deferring to an interview Deutsch had conducted with Hulk Hogan a week prior in which he called the UFC “barbaric.” The doctor said that if this man who is pretty violent himself calls the sport “barbaric” then it must be. The doctor did give some medical back up to his statements, saying that striking like knees to the head could cause the brain to be torn away from the head, causing injuries in the same way that led to the death of boxer, Leavander Johnson just recently.
UFC owner, Lorenzo Fertita, who was a former sport regulator in the state of Nevada, commented again that the UFC is a full contact sport no different than boxing or football. In the early days of the UFC it was marketed as a “bloodsport” and he himself was appalled at the level of violence. The UFC now works with athletic commissions to sanction fights professionally.
Fertita also mentioned that the submission hold, a rear naked choke, that the doctor also mentioned as being fundamentally dangerous to a fighter’s life is a legal move in the Olympics, used in Judo
UFC President, Dana White, also made references to the sport of boxing which he described as a sport where one man stands in front of another man and the winner is the one who punches the other fighter more times in the head, or until one person is knocked out. He also mentioned Roberto Duran who gave up while between rounds in his fight with “Sugar” Ray Leonard and how he was ridiculed for the rest of his career for that moment, where as in mixed martial arts if you tap out or are submitted it is not dishonorable at all to walk away and live to fight another day.
The show closed with Forrest Griffin applying a choke to host Donny Deutsch, in which the host proclaimed that “5 or 10 seconds” later he would have been dead, to which Griffin responded with the reality that is that he was cutting off the flow of blood to his head and in a fight either he would go unconscious or the referee, “who is your new best friend” as Griffin put it, will pull the other fighter off and the fight is stopped.
The show displayed some of the best spokespeople for the entire sport with the athletes that were featured in the interview. Forrest Griffin showed a true knowledge for the sport and seemed to knock down every so called “fact” that Deutsch had to bash the sport of mixed martial arts.
The sad reality is that this is still the way that many mainstream outlets view the UFC and mixed martial arts, due to the harsh way the sport was perceived during it’s infancy. But if the UFC can get more of their stars to show their intelligence about the sport in avenues just as this, maybe the mainstream world will learn to accept mixed martial arts for what it is…an exciting full contact sport with more action than anything on television today.