MMA Opinion: Isn’t Fighter Safety an Oxymoron?

Belal Muhammad

Where do good and important discussions go when they die? Is there a heap somewhere in the ether piled high with words and thoughts pertaining to MMA Unions, Unified Rules Consistency, Open Scoring, MMA vs. UFC Hall of Fames, monopolies, and why the heck no one agrees on what pound-for-pound means? Well, if there is, it has gloves and cups on it! Modesty will keep this piece from addressing the cups, but for the sake of some guy named Pete, why do we keep asking about the types of gloves used in the UFC? And when are we going to notice they never engage in that discussion?

Please forgive the cynicism here, but the first answer that any good dime-store, garden-variety conspiracy theorist gives to the question of why a promotion does what it does or not – and in this case must have merit – is follow the money. If one digs and digs and cannot find a good reason that a good thing is not happening, it is probably due to it costing precious shekels. The cynicism has a limit here as it is not the writer's position that fighter safety is unimportant to promotions. One only has to go back a very short way into the past and see the strides that have been made for the good of the fighters. But, it cannot be denied that sometimes the costly thing is slow to be recognized – even if smart people think it best. Early weigh-ins, anybody?

Eye pokes are so effectively debilitating, most worthwhile self-defense courses will include a good eye rake in their tool pouch as an approved method of hurting a hurter. It is quite strange though if thought is given to it that a 250 lb. plus man professionally trained to hurt by swinging a clinched fist seems an acceptable safety risk in fighting, but pointy fingers illicit all manner of recoil. And of course, they should. A spinning heel kick cost Michael Bisping his eye. There is without a question a discussion to be had about how much spin that kick might have had if certain rules about certain medical practices had been in place sooner, but we have already had enough conspiracy mongering for one piece. A spinning heel kick is a legal move. Is that considered safe? A broken finger or toe might heal, but losing an eye is very serious indeed.

So, what about these gloves that keep getting brought up after an eye poke incident like the recent one that had Belal Muhammad scaring us all with his cries in the octagon. You could dig into the annals and find coach par excellence Trevor Whitman speak to the superiority of his own ONX brand gloves (and other gear). And when asked, there might be a little cryptography work to do, but it appears that the UFC (the promotion with the questionable gloves) must work with whoever produces the gloves they use exclusively. Is it reading between the lines then to suggest that if a non-anointed glove is good and lots of MMA folks are using it, it may not ever make an appearance in the octagon? You can answer. In fact, since we are stirring pots, don't those super-duper great gloves Bellator uses that curve just force those fingers on a hand that would otherwise be pointed to the sky in a legal defensive position directly at the opponent's eyes?

It is good to dig into the questions of fighter safety and improve the overall health and longevity of the athletes. But be careful, sometimes digging into things might just leave us with holes. No one should be dismissive and say these are simply occupational hazards and we are doing pretty good overall. But before we open the many cans of worms, we need to know where those worms are going to go or why they are in those cans to begin with. Multiple choice: Which thing does the UFC bonus? A) Knocking someone unconscious, or B) Being safe with the digits. No one tunes into a fight to see safety. Probably why talks related to it will continue to go to the recycle bin.

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