MMA Opinion: Can You Protect Yourself at All Times?
Because we are not in what may be perceived as mortal danger at a given moment, does not mean we are not in actual fact in danger. This is in general, but it becomes very specific when particular endeavors are considered. Base jumping, underwater welding (a real thing), high tension wire work, etc. all have a ramped up danger quotient. Then there are the quiet dangers in various vocations such as stress, mental health factors, high-level exertion or repetitive motions that all can become life-threatening.
Everyone tacitly agrees to some level of danger in their everyday life. Travel, work, diet, hobbies, etc. can all affect what we think of as safety. There was a time in Mixed Martial Arts when uninformed people thought every athlete was in a near-death position every moment in the cage. Then the movement progressed and moved out of the shadows into what is getting close to – though not quite there – mainstream. With regulation, commissions, rules, more advanced knowledge of the effects of training and competition, etc. things have become what some deem "safe." Not everyone died. In fact, there have been almost zero fatalities that can be directly traced solely (and that word solely is operative here) to in-cage competition.
This is the point where we are all lulled into that sense of comfort. Well, since not everyone - and maybe even no one - has died doing it, it must be safe. Then that annoying uncle at Thanksgiving pipes in and says, "You have a way higher chance of dying in a car accident than (fill in the blank)," and we all say, "Whew, that was a close one." Then things happen like the recent death of Justin Thornton dying of injuries that seem to have been a direct result of his Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) fight in Biloxi, Miss. in August 2021. Things like this make us all feel either like the pondering philosopher questioning everything, like the uninformed viewer of early combat sports and think we are affirmed in believing everyone is close to death, or we are like Uncle So-and-So at Thanksgiving who finally has an audience to say without much accreditation to his name that there is less to this than meets the eye.
The truth is simple. Things are dangerous. Specifically, jobs are or can be dangerous. And even more specifically, fighting – in or out of sport – is dangerous. Spoiler alert: Professional Wrestling is not a real competitive sport or fighting, but it takes an immense toll on its "athletes." Even choreographed Martial Arts competitions have their share of injuries – some catastrophic. No matter what is done in the same of safety, there are inherent dangers to combat sports. No amount of argumentation can change what you see your boxing heroes become in later years. No amount of precaution is going mitigate in any absolute way the genuine possibility of major injury or death in fighting.
If we cannot protect ourselves at all times (like the MMA referee says just prior to action) in our daily lives from cataclysms or cataracts, we need to come to grips with the facts – and they are facts – that every time we partake as an observer or participant in fighting we are agreeing to be alright to some degree with what might happen. An average punch from a pro boxer moves at about 25 miles an hour (40 kmh), which is only about .038% of the speed of Earth and we have seen what a bunch of those slower smaller things can do. It is often strange to hear the tone of credibility and outright sanctimonious criticism of combat sports when someone – you know, in combat – gets hurt. What do we think will happen when two people spend a good number of minutes trying to punch each other in the head? Is it realistic to ask fighters to protect themselves at all times? Is it realistic to ask anyone for that matter – at any time?