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I decided to pick a fight.

The conversation on violence in society has to start somewhere so why not with our most violent sport or form of entertainment? Decent and civil societies have to draw the line somewhere; we allow parents to discipline their kids to a point, we allow people to drive up to certain speeds; with smoking we draw the line after tobacco and before pot; with “adult entertainment” we draw the line at child porn. Where do we draw the line with violent entertainment? I suggest we draw the line at cage fighting. Boxing, wresting and legitimate martial arts are violent too but the line needs to be drawn somewhere. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) or “cage fighting” is over that line – in fact, even the martial arts people I talk to tell me they hate cage fighting because it is a smear on traditional martial arts. I hope you’ll agree that MMA is over the line of what should be tolerable with regard to “violent entertainment” as child porn is clearly over the line with regard to “adult entertainment.” MMA Cage Fighting is the child porn of sports.

The psychological community will tell you that desensitization to violence works exactly like desensitization to porn. You know how porn progresses… a peek at topless isn’t enough, it all has to come off, then a pic is not enough… it goes to video then to virtual and then to the devaluation and mistreatment of women, human trafficking and sex crimes against women. Violence works the same way. Boxing wasn’t enough so they allowed kicking, kneeing people in the head, then elbows to the face, then they put a cage around it. The point is to knock the other guy unconscious while pay per view crowds cheer it on. Why not nunchucks? In Rome they’d gather in colosseums and bring out prisoners and entertain themselves by making them fight to the death. That wasn’t enough so they brought out the helpless and the hated and brought in the hungry lions. Crowds cheered.

In South Dakota this week there is a bill, Senate Bill 84, which is an attempt to legitimize cage fighting in South Dakota. It’s billed as “economic development.” If that’s all we can come up with for economic development we are in trouble. And our decisions on our tolerance for things violent shouldn’t be about money. If we want to attract dirty and bloody money why not legalize prostitution or bring back the gladiators? We need to stop and think about why two governors in our state have been reticent to appoint people to a boxing/MMA commission. I agree with Governor Daugaard entirely:

I’m offended that the state would legitimize cage fighting and the bloody violence these kinds of spectacles create… the way one wins in those contests is by beating up your opponent, bloodying them, kicking, scratching, punching. I don’t support in any fashion anything the state would do to legitimize this kind of behavior. I think it’s a sad commentary on what our culture allows in some areas.

Couldn’t agree more. Proponents say it’s going on here already so we need to regulate it to make it safe. Meth use is going on here too, should we regulate Meth labs?  South Dakota has no business spending any time or money legitimizing cage fighting.  I don’t care that “other states are doing it.” I’d like to think we are better. Other states run billion dollar deficits and we balance our budget. Maybe with our fiscal sense, we could also be known for our common sense and decency.

You’ll hear fans of cage fighting say that more have died in cheerleading accidents. The point of cheerleading isn’t to knock unconscious the other cheerleaders. And there are growing numbers of MMA deaths in sanctioned and unsanctioned fights. Furthermore, the sport is too new to tell us the long term effects of this “sport” on the fighters. The NFL is paying dearly now for their concussion issues. MMA is far worse. We had an MMA fighter in Rapid City die recently and that is in part what is driving the move now to regulate it so it’s “safe.” Proponents say these blood-soaked slugfests only look dangerous. I’m not stupid and neither are you and this isn’t a show like professional wrestling. It is violent and it isn’t a sign of a healthy society that crowds gather to watch it. This is more than consensual assault and battery as the effects of violence desensitization impact the rest of society.

Here’s how you can help. The bill is scheduled for a hearing on Monday at 10AM in our Commerce and Energy Committee (it may get moved to Wednesday at 10am – stay tuned). I plan to introduce a hoghouse amendment (84rc MMA ban amendment) that will establish the South Dakota Athletic Commission to regulate boxing, wresting and martial arts but I’ve written the amendment to expressly exclude mixed martial arts. It’s basically a ban on cage fighting in South Dakota. Expect hysterics from the sport enthusiasts – one local sportscaster already has dubbed me an ignorant idiot.

And, here are some links I encourage you to check out. Hopefully you’ll agree with me that we can do without MMA cage fighting in South Dakota.

Short youtube clip: MMA Most Violent Moments

Parents, check this out: Five Year Old MMA matches

When people get hurt and die in extreme sports I’ll confess I sometimes have trouble mustering up sympathy and compassion (even as we should comfort their families and guys like me officiate these funerals). At some point we can’t call these things “accidents” as they are more the product of our carefully thought out decisions. I have to bite my tongue because instead of the passages that comfort the grieving I feel like quoting the great philosopher Forrest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does.

South Dakota is smarter than this – and so, let’s ban MMA.

In chatting about this with another legislator this past week we both marveled at how society has changed. He remarked that forty years ago his parents wouldn’t let him watch Three Stooges because it was so violent – poking in the eyes, slapping, bonking. We laugh at that today. What’s on TV today would have been unthinkable a generation ago. In a restaurant the other day I heard a lady say about the MMA match on the television… Oh my, when did they take the gloves off?  I wanted to say… Madam, they took the gloves off when we weren’t watching. Folks, it’s time to start paying attention because we are creating today the world our grandkids will live in tomorrow.

Here’s a pic of what the crowds come for: elbow strike rips off a chunk of cage fighters ear. That’s a section of his ear on the floor in the pic on the left.

ear3

The following are additional comments I made in the Committee hearing.

MMA enthusiasts would prefer I not use the cage fighting term but as I told one of them I’ll stop when they remove the cage. They want us to consider this an art, Mixed Martial Arts. For sure there are skills to the craft of nearly killing people but I’d like to draw your attention to the word mixed. Mixed means plus. It means not just this, it means that too. It’s this, plus this, plus that, plus that. The other martial arts don’t have all “that” as there is line that is drawn. Mixed means a free for all. Who knows what the MMA people will mix in next? Sooner or later this will morph into more than it is today. That’s the nature of violence; it escalates as we are desensitized to it.

They say I’m ignorant of this sport and they make a case that it only looks dangerous. I even had a cage fighter/PhD write me and tell me “elbows are used primarily to cause superficial damage and an elbow doesn’t produce a concussive blow.” That’s ridiculous. My response it that it is what it is – too violent and that is evident to the naked eye and the casual observer. I’ll quickly concede I am no expert on MMA. But as I told one of the fighters this weekend… “just maybe a guy like me can see what you don’t see.”  Violence is addictive and people in addiction (including codependents) don’t see or acknowledge any problem until there is a tragedy, or an intervention. I’m intervening here and asking you to join me.

I’ll speak briefly from an area that I do have professional expertise: there is such a thing as a seared conscience which refers to a person who has lost a capacity of innocence whereby they no longer wince. We don’t want to become a society that can’t wince. Ben Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” I submit to you that society is reaching that point and more masters means more laws like this amendment.

I don’t deny the good that is going on in MMA – giving young people confidence and discipline. But MMA is not the only vehicle to accomplish those ends. It doesn’t take that level of violence to develop character, fortitude, confidence, strength and discipline. Any of the other sports overseen by this commission can do all those good things. MMA feeds something in society that we don’t want to feed.

Society was just fine before they figured out to do this and it will be just fine without it again. We aren’t losing ground with my amendment. Actually, we might even be gaining ground that we’ve lost.

UPDATE: You may also be interested in the follow up post I’ve done on this topic: AN OPEN LETTER TO CHRISTIAN MMA FIGHTERS AND FANS

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