“One of the more fascinating aspects of mixed martial arts is understanding why people watch it. Most other sports have obvious and mostly singular appeals: They showcase elite athletic feats and elicit some emotional cocktail of pride in seeing your side win and/or schadenfreude in seeing the other side lose. Much can be said about the combination of catharsis and entertainment, but that umbrella tends to cover everything.
MMA is a little more fractal than that. Fans flock to the fight game for a number of different reasons. For some, the enjoyment comes from purely sporting purpose, as they want to see high-level athletes doing high-level combative chess; others come to MMA for the martial arts component, to see the skill, honor and discipline of ancient practices applied to real-life situations; and of course, there are those who simply want to see some bloody, violent chaos. All three of these are perfectly legitimate reasons to enjoy the sport.
A clip from the MMA Beat last week made the rounds, with host Ariel Helwani making the case for why the Ultimate Fighting Championship should not promote itself as violent: “Outside of the MMA world, in what realm do you ever hear the word ‘violence’ used positively? It always has a negative connotation, yet we promote it and celebrate this word and want to stick it on our sport like it’s some cool thing to do. It disgusts me.”
This is not the first time this argument has been made — you may recall early last year when SBG Ireland trainer John Kavanagh voiced a similar gripe — nor will it be the last. That’s a good thing, though. It’s a worthwhile discussion to have, and fans should be grappling with the violent nature of the sport they support…”