Photo credit: David Kuhn
That’s the question posed by Mr. Vesia at Martial Views. He brings up part of the timeline of MMA’s history in the US.
Getting MMA on legally equal footing with boxing, kickboxing, etc., has been no easy task for its proponents, thanks to propaganda and bad press. Politicians such as John McCain railed against MMA in the 90s. Still, in spite of what appears to be gratuitous violence, MMA is no more dangerous to its competitors than other contact sports.
I don't think MMA should be banned, though. What do you think?
I planned to respond in the comments, but it got to wordy, so here are my thoughts in reply form to the original post.
I just reread your "Boxing vs. MMA" post because of this one, and I wonder how many of the commenter's views on MMA have changed.
McCain was probably right, in that his original statements and proposed legislation was during the very early days, before Zuffa took over the UFC, and before there were uniform rules governing the sport. The early "rules" allowed a lot. This Wikipedia summary of UFC 1 rules state, “no biting, no eye-gouging, and no small joint manipulation. Fights ended only in the event of a knockout, a submission, usually signaled by tapping the hand three times on the mat or opponent, or by the corner throwing in the towel.” Obviously, there was a real danger of permanent injury or death if the officiating were not good enough.
MMA definitely is a sport, with superbly trained and conditioned athletes. Per Dictionary.com, sport is defined as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc. It would be hard to argue that bowling or fishing are sports, while MMA does not require skill, physical prowess or competition.
MMA has undeniably changed over the years, and improved in quality. When compared to other combat sports, I had the same complaints about it in the early days, even through 2-3 years ago - sloppy technique, poor tactics, and, to answer your post's title, the spectacle approach that was similar to pro wrestling. Interestingly, until the heyday of K-1, I hated watching kickboxing due to the poor technique and sloppy tactics.
I think that has changed, and, from what I understand, MMA has eclipsed traditional martial arts for the young adult demographic - it has some appeal for those who want something more "realistic," but most parents seem to want what a good traditional school and art can offer: life skills development through achievement.
As to your final question, banning MMA? I think we'd have more luck trying to bad ice hockey. Without researching the numbers, I think the passion and viewership numbers for MMA are probably as good as the NBA, and better than anything but the NFL and NASCAR. It should exist if high school football, cheerleading, or boxing should exist. Or back yard trampolines.