The Ultimate Fighting Championship recently decided to file a lawsuit against New York for its statewide ban on professional mixed martial arts events. NYU law professor Barry Friedman is involved with the case, and I think they make a decent legal argument. Claims that the sport is too violent seem to suggest the state has a constitutional right to restrict such forms of expression, but that argument didn’t pan out for opponents of violent video games in California. The slightly more compelling case is the safety issue. MMA is obviously a dangerous sport, but it’s certainly no more dangerous than boxing, which has a long history in New York. Further, as the lawsuit points out, New York does not prohibit gyms that train mixed martial arts fighters, the regular sparring matches that take place inside these gyms, and even amateur competition. New York City also, despite having never held a regulated, professional MMA match, is home to a high level professional kickboxing scene, which, again, is at least as dangerous as MMA. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.
At pretty much the same time as this was announced, Fred Bowen published a bizarre opinion piece in the Washington Post‘s kids’ section deriding MMA (or “ultimate fighting,” as he insists on calling it). “I’ve watched some ultimate fighting,” he writes. “It’s a brutal sport. In fact, I don’t think ultimate fighting is a sport at all. It’s violence presented as entertainment.” That’s pretty representative of the overall argument, both in terms of logical soundness and general writing skill. It’s sort of a self-evidently poor piece of argumentation, but I think what I find most distressing is the Washington Post sees fit to give this guy a public venue to spout off his random, half-baked ideas about things.