It isn’t a new phenomenon for the UFC to step into a market and face resistance. It’s quite common, in fact. But some places take their protest further than others. Back in June 2009, there was enough public outrage in Germany about the promotion’s visit that the Lanxess Arena in Cologne agreed to ban anyone under the age of 18 from attending the event. The move came less than one month from the date of the show, a point at which over 7,000 tickets had already been sold. The total presumably included a significant number sold to families with children.
It is a tactic that is now being tried in Boston, where city councilor at-large Stephen J. Murphy recently put forth a resolution that demanded the prohibition of children under 18 from "cage fighting" events held in the city.
The move was undoubtedly aimed at the upcoming UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen event that will emanate from the TD Garden on Aug. 17.
Yet here is the kicker to all of this: he doesn’t oppose the sport of MMA, not at all. During a Tuesday radio interview with WXBR 1460, he was asked whether he was a fan of combat sports, and after explaining that he boxed as a kid and was a fan of the sweet science, said this: "Mixed martial arts, I’ve seen it on TV before. It’s a good sport. It’s a little rough, but it’s OK."
So what exactly is he objecting to? It sounds like his problem lies in the words and not the actions, claiming it was with the "over-the-top nature of the marketing and hyperbole" that goes along with the sport. In fact, the hype. If that is the case, why would he ban children from the one day when talk is at a minimum? And why should the government take that decision away from parents?
It seems that Mr. Murphy, who has been a member of the Boston City Council since 1997, missed the existence of UFC 118 in August 2010, or a Bellator event held there the same year, or the many various regional fight promoters who have hosted shows in his fine city over the last few years since the sport was regulated in his state. Like the subtly named Mass Destruction Fights, and Cage Titans, and CFX, and Victory Combat Sports.
If you’re wondering whether this is an election year, the answer is obvious. Ceremonial efforts to protect children are a wonderful tactic in any political season, and according to The Boston Globe, Murphy "barely" held onto his seat during the last election, so he may well need the help.
Murphy’s stance is, not surprisingly, almost identical to one taken by New York politicians who are opposed to the bill, and in letters sent by UniteHere, an affiliate of Culinary Workers Union 226, sworn enemy of the UFC. His resolution cites fighters who bear Neo-Nazi messages in their tattoos and clothing, violence desensitizing children, misogynistic, homophobic and discriminatory insults, and other assorted ills that are, apparently attributable in some ways to a professional sport that is sanctioned and recognized in every state with an athletic commission except New York.
Presumably, Murphy has already succeeded in scrubbing the minds of local children who rabidly follow the New England Patriots and would be much more likely to commit a violent crime now that their hero Aaron Hernandez has been accused of the same. Since the start of 2012, here’s a sample of other arrests or off-the-field hot water related to Boston sports:
* Red Sox pitcher Drake Britton, DUI
* Red Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks, DUI
* Red Sox Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, DUI
* Celtics guard Terrence Williams, investigation of assault
* Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, DUI
* Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, suspended for violating NFL policy on PEDs
* Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, suspended for violating NFL policy on PEDs
* Patriots running back Brandon Bolden, suspended for violating NFL policy on PEDs
* Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes, for tweeting he was "homophobic." He later claimed it was a joke.
* Revolution striker Saer Sene, seven motor vehicle offenses
* The Bruins apologized for the behavior of fans making racist comments after African-American Capitals’ forward Joel Ward ended the team’s 2012 playoff run with the winning goal in game 7 of their postseason series.
This is not to cast aspersions on the Boston area sports scene, which is alive and vibrant, and also houses some of the great talents and sportsmen in the world, but to put Murphy’s complaints about one specific sport into a little bit of perspective. He is targeting the lowest-hanging fruit. Mixed martial arts is not established like the other major sports, so he has the least amount to lose by wagging his finger towards the general direction of the octagon.
If he were to look closer, even in his own backyard, he would find that the "media-driven personas" that he objects to are minimal, and that examples of quality people like Joe Lauzon, Kenny Florian and Gabriel Gonzaga not only practice the martial arts with honor, but teach new generations, including children. He would see the confidence and structure it provides to kids. If he were to investigate more, he’d find many experts who say there is no evidence that watching competitive, sometimes violent sports transfers to real-life violence. That sometimes, words are just words, without any real conviction.
A politician should know that best. His resolution, in which he tries to ban a "good sport" is mostly just words, hot air for the sake of attention. He has admitted that the city council has no power to override the state’s sanctioning of MMA, making Murphy’s resolution a bunch of hype. In other words, he’s engaging in the very thing he is also railing against.