(Video courtesy of SunNews)
We’ve been getting a ton of emails about this story out of the UK this weekend about the “nine-year-olds cage fighting,” so we figured we should weigh in on the controversy.
During a small local MMA event held at the Greenlands Labour Club in Lancashire, England Saturday night, two nine-year-old boys competed in a 10-minute grappling exhibition in which one of the boys defeated the other when the officials called an end to the bout after the opening round after a kneebar sub attempt appeared to injure one of the kids. Doctors checked both contestants afterwards, and besides a bruised ego sustained by the loser, his leg was fine.
Since the bout, the media has been on a heyday blasting everyone involved in what they’ve termed a “spectacle” including the show’s promoters, the boys’ parents and those who cheered them on from the crowd.
Selective reporting has run rampant and most of the stories have stated that the bout was an MMA one and that the boy who lost was seen crying afterwards because he was badly injured.
First of all, the situation has been blown out of proportion immensely by media outlets around the world since the exhibition wasn’t even an MMA bout; it was a grappling session and striking wasn’t allowed. As far as the one boy crying after the bout, it wasn’t because he was injured, as the promoter has pointed out, it was because he’s a kid and he was disappointed because he lost the match, as he was the ringer in the gym who won all of his tournaments and wasn’t used to tasting defeat.
Was it a bit shortsighted of the promoter to allow two young kids to have a grappling exhibition inside a cage during an MMA event? Yes. Is it barbaric that the boys train and are likely one day going to compete in MMA? Absolutely not, and I’m saying that as a parent, not as a reporter whose bills are paid by the sport.
The problem is that mainstream reporters who are unfamiliar with the sport look at two kids locked in a blood-stained cage like animals “fighting” and they assume that the pair are competing back in 1993, sans-rules, and that the winner of the match is the one who is able to walk out on his own. Headlines with adjectives like “barbaric, shocking, brutal, and disgusting” have been splashed across the front pages of newspapers and websites the past few days succeeded by fantastic stories of orphaned English boys being adopted by unscrupulous promoters and forced to compete in brutal and bloody underground fight clubs. Okay, the last part is from a screenplay I’m working on, but you get the picture.
In reality, the promoters were likely either looking at the move as a publicity stunt, or as a chance to let these kids feel like they’re real fighters — like celebrities — for a few minutes. These kids probably love the sport and idolize their favorite fighters who compete in it, so given the once in a lifetime opportunity to emulate their heroes by walking out, being introduced by an announcer and getting to compete in front of a real crowd of fans, they likely thought they’d won the lottery.
Baseball teams do something similar by regularly letting young fans take to the field with their gloves once a season to mingle with players and to have the experience of imagining that they’re in the big leagues. Hockey teams often as well have a “skate with the pros” day where they let kids pull on their gear and jersey and pretend they’re Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin.
Where I live, we have a professional lacrosse team that lets kids hop on the floor between periods and throw the ball around while the crowd cheers them on. I remember as a kid those 15 minutes or so that I was on that floor showing off my best Lacrosse moves and shots that I felt like a superstar, so when I saw this video and read the backlash that had arisen from the story it disappointed me because it now taints the moment these kids would likely have never forgotten, and not because reporters are calling for Child Protective Services to take them from their parents, who are being blasted for allowing their children to train and compete.
Much like the media, the mothers in my town started making a stink about the in-between period shooting sessions when kids started getting beaned by Indian rubber balls. Some called for the club to put a stop to the longtime tradition. Instead, eventually all of the kids were required to wear helmets and face shields, which make it hard for the paparazzi to get a good face shot, but it’s a small price to pay to possibly be discovered by the scouts who must be watching.
To my mainstream media brethren: These are kids. Let them revel in the limelight for a moment and stop trying to make this out to be something sinister.
To the promoter whose bright idea this was: Did you really think no one would complain about this? Next time, why not let kids into the cage for pictures before the fights start?
To grappling and BJJ coaches who train kids: Don’t teach them leglocks until they are old enough to understand the damage they can do.
To the moms who made the rule that kids have to wear helmets on the floor at Lakers games: I hate you.