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Broken Jaws and Double Standards in Women’s MMA

(Quit staring, sicko. Photo courtesy of Combat Lifestyle.)

Steve Cofield has an interesting piece on Yahoo! wherein he lambasts the “sickos in the blogosphere” for reveling in Kim Couture’s pain after her fight in Las Vegas on Friday night. The main thrust of the article is Cofield trying to figure out what went wrong that allowed Couture to suffer a broken jaw, among other injuries, and still fight for three rounds. Cofield describes Couture as “ill-equipped to defend herself” and says that many fans left the arena that night “sickened” by what they saw.

This argument raises an obvious double standard regarding men’s and women’s MMA. Kim Couture isn’t the first fighter to suffer a broken jaw. She’s not the first to keep fighting with one either. The fact that she did so speaks to her toughness, and if she were a man we probably wouldn’t feel the need to say anything more about it than that.

But that’s not what’s happening, simply because she’s a woman. Suddenly, what would have been gutsy becomes sickening. We start looking around for someone to blame, rather than reminding ourselves that this is a tough business where people routinely get hurt and fight hurt.

It’s especially interesting that while Cofield’s show of indignation has him questioning Randy Couture‘s decision not to throw in the towel, the promoter’s decision to have the women fight three five-minute rounds (normally reserved for men), and the commission’s decision to allow her to fight at all, he never even mentions that on the same card John Alessio broke his arm and then continued on to win the fight.

This makes me wonder what we’re really talking about here. It can’t be just broken bones. Not unless you believe in a hierarchy of broken bones that places more importance on the jaw than the forearm or nose or hand or any of the other bones that are occasionally broken in MMA fights.

If you go to enough live events, you’re eventually going to see someone get their jaw broken. You know why? Because MMA is a sport that involves people punching and kicking one another, often in the face. Broken bones are inevitable from time to time. Is it dangerous to keep fighting with a broken jaw? Probably. But fighting is inherently dangerous. This is nothing new.

What this is about is a visceral reaction, not an intellectual one. I think Cofield — who knows his stuff regarding MMA — is really objecting to seeing a woman hurt, which means he’s essentially objecting to seeing them fight.

It isn’t as if Kim Couture was matched up with someone out of her league. According to Sherdog, that was Kim Rose’s first pro fight, just as it was Couture’s. And it isn’t about the fact that she continued after being hurt, either.

Couture put forth a valiant effort even after being drilled early on. She even dished out some punishment of her own, despite Cofield’s characterization of the fight as egregiously one-sided. If she was unable to continue, she could have quit. She had a cornerman with plenty of experience in this business, so one has to assume that he knew what he was looking at.

It’s also not about how long the rounds lasted. If we grant that women can fight, there’s no sense in saying they can’t fight for as long as men can. Couture’s injury likely happened from the very first punch of the fight, so making the rounds two minutes shorter wouldn’t have made a significant difference.

If we take away all those red herrings, what we’re left with is an objection to seeing women engaged in violent pursuits. To some extent, I can understand that. As much as I believe that men and women are equals, it’s still more difficult for me to see a woman get hurt than a man. But you know something? That’s my problem, not theirs.

It’s my problem the same way it’s the problem of the people who object to MMA in general. To a certain kind of person, anything that results in people getting hurt, risking death, or shortening life is something to be feared and abhorred. But we recognize that while those people have a right to that viewpoint, they don’t have the right to inflict it on others who would rather get hurt, risk death, and shorten their lives than be forced to live without it.

This is the argument we make in favor of MMA. Why wouldn’t we make it in favor of women’s MMA?

Those women who choose to become MMA fighters are doing it because they want to. They’re doing it for the same reasons male fighters do it. We should at least extend them the same courtesy, whether we like it or not.

(-Ben Fowlkes)

Cagepotato Comments

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angieeange- June 28, 2013 at 1:37 pm
I personally feel that people need to stop criticizing women MMA fighters for doing their job. This is a very dangerous sport that they themselves chose to participate in, because Kim Couture broke her jaw and continued to press on during the fight does not make her any different than a man who breaks their arm and continues to fight.
gracies suck ass- June 24, 2008 at 7:40 pm
I love watching woman fight, something much more primal bout it, they just go after it and don't stop, don't you'd ever see a "kalib starnes" in FeMMA. and to all those pussies saying "Oh noes she's bleeding noooooooo" grow a fucking pair jesus christ, big fucking deal if it's some tramp stamped wanna be fighter getting fucked up she learned her lesson, if she ever gets back in the cage I'd watch the fight, she's proven she's got more balls then 90% on the mangina parading fags round here and she kept fighting, can't ask for much more in a fight, least there was no fucking ghay ass stoppage like we see in so many male fights.

Oh yea about the whole towel shit and randy being a bastard for not makin here quit, she wants to fight, let her fight, I woulda been outraged had this shit been stopped, since she was obviously still in it even after having her jaw smashed up.

Kim couture despite anything you may hate her for (like making randy a ball-less bald faggot ass bitch who books on a contract) is a WARRIOR! I'm looking forward to her next fight :D
MMA news- June 24, 2008 at 5:53 pm
Yahoo breaks the news and sets the agenda; everyone else just reacts.
Itchy- June 24, 2008 at 3:07 pm
pple are just being idiots, there athletes first then you worry about thier sex.......pple are onyl caruign because they have vaginas yes .....some guy gets injured keeps fighting hes balsy happens in womens mma and this shit happens where an article need to be written discussing it ...... thier athletes ..alot tougher than the pple like myself making comments on here .treat them with respect ... if you dont liek seeing girls get hurt even in mma then go live ur disney lifestyle to urself ..pretending that they should stay home baking cookies and dinner. once again in male mma a broken jaw is ratings and a good fight .....womens mms its contrevoursy .......let them fight
Kim Couture is a cunt- June 24, 2008 at 3:02 pm
@ Darryl

I'm 6'2 and have a 16 - 6 Muay thai record and a brown belt in Jits, does that make me redneck that would get his ass kicked by Kim Couture? While I give her prpops for the beating she endured, it looks incredibly god on her. Her outspoken bullshit and her obvious push to go pro and capitalize on her name and position makes me sick. Her and the fiasco surrounding the Couture's is almost as bad as Kimbo Slice. Now that Yoko "Mills" Couture got ktfo, maybe she will fade into obscurity.
Darryl- June 24, 2008 at 1:07 pm
By the looks of the some of the backwards comments made by people we have a long way to go before we reach true gender equality. Anyone can abuse women over the internet or in real life, but it takes a real man to put aside his ego and insecurities and accept that women have just as much right to be in the ring or octagon as men. Kim Couture would kick the ass of every sexist redneck thats posted on here, and you guys know it too.
boner- June 24, 2008 at 12:18 pm
bah, all cofield is doing is perpetuating the double standard. All one has to do is look to the couture gonzaga fight. Didn't gonzaga break his nose in that fight and keep on fighting? Didn't Randy break his arm? The only time a fight is stopped is if an injury becomes likely to somehow hamper the fighter's ability to defend themselves. Clearly Kim was defending herself. If we're going to allow women's boxing and sports in general, and if the women enter it voluntarily, they should be under the same stressors lest the validity of it be challenged.
The Natural- June 24, 2008 at 12:14 pm
Finally Kim will keep her mouth shut!
Mike Tyson- June 24, 2008 at 4:44 am
If I can't punch the bitch, then I want to see her get punched. Screw em. Now Couture is licking her wounds and I am laughing my ass off. It is not like someone held a gun to her head or she needed the money. I disagree with Kim's cootchie above. Donkey punches should be allowed. A donkey punch (For you French wads out there) is going to one knee and giving the old lettuce patch an uppercut.
Kim Couture is a cunt- June 24, 2008 at 4:41 am
I will say it again, FUCK Kim Couture, she is a money grubbing, spotlight wanting whorebag. She is a cunt and the beating she took looks perfect on her. Now if Fedor could only give Randy "the flake" Couture the same sorta treatment. Fuckin losers. Beat it.
whatever- June 24, 2008 at 4:10 am
I disagree that this is a double standard and actually it frustrates me that it has ended up this way. Kim is tough no doubt but she was clearly out matched and should have never been in there. I would have felt the same way if a guy acted like she did. Watch her hands when she tries to defend punches its horrible to watch. Its not anyones fault but Randys. I think the guy is awesome but she was obviously not ready and she only got this fight because she is Randy's wife. He clearly should have seen that she was not ready for any fight.
phil magroin- June 24, 2008 at 3:40 am
I gotta agree with Tully, There was a friggin doctor right there. If she couldn't continue safely then he would have stopped it. As for women fighting in pro MMA, Why not. I find it slightly more interesting than the WNBA.
willhenry- June 24, 2008 at 3:21 am
I don't watch women in most any sport much so women fighting are no different. But they want to fight, let them fight. You should appreciate guts in any form they come.
Man or woman continuing to fight with a broken jaw is guts, so all this bullshit about a woman getting hurt fighting is just that, bullshit. If someone wants to be a lumberjack then grab hold of the log and shut the fuck up.
Ryan- June 24, 2008 at 3:00 am
No offense Ben, but I think you've missed the boat on this one.

Think back to Riley-Fisher - what happened? Doctor stoppage b/c of broken jaw. Riley didn't ask for the fight to be stopped.

Now, just recently, we have Stevenson-Pelligrino and Gurgel-Saraiva (and I'm forgetting another) => those fights weren't stopped, but the breaks weren't apparent. Same thing with Alessio-Spratt, and Couture-Gonzaga, and Le-Shamrock. Hell, Kin-Galesic was recently stopped after Kin broke his arm, but Kin didn't ask for the stoppage. If he felt he should continue, why not let him? Or old school, what about Marquardt-Misaki?

That's the whole issue here, Ben: Couture's jaw was CLEARLY broken. The doctor SHOULD HAVE stopped the fight, and it was very easy to see the damage. Her corner's decision to let her continue, or her own decision to continue are irrelevant in that type of situation.

Furthermore, the thing with the round limits: he's not suggesting women shouldn't fight 5 minute rounds, he's questioning the athletic commission's judgment in allowing Carano-Young only 3 minute rounds, but debut fighters to go 5. It's an issue of parity. All I have to say is, from this point forward every single (pro) female fight organized in Las Vegas better be 5 minute rounds.
reckless- June 24, 2008 at 2:52 am
when there are enough fighters. make a female power ranking lol.
Esther- June 24, 2008 at 2:42 am
I've been pretty upset all week reading forums and then Cofield's piece and feeling like not a single writer was going to address the inherent double standard being used to judge Kim Couture's first professional fight.

So thank you.

And re Garth's comment and your response, I would say it's up to the ref to judge severity. If the ref felt Kim Couture could continue, then she's certainly allowed to do so.
Kim Couture is a cunt- June 24, 2008 at 2:02 am
Fuck Kim Couture, she is a cunt.
bird-dog- June 24, 2008 at 2:00 am
..... i just (hope) the next female to get her jaw broke is josh koscheck
bird-dog- June 24, 2008 at 1:58 am
shes a grown woman. if she can decide to work a mans job and decide who she wants to vote for then she can decide for herself if she wants to quit. Randy is a competitive warrior... of course hes attracted to a woman with the same spirit. Some men like to be protectors and are attracted to women who want to be protected. i couldnt watch my wife fight but i have no problem watchin somebody elses... i just the next female to get her jaw broke is josh koscheck
Mark's Right- June 24, 2008 at 1:43 am
Agreed. Ben a very well written piece to which I must agree.

And to sum up some great points... and terrible Infalacies.
first point
Womens pain threshhold is NOT higher than a mans, or is a man's higher than a womans. I took part in a study at CPPSU that verified men will willingly tolerate pain more than women, and Genetic heritage is the key factor in who will Quit when pain gets too high...Suprisingly White males are the most willing to recieve pain until the limb is numb, and black males are typically the first to refuse any more pain. (remember, the pain is optional, and nothing is on the line. also, the subjects didnt realize they were being tested on pain tolerance.)

Second point.
The relation to welcoming fighting into the mainstream (MMA as a whole), or rejecting it based on the arguement of unnecessary and gruesome violence... The relation of this arguement in regards to men vs. women MMA fighting i believe does NOT hold water in the direct sense. i respect (as everyone should) a persons right to choose their destiny in life. but i do NOT enjoy (like many others) seeing a woman brutalized on live television.

It is simply how "I" was raised. I have Never, nor will i Ever, lay hands on a woman in a physically threatening way. So upon seeing this behavior, reminds me of the trauma women deal with because of this behavior (even if consensual).

and to tie all together, to draw sense of it... think back to 9/11.

I watched the twin towers crumble while thousands died and inside myself just cried and wept with weakness and sadness...
But the following week i watched clips and photos of dead men, (terrorists), bombs destroying mountains, cities and small villages... and inside i cheered for they death of others...
i accept Men fighting. i do NOT accept women fighting... i will tolerate it, but i will avoid watching it, even if i payed for it on PPV.

its not the same sport. women are NOT men. completely different animals folks.

I support the women living this dream, just like i support gay marriage.

Thanks for reading
teachbug- June 24, 2008 at 1:23 am
I think women fighting is trashy, and stupid, and its not anything I care to see.
I also dont want to see a cooking show with 2 men, just dont care.
I think women who try to play in a mans world are trashy and stupid.
Hey dumbass women you are suppose to be soft, feminine, and not driven to fight by testosterone like men, get the fuck out of the ring bitches!
I know nothing- June 24, 2008 at 12:48 am
Cofield's piece was written to stir up controversey. It's the same approach Jack Thompson uses when attacking video-games. I guarantee this piece will get Cofield more "press" than he deserves.
Regardless of skill in the ring/cage Kim Couture is a freakin' warrior. Anyone who argues the point is insecure in their own skin. 'Nuff said.
Kim's Cootchie- June 24, 2008 at 12:42 am
I am ok with Women fighting. Just no Donkey Punches. ok?
tully- June 24, 2008 at 12:17 am
well i would say i trust the judgement of the referee, ringside doctors, trainers and coaches in both corners, and the fighters themselves - who are trained professionals and experts on the sport, with experience in these situations, all of whom have ways to stop the fight and know better than anybody when to do so - over the judgement of cofield.

if only there was some kind of medical expert that could be at the fights to determine if a fighter has sustained too serious of an injury to continue fighting, oh wait...

does cofield know those guys are there? is his argument, then, that he knows better than them? because that is not an argument he is gonna win with this guy. ill trust the guys who went to school and get paid to do this.

and i didnt see a one-sided beating, i saw a definitive win via decision by a better fighter, but kim was fighting back and trying to win the entire time, if she wasn't, well theres a referee there to stop the fight. and if the conversation is, who knows better when to stop a fight, cofield or a referee, well i think you know where i'm going with this.
Old, Bald and Irish- June 24, 2008 at 12:04 am
I can't help but compare Couture's valiant, and perhaps a little bit extreme, decision to fight on to the baby-ass-wiping stopages of the EliteXC/CBS show.

Thompson got his ear popped and they stoped the fight? A poke in the eye? A cut on face, by a female fighter, no less?

I would take any of those injuries over a busted jaw!