(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.