“30-27, Leonard Garcia“
The latest political maneuverings straight from the Bob Reilly MMA Cock-Blocking For Dummies handbook are coming courtesy of the sleepy town of Watertown, South Dakota. Once again, a knee jerk reaction to emotional appeal has triumphed over common sense to help ban our sport from another city’s stage. While a serious, tragic event has shaped the decision in this case, the actions of Mayor Gary Williams and Watertown City Council are not just an affront to MMA, but to logic itself.
What we know is this: Late in the evening on March 13th, local MMA trainer Jerrin Stulken was involved in a street fight with Justin Jaton. Both men had been drinking in “uptown” Waterford. Jalton was severely injured in the fight, and this past Thursday he died as a result of those injuries. Stulken now faces charges of either second-degree murder or first-degree manslaughter. What we also know, but can’t at all understand, is that entire sport of Mixed Martial Arts has now been put on trial and found guilty by the city’s local government, which has banned promotions from staging events at the city’s event centers while it pursues full-scale prohibition. As you can imagine, we respectfully disagree with their decision.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that this altercation did not take place at an MMA event. In fact, outside of Stulken’s profession as an MMA instructor this incident has no connection to the sport. Bar fights like these, even those with fatal endings, are routinely waged across the nation by those who have never even watched a professional bout, much less trained for one. To put it simply, drunken idiots like to fight. While Stulken’s background may have helped him dictate the fight, it is not necessarily the cause of it. In fact, the 28 year old trainer has plead ‘not guilty’ citing self-defense. Is he guilty? Who knows, that’s for a jury to figure out; until then he’s presumed innocent by our legal system. What’s interesting here is that the entire MMA community is now being punished for a crime that someone loosely associated with the sport may or may not have committed. All without the courtesy of a trial.
Clearly there is no precedent for this action, nor will any similar actions be taken against other sports. The public perception of MMA as a “blood sport” where two men “fight to the death” is often too powerful for reason to overcome. It’s hard to imagine the sport of boxing being banned if a boxing trainer or even a pugilist himself broke the sixth commandment. If a race car driver got drunk at a bar and hopped behind the wheel, killing someone in an accident, would that end in the closing of race tracks? No, that would be ridiculous because getting drunk and injuring or killing people on the street is not the purpose of race car driving. Nor does it have anything to do with the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. The evil actions of one man no more condemn the sport than the heroic actions of another legitimize it. Politicians, say that you find it distasteful. Say that you worry that someone will get seriously hurt. Those are understandable takes on a sport that will never appeal to everyone. Do us all a favor, though, and don’t make yourself look foolish with wide sweeping legislation that has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with headlines.
Props to CP reader “yanktonirishred” for bringing this story to our attention.
- Chris Colemon