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Wheelchair MMA and Why The UK Should Be Banned From Having Ideas

(That’s nice guys, but we’re just gonna stay out of this one. / Photo by Pattee Mak) 

Although I can’t pinpoint the exact date, at some point last week I found myself in a position that a blogger/writer for any niche site oft finds themselves in: tapping their fingers and waiting for some news to break that anyone would give half a shit about. “You know what you should do,” one of my roommates informed me, “is write an article about disabled athletes in MMA. It would tie in with the Paralympics and be quite topical.” It was a pretty good idea, so I immediately (well, after I set down the bong, I suppose) started drafting up some ideas and angles to approach such a story with. I started thinking about guys like Nick Newell and Matt Hamill, who, despite their disabilities, were still able to break open a can of whoop ass when the occasion called for it.

I also began to think of Kyle Maynard, who, despite being an incredible talent and inspiration, was simply not cut out for the sport of MMA. To put it politely, his amateur debut against Brian Fry was bizarre bordering on embarrassing. This was not due to Maynard’s physical limitations or desire to give the sport a try, but simply because someone out there thought that the fight should be both publicized and videotaped without first considering how it would be received by the general public.

But be that as it may, I began to draft up an article discussing the positives and negatives associated with disabilities in professional sports. I planned to discuss Oscar Pistorius, Im Dong Hyun, and Peter Gray. I planned to ask you, our esteemed readers, whether or not the decision for a disabled athlete to compete in a sport as dangerous as MMA should rest on the shoulders of the athletes themselves or of the commissions that are supposed to be protecting them.

That was, until I came across this article on Fighters Only this morning to find that a promotion in the UK was apparently moving forward with, and I cannot place enough emphasis on the quotes here, “a series of bouts with fighters in wheelchairs and also amputees under MMA rules.”

I had to pause, then rub my eyes, then reread a title that I was sure belonged on the floor of The Onion’s fictional newsroom somewhere. But alas, wheelchair MMA is apparently a sport that a group of presumably sane-minded people agreed was something the world needed to see.

In one fell swoop, the article I had spent a couple days milling over had been negated. Because the truth is, no matter what we think is appropriate in regards to disabled athletes in MMA, promotions like Wheeled Warriors/Ultimate Cage Fighting Championships will always exist to completely violate any logical discussion we might have had on the subject. Promotions run by people so blind, so incompetent, that they could think for even one second that wheelchair MMA would be a good idea.

Of course, Wheeled Warriors head Colin Wood is under the impression that this idea is actually “for the benefit of both the fans and physically-challenged fighters across the globe”:

We have come together to bring both amputees and wheeled fighters into the ring to compete just like any other. I had the pleasure to attend as a ringside spectator to the UCFC’s most recent endeavour – UCFC 4 – which had 13 bouts of amateur and pro MMA action on the card and featured special guests from the UFC Ryan Badar and Clarence Dollaway.

It is clear this concept is well-received and ahead of its time as very few would expect something of its kind to come to fruition so soon. To conclude, this is a great collaboration which surely will improve sports and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. Both sides are gaining opportunities.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for allowing disabled athletes the right to participate in able-bodied sports. Murderball is awesome. The Extremity Games? I’m all for it. But the line between advancement and outright dangerous exploitation has to be drawn somewhere, and the decision to strap gloves onto disabled people and have them fight in wheelchairs for our entertainment takes a steaming shit all over that line. Peter Gray competing in the major leagues with one arm is one thing, but this idea is entering Bucky LaGrange territory in a hurry. On a fundamental level, being crippled below the waist conflicts with the criteria necessary to compete in MMA, just as being blind conflicts with the criteria necessary to become a military pilot. Without delving into it too far, one has to wonder how things like leglocks, takedowns, and recovery from said takedowns are even possible in this sport. And if those rules have somehow been altered or removed, why even call it MMA? I believe the quote that “man’s reach exceeds his grasp” applies here. Just because crippled people can compete in MMA, or some form of it, does not mean that we should be backing the idea with 100% enthusiasm.

But let’s look past the logistics of this “sport” for a moment and just dissect the wave of stupidity that has apparently taken over the British MMA scene as of late. Just a few months ago, our buddies across the pond delivered the hybrid sport Ultimate Ball upon the world. What was it a hybrid of exactly? We’re not really sure, but it appeared to combine the worst aspects of MMA and rugby with legal gang rape and a street riot mentality regarding strategy. It was harder to watch than ArmFC’s child fights and will hopefully never show its ugly head on this earth again. Yet somehow, the powers at be have decided to move forward with an idea that is even more exploitative and offensive for completely different reasons. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the athletes involved to determine the risks and rewards of competing in such a sport, right? Or should the promoters be held responsible for allowing such an event to transpire? Would you look at that, I’ve managed to relate back to my original question after all.

In either case, we’ve managed to snag an exclusive video of a similar competition held just last weekend that will completely invalidate any serious points we were trying to make with this article. Welcome to CagePotato.

-J. Jones

Cagepotato Comments

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ctastrophe- September 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm
"Don’t get me wrong, I am all for allowing disabled athletes the right to participate in able-bodied sports."

"Just because crippled people can compete in MMA, or some form of it, does not mean that we should be backing the idea with 100% enthusiasm."

"But at the end of the day, it’s up to the athletes involved to determine the risks and rewards of competing in such a sport, right?"

The third quote I will assume is rhetorical based on tone and the obviousness of the statement. How you could write these three ideas in the same body of work and not see that you needed to explore your thoughts on the matter a little more before publishing is beyond me. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to be able to think all three of these statements can be true at the same time, and I think it would be edifying if you took the time to figure out which one you agree with.

The only way you could hold statement #1 to be true would be if you had the opinion that Phil Doherty has in the comments below: Being inclusive means supporting the athletes' choice to compete, and making accommodations in order to help them achieve equal opportunity. You go from saying "Crippled people can do anything they want" to "if you let crippled people fight you're exploiting them". Which is it?

"[T]he line between advancement and outright dangerous exploitation has to be drawn somewhere"

That line is when the parties involved aren't consenting adults. Just because the thought of two guys in wheel-chairs beating the piss out of each other makes you uncomfortable doesn't mean that those fighters shouldn't have every right to find a venue to make a living off of something they love. This whole piece reminds me of all the nay-sayers in the South Park episode where Timmy wants to sing in a band. Timmy loved doing it, but those who were uncomfortable with him went around saying that he was being exploited for everyone's amusement and that he should be sheltered and not allowed to perform.

Stan said it best: "Timmy made us smile, and playing made Timmy smile, and so where’s the harm in that? The people that are wrong are the ones that think Timmy should be protected and kept out of the public’s eye. The cool thing about Timmy being in a band is that he was in your face and you had to deal with him whether you laughed or cried or felt nothing. That's why Timmy rules."

Funny how someone who is familiar enough with both South Park and the character Timmy could miss the whole point of the first episode featuring Timmy.

phil doherty- September 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm
yes I did - click hidden comments to see replies
crappiefloper- September 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm
I still don't think Pen's question was answered Phil.
Callum_a_133- September 11, 2012 at 11:11 am
As former assistant editor for Fighters Only, I wrote a feature on this nearly two years ago. Sadly it never made the cut due to the contentious nature of the subject matter. I think there are two perspectives here that must be looked at. First is the argument that everyone has a right to fight MMA, providing their safety is of the highest regard. I interviewed Nick Newell and he was a very frustrated young man. Although he was steaming through opponents, his biggest challenge was finding someone to fight him because nobody wanted to lose to the disabled guy. Then there was of course Kyle Maynard, who received a torrent of abuse regarding his match-up to the point he became withdrawn and upset. I also spoke to Kyle and he told me he resented the way the press and keyboard warriors alike treated him and his promoter, David Oblas. Many described it as a ‘freak show’ and ‘the death of MMA’. Yet what concerned me is the media often failed to mention Maynard’s fantastic wrestling calibre, becoming the 12th best in his weight division in the States. Prior to the fight, the media also failed to present the fact that he was considered a downed opponent at all times, so there would be no kicking involved. We also have Paralympic judo yet nobody blows the whistle about that. So why not MMA?
This brings me to the second perspective. After nearly 20 long years, MMA is still fighting a battle of acceptance. If the masses still can’t stomach two men throwing down in a cage, then they’ll definitely be disgusted at the thought of paraplegic fighters beating the crap out of each other for other’s entertainment, no matter how athletically gifted they are or how many rules have been put in place to protect them. Then there’s finally the added danger of cowboy promotions cashing in and sending the sport further into disrepute. As an idealistic concept disabled MMA may sound, the world simply isn’t ready for it.
Vera- September 11, 2012 at 12:35 am
Perfect for Anthony Johnson...he can just take off his prosthetic legs to make weight !
Pen Fifteen- September 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm
How the fuck did people like phil doherty end up on this site? Jesus Christ, this place is turning into the set of an Oprah taping.
phil doherty- September 11, 2012 at 7:07 am
Well since I run a martial arts publication, my group has its own MMA gym with fighters competing every month, I run fight shows, know the top people in the industry and help publicise some of the top shows in the UK I guess I have as much right as anyone to come here...
crappiefloper- September 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm
I'll be the asshole yelling,"stand em up! Stand em up" for once.
angry little feet- September 11, 2012 at 6:03 am
Oh that is so wrong. And yet I almost spit out my coffee laughing at it.
crappiefloper- September 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm
Hahahahahahaah!!! Fuck it! I'll afford them the same callous disregard I show able bodied fighters.
RSparrow- September 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm
They should put just one wheel chair at the very beginning in the middle... be some extreme shit right there... what?
phil doherty- September 10, 2012 at 6:21 pm
I think it’s a great idea to make MMA as inclusive as possible, including having disabled fighters. After all why shouldn't disabled people compete in any sport they wish? They can do any sport they want to - as we have just seen with the fantastic performances by those athletes in the Paralympics. Ok - of course it has to changed to adapt to the disabilities, but so does the javelin or the 100 metres relay! I think that we should admire the fact that these guys are willing to step - or rather wheel their way into the cage - a do what they want to do. After all - not only do they have the courage to do what most able-bodied people would not dare to do, they also have the courage to do so in the face of negative opinion from a small minority. I think the wider MMA world is far bigger in spirit and soul than this...
RearNakedSpoon- September 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm
I won't be satisfied until we see some Disabled Children competing in XARM.
Romanhelmut- September 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm
I am actually ok with it so long as it is evenly matched. Problem arises when one guy is "disabled" with 1-2 missing fingers vs. the severe downs syndrome kid with no lower torso.....that is unfair.
Bill-BJJ- September 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm
I am from the UK and I think this is a fucking awful idea.

If someone in the same country having a bad idea bans you from having any ideas yourself, then I reckon that the good ol' US of A should be well ahead of us on that one :-)
Mr_Misanthropy- September 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm
algiersheadkick504- September 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm
atleast they dont have to worry about greg jackson run away gameplans
Alan K- September 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm
Oh you're no fun anymore.
Cornerman- September 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm
cripple fight!
CrackMasterVanSnap- September 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm
Why does the ref look like he's trying not to laugh?
The12ozCurls- September 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm
Sly Stallone will see money signs after reading this and his new plot for the next Rocky Balboa installment is off and running. . . . . . well, not running - but you know what I mean.
Fried Taco- September 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm
But I think I'll stick to my good ol' American Granny MMA fights instead:
Fried Taco- September 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm
It would be cool if you're allowed to run over your downed opponent with your wheelchair.
The12ozCurls- September 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm
Those ARE the rules in Japan.
Fried Taco- September 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm
And now in OneFC!
Mr_Misanthropy- September 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm
Oh, so now you hate retards too. Next thing we know you're going to run around calling crippled people crazy one-armed bastards. Clarence Byron Dollaway would be disgusted.