(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.