On the UFC

As someone who spends quite a bit of time on sports websites and blogs, the rise of mixed martial arts as a mainstream sport has been pretty hard to miss. Once it was viewed as being way out on the barbaric lunatic fringe: “they fight in cages?!?” Now Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor are household names and the announcement of a fight happening in 2 months time (McGregor / Diaz 2 @ UFC202) gets breathless coverage all over the interwebs.

Looks scary until you remember he weighs 70 kgs

How has this happened? Given what we have recently learnt about concussions, how is it that a sport based on trying to render your opponent unconscious has picked this exact moment to become popular?

Short answer is: every other sport has gotten less violent.

Whether it’s the NRL banning shoulder charges, rugby union banning rucking or the AFL killing the “hip and shoulder” there has been a conscious attempt across a range of once-violent sports to reduce head injuries and make the game safer. In this landscape, the unashamed violence and brutality of the UFC stands out like a beacon to the sports fan who (somewhat guiltily) doesn’t mind seeing a bit of blood.

And this desire to see violent competition is understandable too. For as long as there has been human civilisation, fighting has been a form of entertainment. From the gladiator pits through to medieval jousting through to the modern Olympics (where there are 5 separate fighting sports) – people have always just loved watching fighting.

As to why this is the case I have a theory.

One of the few things that stuck with me from high-school biology was “the three Fs of evolution: Feeding, Fighting and Reproduction”. The better an animal is at the three Fs, the higher its chances of prospering. Survival of the fittest.

Viewed like this, the success of the UFC (fighting) is no more surprising than My Kitchen Rules (feeding) dominating TV ratings or pornography (reproduction) dominating Internet search traffic. It’s a simple matter of evolution.

Let me know what you think.


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