All MMA fans have heard it mentioned before. The connection between inherent violence, criminal tendencies and success as a mixed martial artist. That connection has been frequently used by opponents of MMA regulation and MMA exposure to the general public. Yes, some fighters have not been helpful assets for MMA proponents in this debate. Not all have been as damaging as Jon Koppenhaver, better known as “War Machine,” in his criminal conduct. But fighters ranging from Nick Diaz and Anthony Johnson to “Mayhem” Miller have all stood as examples put forth by uninformed spectators who preach that the general public should be unaccepting of MMA.
The latest example is German-Moroccan fighter Abu Azaitar, who defeated Vitor Miranda in his UFC debut in Hamburg this past weekend. Azaitar was imprisoned in 2003 in Germany, for attacking another individual with his brother in Cologne. Azaitar was a prison inmate from 2003 to 2006 and credits mixed martial arts with saving his life. That’s a credit to the sport. Azaitar responded to a recent piece from Bloody Elbow and told MMANYTT that he’s learned from his mistakes.
In 2015, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO aired a long piece about violence and criminal conduct in the sport of MMA. At the center of their story was the aforementioned War Machine and his attack on then-girlfriend, Christy Mack. The statistic was glaring, as Real Sports noted that their investigators found that MMA fighters had a domestic violence arrest rate of 750 per 100,000 men, as opposed to less than one-third of that number for NFL players and less than half of that number for men in the general population. We really should be careful though.
Naturally, the argument for most casual observers becomes that individuals in combat sports have violent tendencies inherent in them that could make them pariahs in their lives out of competition. But let’s be careful before we paint them all with the brush of angry, sadistic maniacs, because they are not. And to do so would disrespect the sport and send us down a very, very slippery slope.