The Conundrum of Being a Fight Lover and a Peace Lover
Five or six years ago I went over to a friend’s house where they were planning to watch the UFC. I didn’t know that before I got there, and I was getting ready to pack up and go do something else when I found out they were about to turn it on, because back then my automatic response was, “I don’t like to watch people hurt each other.” That was who I was at the time, you see. Bleeding heart, left wing wacko, pick your catch phrase for those idealistic, hippie do-gooders and I pretty much fell squarely into it, and I was comfortable in the black and white. Violence equaled bad, peace equaled good, and suggesting to me that there might be a grey area when it came to some fringe sport was fruitless, until I heard it from the only other girl that regularly bummed around with my crowd of friends at the time. She said, “I thought the same thing, dude. Just stay for the first few fights. You’ll see.”
By the end of that card I was converted, and I was more surprised by that than anyone. I pondered it a little at the time, this conflict between my advocacy for the advancement of the human race from basically animal to something far more, and my instincts, which were tuned into the fights on that tv screen in a way that made me feel something I had never known ... but somehow always known.
I've never been able to resolve this conflict. It bothers me the most when something bad does actually happen to one of the fighters. When Anderson Silva boomerang kicked his own foot around Chris Weidman’s leg, it made the questions start rolling all over again; the ones about how I can justify being so obsessed with a sport in which people sacrifice their health and safety for my entertainment. When I heard that a 29 year old father and husband named Booto Guylain in South Africa died in the hospital on Wednesday as a direct result of the injuries he sustained during a fight which he lost in the third round via TKO from elbows, I thought of my best bud Lauren Murphy and how she loves dropping elbows to cause the most damage she can. And how I love to see her do it. And for several days now my mind has been a jumble of circular thinking, about what it means to love a sport that is defined by dominance and pain.
Much as I try to be one of MMA’s more sophisticated fans, you can’t love it without admitting that there is part of you that is still very animal. We’re like sharks, in a way, or, maybe more appropriately, like wolves or baboons. We are watching two potential alphas attempt to prove they are the only alpha. We see blood in the ring and something dormant that is still a part of us from thousands and thousands of years of seeking prey in the jungle or on the plains instead of the supermarket, is reactivated. You know you’ve been one of those people; in the midst of a knock down, drag out war, you’ve forgotten yourself and started leaping around like an ape, waving your fists in the air and reverted from English (or whatever your language) back into speaking in the universal language of screams and grunts.
What is that in us but residual animal instinct? Why do we love MMA if not for this reason? I’ve used this as justification to people who think like I used to think, that it’s weird to love a bloody sport; humans are mammals, and fighting is nature at it’s most basic. We eat to sustain ourselves, we mate to perpetuate our species, and we fight to eliminate the weak from the gene pool and to secure ourselves the best spoils. The longer I am alive and the more I observe humans in all the places I’ve traveled, the more this simple world view rings true to me.
The problem is that, in the same way I am quick to point out to gay-bashing Christians that they can’t use Leviticus 20:13 as justification for their bigoted nonsense, but ignore the Bible verses about selling daughters into slavery, stoning people who work on Sunday and giving your wealth to the poor, I can’t just take the parts of my “fighting is human nature” argument that suit me and ignore the parts that don’t. Like the possibility that I could see someone I care about really hurt, or, worse in a way, that they could really hurt someone else. Or, as evidenced by the tragic news from South Africa on Wednesday, the very worst case scenario is not impossible.
It’s one more example of the complexity and contradiction of the world we live in. I’ve seen fighting change so many people’s lives for the better; the pursuit of being the best turning the lost into the leaders. But the risk of permanent injury or, in the extreme, death, is always looming in the background. I will drive for miles, pay too much money and hang out with people I can’t stand in douchey bars if it means I get to watch a sick fight card, but I’m still that person that hates to see people suffer and wouldn’t wish pain, injury or loss on my worst enemy. After years of mulling over this same conundrum, I’m no closer to figuring it out.
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