Wait, So That Mixed-Gender Fight Was Actually Just About Promoting Domestic Abuse Awareness?

Fightland Blog

By Fightland Staff

Things just keep getting curioser and curioser.

Earlier today we ran a story about a Brazilian MMA promotion that had scheduled a fight between a man and a woman and was facing all kinds of wrath for it. Now, as if the idea of a mixed-gender fight weren’t bizarre enough, word is that the fight between Juliana Vasquez and Emerson Falcao not only won’t be going on tomorrow night as planned but that it was never going to go on. Rather, the event was just a way for the fight’s promoter, Shooto Brazil, to show support for “Lei Maria da Penha,” a 2006 Brazilian law that increased punishments for perpetrators of domestic violence against women. 

Got that?

Even though today’s weigh-in ceremony took place as scheduled, with Vasquez and Falcao squaring off like they normally would, Osiris Maia, a member of the Brazilian Mixed Martial Arts Confederation, told MMAFighting that the fight would not.

"We can’t do something like that," Maia said. “This ‘fight’ has a social representation that is more important for the society than to the sport. There’s no way a man should fight a woman. This is being done only to show the society the importance of ‘Lei Maria da Penha’: You can’t have a man beating a woman in a sport, so it shouldn’t happen anywhere. That’s what they want to show."

None of any of this is confirmed, as far as we know, but if it does turn out to be true you can count it as one of the strangest and most pendulous swings in MMA history. Not 24 hours ago, MMA fans and fighters and pundits were howling (and rightfully so) that just when it seemed like MMA was getting a reasonable hold on the public imagination and finding a bit of mainstream acceptance after decades spent wandering in the wilderness, this one event was going to confirm all the worst suspicions skeptics have about the sport—that it’s barbaric, that it’s titillating, that it’s gladiatorial combat dressed up to look like sport--and derail all the progress that has been made. Now, just a day later, it appears that the whole thing was a stunt to shine a spotlight on a valuable cause, which is just the kind of thing that would make people who would normally be suspicious of MMA think twice.

The problem is: has the damage already been done? It’s all well and good when The New York Times prints a retraction to a story the day after it ran, but by that point how many people have heard about and believed the original story, and how many will bother reading the retraction? Threatening the world with a mixed-gender fight might be a clever way to draw attention to the issue of domestic violence, but at this point in MMA’s history, and after 20 years of dealing with the doubts and fears of a cynical population, the sport is probably too jumpy for anything clever. When you're promoting combat sports, it's best to tread lightly and remember that it takes years to climb out of the shadows but only one bad day to tumble back in. 

(Note from the author of the original post, L.A. Jennings: "The damage of the Shooto 45 mixed-gender stunt stems from the delusion that MMA can function as a metaphor for domestic abuse. MMA is already under fire from NOW and other groups and individuals who claim that the sport desensitizes us to violence and increases domestic violence, an assertion that has never been proven. This stunt links the controlled combat of MMA to violence in the home and creates an opening for detractors to say, 'See!  Even the promoters think that MMA is akin to domestic abuse.'")