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The OPINIONS expressed here are my OWN
442 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Much of the speculation over Monday's death of Michael Kirkham in South Carolina -- organized mixed martial arts' third casualty, and its second in the U.S. -- focuses on Kirkham's being too reedy and fragile for the lightweight division. At 6-foot-9 and 155 pounds, his physique must have been little more than bone. That's not much armor.

Kirkham's death, like those of fellow fighters Douglas Dedge and Sam Vasquez, is going to get the perfunctory eulogies from fans and media, but the reality is that people and their tragedies are often viewed as pawns to push or oppose agendas. Already, the "mainstream" outlets reporting are being tagged with comments that imagine Kirkham was mauled by tigers in a coliseum.

From Huffington Post readers: "I wish this would be banned. … In the cesspool that is MMA, egregious behavior is the whole point. … This "sport" is analogous to dogfighting and gladiatorial brutality reminiscent of the Roman Empire."

From a Fox Sports discussion: "This is not a sport. It's assault and battery."

From Vancouver Sun comments: "I would not watch this disgusting sport if you paid me."

This is what it always boils down to: a human being volleyed around for political discussion.

What Kirkham's death reveals is a considerable and continued revulsion of MMA, which remains the most superficially gruesome of any major sporting event. It's impossible for people to accept these deaths as tragedy when the norm is flowing blood, swelling and brain interruption. It would be easier for them to swallow two or three casualties in football or baseball for the simple reason that it doesn't look like those players are at lethal risk. When someone in this sport dies, it's the fulfillment of an expectation.

Michael Schwartz, M.D., the chairman of the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians, believes that this anticipation is what continues to create problems for the sport.

"When people ask how I work in the sport as a physician, where the goal is to concuss the other person, I tell them to look at the outcomes, not the intent," he told me this past spring. "There are so many more injuries in football than there are in boxing and MMA, but because the 'intent' isn't to knock the guy out, football's OK. Well, when you look at the outcome, MMA is actually safer than auto racing, football or skydiving. The intent in those sports is not to die, but guess what? People do."

But perception smothers the reality: Three deaths in 17 years of frequent competition is hardly an outrageous mortality rate. How many fights have been contested in that time? Ten thousand? Thirty thousand? Fighters may be more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the arena.

Obviously, Kirkham's family couldn't care less about rationalizing his death; calling him statistically insignificant would be disgusting and callous. Instead of dismissing him as an anomaly, he should be a lesson that informs how we treat the thousands of athletes in the sport who need responsible supervision. Coaches might be quicker to stop athletes who have been KO'd in training from competing, even if it means lost income or opportunities. Athletic commissions might look at a fighter like Chuck Liddell -- who, in one of the saddest displays yet seen in the sport, argues that the UFC can still profit from his decline -- and tell him he no longer has the privilege to compete. Maybe referee Kim Winslow would have had second thoughts about allowing Jan Finney to continue after it was clear Cristiane Santos already had her head on her wall.

Those are the only positives that can come out of this man's death. I'm beyond sorry for Kirkham's family, who will suffer the frustration and sadness of a senseless loss. I'm even sorrier that he'll be perceived as a point of debate instead of a human being.


Fuck the haters, i'm so sick of mma being bad yet boxing is FAR worse.

The North Remembers
20,747 Posts
blah blah blah.

From 1931 to 2006, the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research has reported 1,006 direct and 683 indirect fatalities resulting from participation in all organized football (professional, college, high school, and sandlot) in the US [2]. While the yearly number of indirect fatalities has remained near 9.0 per year, the yearly number of direct fatalities has declined from an average of 18.6 per year between 1931-1970, 9.5 per year from 1971–1990, to 4.3 per year from 1991-2006. In 2006, with an estimated 1.8 million participants in organized football, the survey reported a relatively high 16 indirect deaths but only one fatality directly attributable to football play (a high school running back who suffered a fatal spinal injury when tackled).[2][3]

On the other hand, the number of injuries (per participant) seems to have increased over the years: a 1994 Ball State University survey found that "players in the 1980s suffered serious injuries and underwent operations at twice the rate of those who played in the 1950s or earlier".[4] A 2000 University of North Carolina study found that in the period between 1977 and 1998, each year on average 13 athletes had suffered catastrophic injuries (primarily permanent paralysis) through direct result of participation in football: "200 football players received a permanent cervical cord injury, and 66 sustained a permanent cerebral injury".[3] Concussions are common, with an estimated 40,000 suffered every year among high school players alone [5]. The National Football League now collects benchmark measures of awareness for each player, which can be used during a game to judge whether he has been concussed.
Where's the outcry toward football?

856 Posts
It's not violent or "Dangerous"
^plus less casualties.
Talking about american football which definitely has far more casualties. At 6 foot 9 and cutting down to 155 pounds the guy shouldn't be allowed to participate in MMA. He most likely got nowhere near the amount of nutrition he needed to be involved in such a physical sport. MMA hate will be around for a while, but it will slowly continue to gain the respect it deserves.

3,192 Posts
The difference between MMA and boxing is that mma tends to be less regulated, particularly with the smaller organisations out of public eye. This guy clearly should never have been allowed to fight.
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