Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
If you like blood and gore, “ultimate fighting” is certainly for you.
But if you’re a person who believes in the dignity of the human person you should oppose this modern-day ‘gladiatorial’ spectacle strenuously, in the considered opinion of Richard Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference.
The state of New York is currently considering a bill that would establish “protocols for combative sports” and authorize “mixed martial arts events in this state.”
“Mixed martial arts” is another name for “ultimate fighting”; under either name, such fights are a free-for-all of mayhem in which punches, kicks, and blows with the elbows, knees and forearms are permitted, as well as all manner of choking and other disabling wrestling moves. The object is to beat an opponent into unconsciousness or submission, by whatever means.
At the request of New York State Assembly Member Bob Reilly, Barnes recently watched an “ultimate fighting” bout in order to give an informed assessment of the “sport.” Here is his take, as recounted in a June 5 letter Barnes sent to assembly members in his capacity as Catholic Conference executive director:
“The fight I watched began with elbow blows to the back of the head, with the resultant unchecked blood flow covering both fighters and the ring, to the wild cheers of both crowd and announcers. The fight also involved knees to the groin, kidney punches, knees to the head, and a lot of the aforementioned choking.
“I didn’t see biting, eye-gouging or finger-breaking, and the promoters might tell you these ‘techniques’ are against the rules, but, sadly, these two men were fighting for their lives. And this is not choreographed, fake stuff like ‘The Wrestler.’ It is what it advertizes itself to be. It’s the Roman Coliseum on high-def TV, and I believe if the promoters thought they could get away with thumbs up or down to end each bloody spectacle, they would.
“Having originally approached Member of the Assembly Reilly’s request with some apprehension, I now conclude he is absolutely right. I urge the members of both Houses to view a ‘bout’ on cable TV or the Internet, because I do not believe this human dog fighting can survive the light of day. It cannot be worth whatever dollar value its promoters are pitching us. Please don’t show our children that the well-being of the men and women caught up in this violent degradation are worth less than the animals such as ‘Buster’ that our laws have been so diligently designed to protect.
“Thank you for your attention to this important issue.”