While on Laurence Holmes podcast on the Score on Monday night, he asked me how it was being a woman covering such a male-dominant sport as mixed martial arts. I answered that while there were some problems and I did come up against some jerks from time to time, MMA was fantastic to me. I pointed out that the few jerks were rarely fighters.
So imagine my surprise when I heard from women's groups that I've long respected that the sport I cover is full of negative attitudes against women. As New York debates legislation sanctioning MMA, women's groups have protested because of the "violent nature of MMA."
"Due to the violent nature of mixed martial arts and the surprisingly high incidence of unchallenged sexism and misogyny displayed by certain fighters, commentators and other public figures associated with this sport, the prospect of legalization in New York state raises legitimate concerns about the increased exposure of our children to this new and potentially very negative influence," stated a bill introduced Friday by state Sen. Liz Krueger, who represents much of Manhattan's east side.
Have MMA figures said and done terribly misogynistic things? Absolutely. But so have NFL players. So have NHL players. Both football and hockey also feature violent collisions and catastrophic injuries. Where are the protests to evict the Buffalo Bills or New York Rangers from the state?
UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, who has been lobbying for MMA's sanctioning in New York for years, thinks that these women's groups are being used as a pawn by the Culinary Union.
“It’s actually kind of sad,” Fertitta said. “These women’s organizations and women’s groups stand for great things … yet they are being used as a pawn by the Culinary Union.”
The union has a beef with Fertitta and his brother Frank because they own the largest non-union casinos in Las Vegas. The union has contacted women's groups to bring their attention MMA's rise and possible sanctioning in New York. But what would make more sense for the union to focus on is that fighters don't have a collective bargaining agreement and aren't unionized.
Krueger and others have pointed to links between MMA and violence when no such link has been found. There is also no discussion of how MMA has empowered women as fighters, officials, media and fans, or how women have learned self defense techniques at MMA gyms across the country. Invicta FC, a promotion run by a woman that features women's bouts, must have escaped their view.
There are real problems facing women. Sexual violence, domestic abuse, unequal pay, unequal treatment in the workplace, sexual harassment, and many other serious issues face women every day. Let's focus on how we should solve those real issues, and not a sport that has no proven link to any of these problems.