It was controversial when it first arrived on the scene back in 1993. John McCain spoke out vehemently against Ultimate Fighting, calling it “human cockfighting.” The sport was pushed into the main-stream under the flag of violence, the original producers behind the sport believing that its violence was its most attractive feature. Since Dana White took over, however, the sport has developed rules and caters more toward the technical side of the sport.
Of course, no matter how you pitch it you can’t get around the fact that Ultimate Fighting is incredibly violent. The question I have had to contemplate as a of late, since I have become a fan of the UFC, is whether or not it is wrong, as a Christian, to enjoy this “sport.” Is the UFC barbaric, or something else?
There is something very disturbing about the enjoyment I get out of watching two dudes beat the tar out of one another. Is there something sick and twisted in me that leads me to take pleasure in the pain of others? Perhaps there is, but that same tendency is in all of us. We all laugh when the man on America’s Funniest Home Videos takes a baseball bat to the crotch. Many “normal” men will express their love for films like Gladiator, 300, and other bloody, battle oriented movies. So is there something more vile about Ultimate Fighting Championship? I don’t think so, but I do think there is something unique about this sport.
MMA (mixed martial arts) is the number one sport, currently, among young males between the ages of 18-35. Why? I think the answer has to do with the desire, among young men, for real masculine role models. I can appreciate that there is a great deal of debate these days about whether or not men are more or less masculine (and more to the point whether or not that is a good or bad thing). But I am inclined to say that men are far less masculine these days than they have been in past centuries and that such is a bad thing.
The Times had an article a few years back that explored a generation of young boys who were growing up “wimpy,” according to their reporter. R. Albert Mohler Jr. - President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - continually documents the dissolution of manliness. This disappearance, so to speak, of manliness is bad in that it has made men less interested in what the Bible has documented as their responsibilities: protecting, providing, and leading (see 1 Kings 2 where David gives Solomon these commands, commands that go beyond kingship to the role of Solomon’s masculinity; i.e. “show yourself a man”).
In response to this disappearance of masculinity UFC stands out as a group of strong men who have the technical skill, muscular strength, discipline, and fortitude to fight like the men of David’s army, the great men of the Old Testament. They may not serve as the great spiritual role models that the Bible also has in mind for men to be, but they do represent masculinity in a day when the other options for role models couldn’t, wouldn’t, and don’t want to fight. Now I am not intending to simply commend fighting, though it may seem that way, but there are occasions where fighting should be expected of godly men (regardless of ability or strength), but far too many Christian men lack the fortitude to do it! To such men I say, “Read the Old Testament, friends”….and perhaps watch a few UFC matches too!