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Opinion: A Response To Joe Brolly’s Disgusting Attack On MMA

Famed GAA analyst Joe Brolly took to The Sunday Independent to launch an ill-informed assault on both the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts as a whole.

This response is not an attack on the right to voice an opinion. It’s not even an attack on the validity of some of the points that were brought up.

For Brolly, this is a rare dip into a topical subject that will be replaced with something new by the next time he puts pen to paper – a flavour of the week if you will.

My problem with that stems from the fact that he is using his public platform and influence to attack a sport he clearly knows nothing about – fuelling the ridiculous stigma that has become attached to it in this country.

This is damaging to the growth of mixed martial arts and is hurting each and every one of the Irish athletes who are striving to make something of themselves in what is already an incredibly tough and unforgiving path to take.

The landscape of the sport in this country is already difficult to navigate as it is.

“I had gone downstairs to see if my 13-year-old son and his half-a-dozen excited friends had gone to bed after watching the McGregor fight. It hadn’t started yet.

“So I made some chilli tea and sat down amongst them to watch it.”

The first chink in the armour.

Either this section is just for colour or Joe Brolly had never once witnessed an MMA event prior to UFC 229 eight days ago.

That’s the only logical reason that could explain why there were seven children watching a live UFC event in his house under his supervision – knowing what we know about how he feels about MMA presently.

The sport he later likened to Mandingo fighting probably wouldn’t have been on in the Brolly household that night had he been aware.

On top of that, the piece reads like it was written by someone who has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about – save for a few quickly googled names and figures, so let’s make this gentle assumption and move on.

Brolly speaks of an intent to veil this seemingly senseless violence using the ‘conventional language of sports punditry and the trappings of any normal sport’, but there is no attempt to fool or trick anyone here.

Trying to liken it to a legalised dog-fighting or the ‘Ultimate Dog-Fighting Championship’ as he so creatively calls it is a weak attempt at stirring up misdirected emotion and nothing more.

Every single one of these people knows exactly what they’re getting themselves into.

If getting punched in the face isn’t something you’re comfortable with, you’ll know pretty early on in the gym that combat sports isn’t the road for you.

Like it or not, there are and will continue to be hundreds and thousands of people in this country who dive headfirst into this world and love and benefit from every second of it.

I’ve spoken to many of them.

Irish men and women who choose to dedicate their lives to martial arts, knowing full well that their chances of success in professional cage-fighting are extremely slim.

These people work in second jobs in order make ends meet but unlike the artists and the musicians in our society who do the same to follow their dreams, they work those jobs while bearing the cuts and bruises that come with spending hours upon hours in the gym, on the pads and in the cage preparing.

They do this because fighting is what they know. It’s what they are at their very core.

Being aware of the fact that the entire trajectory of your career can change in a split second with very ugly consequences creates a pressure that is unlike anything outside of the realm of combat sports.

“MMA is not a sport. It is sold and marketed like the violent video game market. No boundaries. No rules. Violence is good.

Speaking of the UFC marketing itself as having ‘no boundaries, no rules.’

I must have missed that one. This sport is restricted by a very in-depth and well-regulated set of rules, rules that have been evolving with the sport ever since its beginnings two decades ago.

I feel as though Brolly has never watched an MMA promo, to be honest. They’re not shown on Irish television and I somehow can’t picture him being a regular to the UFC’s official YouTube account.

MMA promos focus on the narrative, the stakes and the relationships between the fighters competing. Another empty claim.

“Smash up a bus. Gloat over your opponent shitting in the cage as you literally beat the shit out of her. Knock a rival supporter unconscious as part of the fun. Kill a Portuguese kid.”

“As Joao Carvalho lay dying on the floor that night, McGregor high-fived and celebrated with his opponent.”

A disgusting, misinformed citation of a tragedy within the MMA community to add shock value.

The death of Joao Carvalho was one that has sent tremors through the sport that are still being felt to this day. The details of what actually happened are clearly not of any importance to Brolly, though, so long as a sensational narrative can be constructed.

The stoppage was indeed a controversial one but Carvalho and his opponent Charlie Ward – according to Ward himself – spoke backstage in the medical room after the fight before Joao eventually lost consciousness about ten minutes later.

Charlie Ward said the following in the aftermath of Carvalho’s death.

“Joao said he didn’t expect the fight to be so tough and I said the same. He asked for a photo of me and Conor McGregor. When I heard later that he’d died I was devastated.”

Of course Conor celebrated with his teammate when the fight was over. At that point how could anyone have known what was about to happen?

“Time to ban UFC.”

Four short words that tell the whole story.

MMA = the sport.

The UFC = the promotion

If we’re going to ban MMA, should the likes of muay-thai and K1 follow? If blood isn’t your thing maybe boxing isn’t aesthetically pleasing enough to fit the bill.

Should we start shutting down the jiu-jitsu gyms and dojos just in case anyone gets hurt?

I actually think I saw someone scrape their knee on the tennis courts at Wimbledon a few years back.

Yes, to the uninitiated, the way the violence is glamourized can be off-putting and even stomach-churning but you can very easily avoid the entire sport if you so choose.

Sure, the stars that spring from the sport – namely Conor McGregor – are everywhere. But his antics outside of the octagon do not detract in the slightest bit from what MMA is at its very core.

This is not about Conor McGregor.

The melee that followed the UFC 229 main-event was an appalling moment in what was the biggest night in the history of the game. But believe me, these instances are few and far between and as I’m sure you know yourself, emotions run high between athletes when the adrenaline starts to pump.

Are you ready to call those within your own sport ‘animals’ for their violent outbursts or are we going to just stick with martial artists for today?

You make sure to refer to ‘The Karate Hottie’ Michelle Waterson as a woman ‘who has done naked photo-shoots’ – just to be certain you’ve painted a vivid picture for your readers.

I don’t see the mention of Conor McGregor as ‘a man who has done naked photo-shoots’ but perhaps I didn’t catch it.

Naked photo-shoots = BAD

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And don’t get me started on the completely baffling description of her opponent Felice Herrig as a ‘seriously dangerous-looking white woman’.

I don’t even know what to say about that one, to be honest.

How about focusing on Michelle Waterson’s lifetime spent immersing herself in and becoming incredibly successful doing what she loves?

How about her black-belt in American Free Style Karate?

Or that she’s a mother putting food on the table?

Focussing too much on the ‘hottie’ and too little on the ‘karate’.

“Khabib vaulted over the witness box and threw himself into the aisle because McGregor taunted him to the point that he couldn’t control himself.

“These human beings are animals and this is how animals are expected to behave. If they don’t, then no-one will be interested.”

Not only does this show a complete and utter lack of respect for those competing in the sport, but on top of that, Brolly once again makes it very clear that he has no idea what brings MMA fans to the table.

The most repulsive section of the piece is a shameless attack not only on the UFC, but on the fans who spend their hard-earned money to tune in for every event.

Bloodthirsty, barbaric meatheads. He lumps each and every one of us into the same category.

“It’s the ultimate pornography. I think the UFC are missing some tricks. Think about how much more money they could make if the winning fighter, still drenched in blood, got to have sex on-stage with a glamourous prostitute as part of his prize.

“Or better still, what about offering any female in the audience $50,000 to come up on stage and screw him?

“That would bring in millions more in revenue. PPV’s would go off the charts. The kids would love it.

“The best girls would become superstars.”

It’s pretty clear that this man does not understand the makeup of the sport’s fanbase. I mean, how could he? He doesn’t seem to have a grasp on anything concerning this deep and multi-faceted game.

It’s a piece written from a perspective that has no relevance. History will tell you that anything that is in any way edgy or groundbreaking will be challenged by older heads upon its creation.

When rock’n’roll was still the devil’s music and tight-pants were becoming trendy it was the same. The clash between ‘then’ and ‘now’ is a tired one and in truth, the entire article shows Brolly displaying an incredible lack of self-awareness about the garbage he is spewing.

I’m not going to attempt to deny that MMA is brutal and at times even grotesque. And I’d never try to convince someone that it’s a good time if you’re looking to relax and fill up a Saturday night but even still, you don’t have to sit there and watch it.

Would you believe me if I told you that most people have managed to avoid watching an MMA event in their life?

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 30: (L-R) Cody Garbrandt kicks Dominick Cruz in their UFC bantamweight championship bout during the UFC 207 event on December 30, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

We’re not cheering for the violence, the blood and gore alone. That’s all part and parcel, of course, but we’re in it for the technique, the bravery and the times when we are forced to simply sit back, mouth agape and marvel at the unimaginable feats of human performance we’ve just witnessed.

I’ve seen people do extraordinarily unique things when it seems as though they don’t have a hope in hell. I’ve watched fighters, both men and women, find something within themselves at the very brink of defeat that allows them to perform feats that simply defy all logic.

Anyone who considers themselves a fan of sports in general will appreciate what I mean by this.

In conclusion, MMA is here to stay and while it might not be your cup of chilli tea, please do us all a favour and understand that your completely novice opinion on the subject could potentially do more harm to countless devoted Irish athletes than you could ever possibly imagine.

Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena

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Author: Cillian Cunningham

Lead mixed martial arts writer who can be contacted at [email protected]