No Fighting, Doctor’s Order

The Canadian Medical Association Patronizes Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed Martial Arts may cause brain damage, laments the CMA. Graphic Daryna Rukhlyadeva

Though I expect shameless, bold-faced hypocrisy from my political leaders, I expect better from the political leaders of our doctors.

The Canadian Medical Association, the largest doctor’s association in the country, advocated a ban on mixed martial arts fights at their most recent delegate convention on Aug. 25.

On the surface, banning mixed martial arts is hard to argue against. The sport is, after all, based entirely on painfully incapacitating your opponent. It is gratuitous, often brutal violence for the purpose of entertainment.

Arguing for the right of two men to beat the living hell out of each other may seem unbecoming of a “modern man.” However, advocating a ban on mixed martial arts is treating all fighters like they are boorish, childish figures who need the firm hand of self-righteous groups like the CMA to save them from themselves.

Take, for example, another article on the agenda of the CMA convention: tanning salons. The CMA, to their credit, did also advocate a ban on the use of tanning salons—for those under the age of 18.

From 1980 to 2004, the rate of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, in young women in America rose by 50 per cent. Melanoma kills over 8,000 people annually in the U.S. alone.

Why is it that tanning beds, which are linked to skin cancer by just about every reputable medical association on the planet, are allowed for consenting adults, but mixed-martial arts is not? What makes some sad, leathery-faced middle-aged person more capable of making their own decisions than a prizefighter—particularly when their decision is much more likely to be fatal?

No, the CMA’s decision was not based on things like facts. They didn’t even approach the Ultimate Fighting Championship series, the largest mixed-martial arts group in the world, about its policies for fighter safety.

Their decision was based on the CMA’s patronizing view of fighters as the helpless, brain-dead messes they’re supposedly trying to save them from becoming.

Of course, the decision might have been an attempt to piggy-back on the press the government of Ontario recently received for legalizing the sport in the province. Ontario, unlike the CMA, studied the issue for over two years and spoke extensively with the UFC before making their decision.

I suggest that the CMA stick to advocating measures that actually impact a majority of Canadians. Banning organizations like the UFC from Canada serves no purpose except to drive organized prizefighting underground, much like the alcohol prohibition of old and the drug prohibition of today.

Without proper enforcement of safety protocols, the sport would, ironically, devolve into the savage bloodsport fantasy that the CMA is perpetuating to try to ban it. Should the CMA really be suggesting measures of social control that have failed spectacularly on a larger scale?

The CMA is, after all, a group of doctors by trade, not politicians.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 03, published August 31, 2010.