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Is MMA too dangerous?

By Julian Bonte-Friedheim
 Unsplash: Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernánde
*Updated 2024
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world – for both men and women. An average UFC event could generate 300,000 to over 2,000,000 pay-per-view viewers globally. In fact, 10.63% of viewers aged 18 to 29 have watched UFC pay-per-view within the past 12 months. MMA combines various fighting techniques from other combat sports, which makes it uniquely gritty and intense. Some believe that this sport is excessively dangerous, but is it really worse than boxing or other such sports? Here are three reasons why MMA might be too dangerous, and three reasons why that may be a misconception.


Appearances Are Deceiving


The frequency of exposure to serious injuries is relatively low

MMA gets a bad rep from the intensity of the fights, which often get bloody. However, a University of Alberta study found that it is actually safer than boxing. While MMA fighters are more likely to get cuts and bruises, boxers have a higher chance of suffering from head trauma, one of the most dangerous injuries. In fact, the blood often seen in MMA is caused by blows to the nose or facial cuts, which tend to look much worse than they are. Unlike other athletes that compete very regularly, MMA fighters only get into the ring between one and five times year. Training happens in very safe conditions, making serious injury very unlikely. In comparison, football players play around 17 games a season. With the number of collisions and tackles in each game, their risk of a serious injury is much higher than in MMA.


Its an extremely healthy sport

With its focus on short, high-intensity exertion, MMA is a great workout to improve cardiovascular health, gain strength and lose weight. Unlike swimming or running, for example, MMA is a complete body workout. It also burns more calories than most other sports. This study found that it noticeably boosted weight loss compared to judo or Jiu Jitsu. And MMA isn’t just an amazing workout for the body but also for the mind. Besides increasing confidence and reducing stress, its demanding nature has been shown to boost concentration. There are immense holistic health benefits to this sport.



Iron-tight regulations

In MMA, regulatory bodies constantly make sure that fighters’ safety is upheld, whether that be before, during or after their fights. This stands in stark contrast to other sports that celebrate and strongly encourage participants to push through injuries. Meanwhile, in MMA, fighters go through a thorough examination before every fight that ensures they are physically ready. This procedure and commitment to safety has led to last-minute match cancellations throughout the years. Most recently, MMA legend Connor McGregor was forced at the last minute to pull out of the UFC 303 due to injury.  Such cancellations have surely cost organizers quite a bit of money but demonstrate how important safety is in MMA.


MMA has too many harmful aspects



When injured, the extent of the injury is often serious

MMA fighters face a raised chance of injuries to spinal cords, cuts and fractures. Many former fighters end up with major, life-changing damage. According to this study, 23.6%, which is almost one in four, of MMA fighters receive at least minor brain damage. Moreover, a Cleveland Clinic study found that the longer an MMA fighter’s career lasted, the more prone they were to suffer from measurable brain damage, like CTE. The repeated blows to the head and elsewhere so often seen in MMA fights pose a clear risk to players’ long-term health.


Setting a bad example

When judging whether a sport is dangerous, we also need to look beyond the ring. In MMA, fighters brawl with great aggression, punching and kicking each other while locked in tight cages with nowhere to run. Sports have always had a strong influence on young people, who idolize athletes and emulate them. Promoting these vicious fights doesn’t seem healthy for society. At the end of the day, MMA is about beating other human beings into submission or worse, unconsciousness. Additionally, many fighters have been accused of domestic abuse and assault yet still kept their jobs. Conor McGregor’s punches sent the person playing the Miami Heat’s mascot to the ER in a marketing gimmick gone wrong. Previously, he punched an old man in the head for refusing an offer of whisky. Despite both encounters, he has continued to be a part of, and profit from, MMA.



MMA is different from other fighting sports due to its intense use of kicks. The force that can be gained with one kick is far greater than any punch. In MMA, kicks to most body parts, including the head, are allowed. When they connect well, they can be incredibly devastating as can be seen here. This kind of impact can cause immense trauma to the head and brain, resulting in some serious damage. Kicks are part of sports like Taek Wondo or Jiu Jitsu, but they are less dangerous in those sports due to fighters wearing head protection or kicking less frequently. The ability to kick also resulted in some MMA fighters aiming for their opponents’ knees, often with the intent to bend them in and break them, known as the “oblique kick.” There needs to be a line between healthy athletic competition and causing terrible long-term injuries.


The Bottom Line: It is true that MMA involves uniquely heated sparring that can get bloody, but when we look at the stats, injury numbers are similar to those of other sports. Dangerous things can happen in these fights, but MMA’s regulatory body works hard to ensure that athletes’ health is protected. Do you think they are doing enough? Where do you stand when it comes to MMA?

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