Step right up. Buy your tickets to the Brawls by the Falls. Grown men kicking, scratching and biting each other in a no-holds- barred fight that comes as close to gladiatorial combat as modern society allows.
The Toronto Sun reported this week there’s a battle brewing at Queen’s Park over whether Ontario should legalize mixed martial arts, a move that would clear the way for the Ultimate Fighting Championship league to hold events in this province. If Ontario were to allow UFC matches, Niagara Falls would be a natural host.
For the uninitiated, mixed martial arts is a type of fighting that pits two men against each other inside a cage in an anything- goes scrap that’s only a tiny step up from a prison yard brawl.
But UFC, which is allowed in Quebec and New York State, is wildly popular.
So popular, on a Saturday night, some Niagara Falls bars turn all their TVs away from Hockey Night in Canada to show pay-per-view UFC fights instead.
The issue has entered the political arena, pitting Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty against Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who hails from Niagara region.
Asked about UFC’s future in Ontario, McGuinty brushed it off, saying that changing the law to allow mixed martial arts is “not a priority” for his government – code for “you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
Keep in mind, McGuinty dismissed the idea of banning cellphones while driving in 2007, when asked about it at a Niagara-on- the-Lake press conference. Yet two years later, his government brought in a law prohibiting drivers from using handheld devices, including cellphones, while they’re on the road.
If we’ve learned anything from McGuinty’s Liberals since 2003, it’s that government priorities – such as balanced budgets, pledges not to raise taxes and shutting down coal-fired generators -can be … umm … flexible.
Hudak was quoted saying: “Let’s just get on with it,” because 40 states and five provinces already permit mixed martial arts,
“Let’s bring some tourist dollars to our province,” Hudak said.
Hudak’s approach leaves Ontarians to wonder: If he became premier, would government policy be based on peer pressure? All the cool premiers and governors are doing it, so we should, too.
Hudak’s position puts Ontario on a slippery slope.
If you legalize UFC in the name of bolstering tourism, what’s next? Why not follow Amsterdam’s lead and create red-light districts and put a brothel and marijuana cafe on every corner? Thailand’s sex-tourism industry is flourishing. Maybe it’s a good model to follow.
UFC supporters say live events would attract 40,000 people to Toronto. Something with that kind of drawing power would appeal to folks in the tourism industry. It might be a great fit once the Niagara Convention and Civic Centre opens up next year.
In a 2009 Vanity Fair article, comedian-actress Tina Fey criticized strip clubs, saying, “I feel like we all need to be better than that. That industry needs to die, by all of us being a little bit better than that.”
Mixed martial arts is in that same category.
It’s barbaric. It’s degrading. It appeals to the base instincts of human nature.
Just because something’s popular doesn’t make it right. Surely, the role of government should be to encourage a more evolved society, not exploit people’s bloodlust.
Remember the outrage when National Football League quarterback Michael Vick was convicted of running a dogfighting ring? Ontarians would never stomach dogfighting. But mixed martial arts, which turns people into pit bulls, should be OK?
Defenders of mixed martial arts say its fighters suffer fewer injuries -and even deaths -than boxers do.
But the deciding factor shouldn’t be just about the damage that might or might not occur to participants. The effect it might have on its audience also needs to be considered.
For a government to permit mixed martial arts would set a confusing precedent and undermine the important work that needs to be done combatting violence.
The potential damage mixed martial arts does to its participants and its audiences outweighs any economic benefits to the province.
Mixed martial arts is the kind of thing that belonged in a Roman coliseum in ancient times, not in a civil, sophisticated society like Ontario in the 21st century. In a compassionate, sophisticated society like Canada, there has to be a more meaningful pursuit than to watch grown men try to kill each other for sport.
This article was originally posted on Niagara Falls Review