Before the 11th of April very few in the world outside of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) knew of one Joao Carvalho, a mixed martial arts fighter from Portugal. After a fight in the National Stadium in Dublin in which he lost by a technical knockout he became unwell and was taken to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. Sadly he passed away the following night.
There is something about the death of a sportsman or woman that rocks people. The thought of someone going out to do what they love, not only as a job, not making it home. Of course you get the hysterical reaction in the aftermath of such tragedies and the airwaves are filled with opinions from all sides; those that want the sport (if you can call it that) banned and then you have those who love the sport and talk of regulation and making it safer. Politicians, radio and television presenters all get in on the act but rarely is anything done.
We will get reports. There will be investigations and the sports bodies that are responsible for the safety of those competing are on the defensive with all the usual spin and bullshit. When it comes down to it you are either for or against. There is no grey area when you come to a sport like this; it’s savage. You have two fighters going into a cage and beating the crap out of one and other with their hands, elbows and feet, blows to the head , to the lower body and on the odd occasion the referee might step in. Am I being too hard here? Where is the sport? Indeed the same could be said of boxing, but boxing has been with us for years and regulation has made it a bit safer and only a bit.
Sport has become huge business and MMA has become one of the most followed so-called new sports of this generation. People have become so engrossed in the hype that surrounds it that they are prepared to travel half way around the world to watch these fights live. The big fights are on pay-per-view channels and there is huge money at stake, both for the fighters and for the promoters; mega bucks.
Last week in the aftermath of the death of Joao Carvalho people were calling for the sport to be banned. Personally I think they're right. It is what I said earlier, savage. It is brutal to a point where you have to ask the question what’s it all about. But it tells us a whole lot about the human mind; when people who get involved both in promoting and supporting are wondering what all the fuss is about. It’s not bare knuckle fighting and there is a referee present. So what, one kick to the head and it’s all over lads; one bad enough punch with gloves that are no different than the mits you use to protect your hands from hitting a punch bag could send anyone into a coma.
Are we all being a bit over dramatic? Ask the family of Mr Carvalho and the many others who have been touched by the deaths of so many who take part in MMA. Many will suggest that boxing is no different. Of course they're right one hundred percent and just because it’s around for centuries and it’s part of the Olympics shouldn’t make one bit of difference.
As I said earlier, it’s big business, mega bucks, to many people with huge influence over those that make the rules and the laws. They will not let it happen; the sport will go on. It will grow and with the power of good advertising and worldwide exposure it will become as big as every other sport. It will attract sponsors with the lure of a new audience, money will flood into the sport and heroes will be made. The advertising to sell the sport will be better than anything that has come before and with the lure of big money there will be no shortage of ladies and lads to step into the cage.
Forgotten will be the images of those killed or badly affected from brain injuries; forgotten will be the carnage that this so-called sport has left behind. Instead a pretty picture will be painted for all the world to see. How has it come to this? That people want this? Where does this hunger come from? Where does this mind-set come from? Have we gone back to the days of the Romans in the Colosseum? One of my all-time sports heroes was Muhammad Ali; in his prime the greatest boxer and probably show man that ever entered the sporting arena. In his time they had not got the same scientific knowledge that we have today. They didn’t know the damage that their sport was doing to them in the same way we know now. The image of Ali many years after he finished fighting having to be helped on stage to do a television show was horrific; have we learned nothing?
Ali will always be the greatest but how much of his life did he really get to live. Sport is supposed to be enjoyed; it’s supposed to give us a relief from the daily chore of life. Such tragic events leave their mark. You never get over it; they stay with you and while you get on with life you never forget.