The recent furor over a video clip of two eight-year-old kids “cage fighting” has been the past week’s most visible story in the combat sports world. It was yet another case of audience manipulation causing the public to act like the residents of Springfield and whip themselves into a frenzy for no real reason.
Children Fighting in Cages in England?!
“Cage Fighting Kids”, screamed headlines from Sky News, MSNBC, The Mirror, The Telegraph, the New York Daily News, The Sun, Yahoo, CBS News, etc. Newscasters, writers, and website commenters erupted in rage. The major complaints seemed to be:
- The boys weren’t wearing boxing-style headgear.
- They were fighting in a cage.
- They were grappling in front of an audience of adults.
- There would be no charges pressed against the organizers of the event.
What most of the articles did not mention was that the match in the video wasn’t a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight at all. It was a submission grappling (aka. no-gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu) match with no striking allowed, hence the lack of headgear. The action was not much different from what one would see in judo or wrestling, both of which are Olympic sports and very commonly practiced by school-aged children; and with an excellent safety record. Nothing that was, or should be, illegal was going on in the video.
The reason that these “cage fighting kids” were in front of a crowd of adults was that they were performing in an exhibition submission grappling match to open the Reps Retribution mixed martial arts event, which took place on September 10, 2011 at the Greenlands Labour Club in Preston, Lancashire in the U.K.
Audience Manipulation Spurs Misguided Public Outrage Against Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
This was another classic case of audience manipulation. Newscasts said “cage fighting kids”, so that’s what the audience saw. The media told people that this was an outrage, so people were outraged. How many viewers actually watched the action in the video to confirm that it matched what they were being told? Judging by the slew of comments online, not very many. More people should read “What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream” by Noam Chomsky.
At the very least, the “cage fighting kids” story does bring to mind a few questions that are worth discussing:
- Should kids be allowed to take part in organized grappling, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and wrestling matches? Absolutely.
- Boxing? Under strict supervision with full safety equipment.
- Mixed martial arts? I’d say no.
- Will the general public ever learn to think for themselves and look critically at the information they are fed before they start passing judgement? Probably not in my lifetime.
Eddie Goldman Interviews Reps Retribution MMA Fight Organizers
People interested in hearing the straight story of what was going on should listen to Eddie Goldman’s interview with Marcus Holt and Steven Nightingale of Reps MMA, who are the organizers of the mixed martial arts show in question.