Kids Cagefighting in the UK and the Associated Media Uproar

The subject of children’s cage fighting has exploded into the UK’s mainstream media today: I first saw this a few hours ago via friend at Twitterland, but refrained from commenting due to the nature and volatility of the potential responses. I have to weigh in a little, as what appeared in most of the UK press today is in short, crazy scaremongering. This ‘kids cagefighting’ story has been featured everywhere, including the Mirror, Telegraph, and the Mail.

Now, I have no problem at all with the debate, and wouldn’t say I sit on a particular side of the fence regarding the issue, obviously respecting the dangers involved. It’s definitely a good thing that MMA has proliferated and is becoming more well known and respected, but unfortunately the smouldering stream of mis-information and ill informed journalists shows no signs of calming. This information is repeated or taken as gospel by many, leaving even the slightly informed totally clueless.”

If you’re going to write about something, at least have some kind of clue as to what you’re blabbering on about.

Cage Fighting Children

Cage Fighting Children

I know nothing about the REPs fight promotion, but could tell from the short 10 minute video (which appears to have now been removed from every available source) that it was basically a submission wrestling match. No punches, no kicks, no slaps, no strikes of any kind, just lots of transitions, joint submissions, and in this case, leg locks. I’ll say that again for those of you that might need it. NO STRIKES OF ANY KIND. Therefore, an unfortunate but obvious slur on all the journalists writing on the topic is that unfortunately they’ve pandered to the hounds of the masses. In their heads alarm bells were ringing. “Oh, outrage, kids cagefighting, blah blah, how wrong, blah blah, must write a damning article!”. I’m sure many average citizens would respond in exactly the same way. But that begs the question – if you know nothing of the topic, why are you writing about it? Or why not research it first? Or god forbid, actually watch the video in question maybe? The point of being a journalist is to provide creditable information and reporting? Ranting aside, it does allow us to name and shame as we’ve been given some fabulous gems!

Step forward the Telegraph’s Josie Ensor, who aside from the kids cagefighting article, has a stable of articles about politics, taxes, and the Lib Dem conference. She obviously is an expert on her latest article topic, proclaiming “In one of the last bouts the smaller looking boy is repeatedly kicked in the head while his arm is twisted by the other young competitor.”

Aside from being a total and utter lie, she talks about it as if it is a full blown MMA match, even after input from the man behind the promotion: “The kids are not getting hit or anything at all when they are under age. We do not let them strike – punch and kick – until the age of 14 or 15.” – Why then is she calling it an MMA fight with ”Contestants are allowed to punch, kick and elbow each other into submission”. Mr. Jackson of Warriors Gym, apparently ”questioned the lack of protective gear.” Perhaps if Josie Ensor had told him that it wasn’t in fact an ‘MMA fight’ between two kids then that question wouldn’t have been posed.

Frankly, how did that article even pass the sub-editor stage? What is more disgusting is that she’d have been paid for writing it.

The article in the Daily Mirror, whose author didn’t note their name, gave a less damning account, but brazenly states ”showing the two youngsters grappling does not make for easy viewing” under the banner of ‘cage fighting’. It didn’t make for easy viewing for me either, partly because the skills on show were so interesting to watch. With an understanding of grappling, it all becomes clear. They’ve enlisted help for the ‘disgusted’ side in the form of the British Medical Assocation (BMA) who lambast REPS ”for not ensuring the children were wearing any protective padding or head gear.” Which again, would be no help, and could even bring about more chance of injury to these competitors. (They train and learn without padding, so why introduce it if nothing impactful is occuring? It has been tested with boxers wearing head guards that the incident rate of knockout can actually be higher with headguards due to them giving the head a larger surface area, therefore if they catch a punch the acceleratory forces on the brain can be higher.)

Childrens Cagefighting - Why have the Mirror blurred just one face

Childrens Cagefighting - Why have the Mirror blurred just one face

From how it appears, the only truly dangerous aspect that definitely needs to be looked at is the fact that joints and bones are still developing through to adulthood, and alarm bells were ringing as the boys spun for endless leg lock attempts. Traditionally leglocks aren’t allowed in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition until blue belt, whereby practitioners will have learned better control and knowledge in both their application and escapes, as a leglock or hold can quickly cause serious damage and potentially career ending injuries very quickly.

Another issue well worth considering is the youth of the competitors, and the prospect that they may easily damage themselves for the long term without knowing or realising it at the time. At that age one does not know their own limits or how much punishment the body can take, but these are all risks that are minimised with training, organisation and parenting. If joint locks were removed, the children would have literally been taking part in a wrestling match, a sport that is both popular (with children) and revered in America, whilst providing a minimal amount of danger. (No protective gear is worn in America aside from sometimes ear protectors.) However, the connotations between ‘children’ and ‘cage fighting’ are tenuous at best.

Let’s work to inform about our sport, not dissuade people from it!

AverageJoesBlog – Children MMA Fights
Mirror – Cage Fighting Kids
Mail – Children as young as 8 filmed taking part in cage fighting – and it’s legal