Every so often, a bit of news makes its way into the MMA news bubble that makes you stop and take notice.
Remember Kyle Maynard, the human torso, who competed in an MMA contest despite not having (much) arms or legs? Or how about the recent news that “MMA fighter” Jarrod Wyatt tore out his buddies heart and peeled off his face while in the midst of a
bath salts magic mushrooms induced trip? And yes, I put “MMA fighter” in quotations because he’s had a grand total of one fight. If I sat on the bench once for a semi-pro basketball team, what are the chances that if I killed someone tomorrow the headline would read “Professional Basketball Player Commits Murder”?
And then there’s this. Today, we found out that British promotion Ultimate Cage Fighting Championship (wow, I wonder where they got that name?) is teaming up with Wheeled Warriors (see where this is going?) to put on a first in the sport: wheelchair MMA. Let me state that again just in case you were skimming: if you live in the U.K. than there will soon be athletes in wheelchairs duking it out in a cage for your amusement.
According to the promotion, the wheelchairs will be the sort used for other “high impact” wheelchair sports such as basketball, and other off-road activities. Outside of that, we don’t know a hell of a lot else about how this whole thing is supposed to work. Having the combatants in wheelchairs puts a whole new spin on the concept of a “ground game”, and it (it would seem to me) makes the grappling aspect of MMA pretty much irrelevant. I don’t see many wheelchair athletes shooting for double leg takedowns, do you? Combine that with the fact that (unless I’m missing something) their legs don’t work, and what you have essentially is boxing. In a cage. In wheelchairs.
And then there’s the nitty gritty intangibles that tend to make your head spin if you think about them too hard. What happens if an athlete gets rocked by strikes? Will we see some poor fellow slumped over in his wheelchair? Indeed, I can’t help but think this is going to end up as a fancy/borderline offensive version of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots, with the two fighters parking their chairs in front of each other and windmilling punches until one guy goes limp. And then there’s the “what if?” of – heaven forbid – a guy getting knocked out of his chair during a fight. What happens than? Is he expected to continue as is? And is the other guy expected to “jump in his guard”…so to speak.
Part of me wants to hate this. It’s tasteless, crass, potentially very dangerous, and will give buckets of ammunition to every critic of MMA who perceives it as meaningless bloodsport.
And yet, I find myself torn on this issue. After all, who the hell am I to tell a man (or woman) confined to a wheelchair that they can’t have an MMA fight. If both competitors agree to the bout and an athletic commission is willing to sanction it (this being England, that could end up being a bit of a sticking point for me) than why not? Wheel Warriors CEO Colin Wood seems to have his heart in the right place, and this seems less a shameless money grab and more a legitimate attempt to give wheelchair athletes who want to compete in MMA (God knows why) a shot.
What do you think? Is wheelchair fighting in MMA a good thing overall, or something to be avoided?