The debate has raged for years as to the sporting value of mixed martial arts. Is it a highly skilled, and for the most part safe, science of combat and valor, or is it a barbaric enterprise that is comparable to human cock-fighting?
As the sport as a whole has taken great strides to bring humanity and legitimacy to its business through tougher safety rules and greater mainstream exposure, it may have taken several giant steps backwards courtesy of a Japanese fighter named Shinya Aoki.
On New Year's Eve, Aoki, the DREAM promotion's lightweight champion, took on an opponent named Mizuto Hirota at the promotion's Dynamite!! 2009 card held in Saitama, Japan. 45,606 spectators watched the two engage in combat.
At the 1:17-mark in the first round, Aoki applied a hammerlock submission hold to Hirota and snapped his arm. The sickening snap of broken bone could be heard throughout the Saitama Super Arena.
If that wasn't bad enough, Aoki then stood over his opponent and flipped him off while taunting him. He then ran around the ring and jumped on the second turnbuckle and flipped off the audience. They responded with thunderous applause.
Granted, Hirota could have prevented his injury by submitting, which he refused to do. That point will be lost on those that urge legislative bodies worldwide to ban the sport of MMA. What sport justifies snapping a man's arm? What sport encourages the perverse behavior of taunting a fallen man while giving him an obscene gesture?
MMA should not be banned. It is no more barbaric than boxing, football or rugby. All of these sports, as do all sports, have good, hard working contestants. They also all have idiots that embarrass their sports by acting like jackpipes.
One bad apple shouldn't spoil a whole bunch.