“Cage fighting” — spawn or parent of cultural violence?

In the 1985 movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” Mel Gibson as the film’s hero is forced to participate in a bloody, to-the-death fight in a large cage from which he is not allowed to exit.  The bloody fighting was performed for the blood lust of the applauding audience.  This theatrical fight seems now, 25 years later, to have been a precursor to what has become a multi-million dollar entertainment industry known as “cage fighting.” 

Cage fighting is also referred to as “mixed martial arts” fighting and “ultimate fighting.”  While the organized aspect of the “sport” does not include among its attractions fights to the death, it clearly panders to the extreme violence craved by its large and growing audience in the U.S. and other countries (its modern rendition appears to have originated in Brazil).  Single matches staged in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles can net tens of millions of dollars for promoters and participants.

A recent episode in which an off-duty cage fighter murdered his training partner by cutting out his still-beating heart, has drawn attention to the violent and violence-engendering nature of cage fighting.  The alleged murderer, Jarrod Wyatt, apparently had ingested hallucinogenic mushroom tea before the grisly murder of his training partner in Klamath, California. 

While this “extreme” murder did not occur in the “cage,” the regular televising of no-holds-barred “extreme” fights on cable channels such as Spike, is causing at least some to question whether these activities, reflective of the coarsening of modern culture, are simultaneously themselves fostering ever more violent behavior outside the cage in a broader societal context.  Activities such as those transmitted on social websites, in which groups of teens (sometimes boys, other times teenaged girls) savagely beat up one or more victims, come to mind.

With extreme violence of the sort practiced by cage fighting participants becoming increasingly lucrative and widespread, it should hardly be surprising that gang fight incidents such as those seen on social internet sites, or that took place in Klamath, California, are occuring.

106 comments Add your comment

Rightwing Troll

June 4th, 2010
6:15 am

When cages are outlawed, only outlaws will have cages. Isn’t that right Bob? Are you proposing a nanny State solution?

Those audiences are chock, no,,,. slap full of conservative and tea bagger types, they especially love violence.


June 4th, 2010
6:25 am

Well, while cultural attitudes of youth have changed, Bob, the crimes codes around the nation have not. I suspect more and more kids will discover that DAs are not willing to drop aggravated assault charges down to simple assault or harassment anymore… and I’m ok with that… let them have felonies on their records when they try to go out into the “real world’. No doubt their “helicopter parents” will be coming into their interviews with them trying to explain it all away…


June 4th, 2010
7:20 am

While I don’t think we need a State solution, I think we DO need to encourage youth to find something better to invest their time and energy in than this “mixed martial arts.” I have always found it barbaric and disgusting, and I’m glad that it would appear I’m not alone. People always love to trumpet that “wrestling is fake!” Yeah, I know, and that’s actually part of the appeal (although I don’t watch it much these days, but I sure loved it in years past)…I know it’s all for show and wrestlers are gonna go have a beer with each other at the end of the show–they’re not actually beating the daylights out of each other or intentionally inflicting injury.

I think Spike now has a show (I can’t remember what it’s called) where you can watch people do crazy things and actually die from them. It’s kind of disturbing to me that that many deaths are caught on tape.


June 4th, 2010
7:57 am

No holds barred?
They don’t allow groin shots, soccer kicks/kness/stomps to the head of a downed opponent, 12-6 elbows, small joint locks, eye gouging, etc. Aside from all of these rules in place to protect the fighter, sure, no holds barred.

Let’s check your logic. One fighter gets high on drugs and murders another person. Let’s say one accountant gets high on drugs and murders another person. Do we tar all accountants the same as that one individual? But you might say that’s not a fair comparison, their job isn’t saturated in violence. Okay, so a soldier comes home and murders another person. Do we get to tar all soldiers now and get rid of soldiers (actually…not a bad idea. I’d rather leaders settled their disputes in the cage, a lot less wasted resources/lives).

What they do in the cage, believe it or not, requires skill, discipline, and lots of hard work. Fights are like paper/rock/scissors chess matches. This is not your average bar room brawl. Go to a gym and learn some ju jitsu, take some boxing, wrestling, whatever floats your boat. Educate yourself and you might actually see past the “horror” of two consenting adults pitting their skills and training against each other.


June 4th, 2010
8:03 am

Sports fighting has been with us since the very beginning of human history and it is definitely the spawn of our cultural predilection for violence as a source of excitement. You can outlaw the practice and have it just go underground or you can regulate its safety and tax it. I opt for the latter.

The reality is that no one is kidnapping athletic young men and forcing them to fight. These guys choose to engage in this sport and willingly make great sacrifices to do so. Its practice infringes on no one’s rights or liberties, unlike our government’s implementation of a military draft to conscript unwilling persons to engage in combat with a high probability of death or permanent disabling injury.


June 4th, 2010
8:29 am

It very definitely builds character. Kirk Douglas in Spartacus, lot of character there. In Roman times gladiators, if they won, could get a pardon from the emperor. In 1993 cage fighting was introduced into the U.S. In the latest spin off, kids as young as 6 cage fight. Massachusettes and Missouri allow children to cage fight. Other states do not regulate it at all. Parents encourage their children to cage fight, they even let them practise their choke holds on mom and dad. The ones i have seen on the tube do not last very long. You are all set for a bloody fight, then one guy gets the other down and beats the other guy, and then the one getting beaten, “taps out” and it is all over.

It is a sport, where being the best is the only way to go, the rest are basket cases.


June 4th, 2010
8:35 am

I long for the good old days when the coliseum was full and Christians were getting eaten by wild animals. Gladiators were killing each other for a chance of freedom, oh I long for those days, and Obama promised to bring them back… Now I don’t have to pay my rent or buy gasoline because Obama will take care of me… NOT


June 4th, 2010
8:36 am

Let me borrow from Neal….. Bob you ignorant ***t.
Mixed martial arts is NOT “no holds barred”. That alone pretty much neutralizes your whole column.

Mixed martial arts is an evolving sport, and there are many more rules now than even 10 years ago. It basically combines wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, and a wide variety of styles (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, muay thai , etc). It can be violent, or it can be an extremely boring wrestle fest of brute strength.

What it does do, though, is exhibit what REAL fights are all about. REAL fights last seconds or minutes… not 10 or 12 rounds. REAL fights are quick and strategic, not movie junk where actors put on a show.

But let’s go further, Bob: Why no article on the culture of sexual assault due to football? Consider the antics of Ben Roethlisberger , Eric Foster, or the HUGE host of reports of sexual assaults by football players, in general (Don’t believe me… google it). Or of the thuggery of basketball players? . Pro boxing had Mike Tyson biting off Evander’s ear… did you write a column on pro boxing? I could go on and on… all sports have their thugs. If you don’t like MMA, don’t watch. But don’t pretend to lecture us on stuff that you don’t understand. It makes you look like an idiot.

[...] Seriously, Bob, is the best you can do? [...]


June 4th, 2010
8:52 am

First off, football and boxing are far more dangerous than MMA due to the risk of multiple consussions from repeated blows to the head. Secondly, MMA takes more skill and discipline than any other sport in the world due to the massive number of things you need to learn. And finally, I’d rather kids went into a gym and learn that discipline and focus in a controlled environment than hang out on the courts with some basketball punks and gang members. That’s not even mentioning the health benefits working out like that give you. Your articles are usually well researched and logical Bob, but you dropped the Barr on researching this one. Go check out X3 Sports or Unit2 in atlanta and you’ll see what I mean.


June 4th, 2010
9:00 am

@Sanity: Basketball punks and gang members? Stereotype much you freaking bigot?


June 4th, 2010
9:10 am

So Jon, you would want kids hanging out with gang members? That doesn’t seem like a good idea. I’m saying take those kids and put them in a controlled environment with adults, as opposed to in public areas with lots of other kids. Explain how that’s bigotry.

Mrs. Norris

June 4th, 2010
9:17 am

The human race is devolving. It’s all explained in “Idiocracy”.


June 4th, 2010
9:19 am

The modern version of these type fights actually originated in Hong Kong and Singapore. It became more popular and mainstream in Brazil.

Jon but not Jon Voight

June 4th, 2010
9:34 am

I think Bob does this on purpose. He contradicts his traditional libertarian/republican government only for corporate interests position to test us. The AJC has added his column to soothe the right wing restless beast who won’t buy the paper because it is leftist. What a waste of space.


June 4th, 2010
9:43 am

seems to me there are laws in place to deal with murder and/or the removal of organs from a person’s body. if you don’t like “cage fighting” do not attend any MMA events, do not purchase “pay-per-view” MMA programs, etc. it’s like helmet laws/motorcycles – as I see it, every time a MMA fighter kills his opponent, it A: cleans the gene pool and B: “creates” a job. this is such a weak topic. truth be told, the only reason I am here is I can’t seem to get my views posted on CT’s blog.


June 4th, 2010
9:58 am

neo-Carlinist: no MMA fighter has ever been killed in a sanctioned event. I think one was once seriously injured, but that’s one out of tons of fights.


June 4th, 2010
10:01 am

Sorry Bob.

Try to actually, do a little research before writing, just like, you know thinking or doing research before speaking.

How amny deaths have occured in MMA as opposed to boxing?

Even just serious injuries? Or just cuts in a MMA fight vs a Boxing match?

If you had any idea, you know, true knowledge of this, you would focus on boxing instead.

But the fact is, you are just on a political agenda tirade,…meaning you really don’t care, you just want to sound like you have a cause to fight for. You wont do any real research or fact checking, you won’t speak out against boxing (not that I want you to), and you certainly will not sit through an entire MMA fight to try to understand anything about it.

I personally prefer watching MMA fight in a ring, like most MMA promotion in Japan have, but I’ve come to understand why UFC and other promotion have them in a cage. It prevents the participants from falling though or under the ropes. As a matter of fact, in Japan whre they have frowned upon the cage, they are now considering using cages, as teh ropes of a ring are more of a detriment then the cage.

Try to look past the cage itself and watch the technical display of boxing, kickboxing, and submission grappling that takes place,…you might actually learn something.


June 4th, 2010
10:19 am

How about actually researching the sport before you bash it Bob. There are rules, states do regulate it, and it is safe as proven by its safety record.

What I find amusing is your moral outrage when we all know your a huge hypocrite, right Bob. Do we need to ask your 3 ex wives about you, or maybe just go straight to the woman you were photographed licking wiped cream off of.

What about the fact that you publicly denounce abortion but paid for your ex wives abortion in 1983? That sounds very phony Bob.


June 4th, 2010
10:24 am

Curiously, in a supposed anti-incumbent year, most of the departing are not retiring but seeking higher office. We may recycle more than we replace. The bad news is that a frustrating 114 seats still have but one contestant. Two of them aren’t even incumbents, meaning they will affect state policy without being vetted by voters. And I have to think that we’d be better off if many had run instead for the Legislature — and cut down on the number running unopposed. Georgia’s problems are numerous. They aren’t going away. There’s too much stale thinking at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. New voices would be welcome.


June 4th, 2010
10:24 am

Mixed Martial Arts?!! Skill?!! Technical?! HaHa!.

They just end up rolling around on the ground like a couple of 13 year old boys in a back yard fight. I really don’t see the appeal of this “style of fighting”.


June 4th, 2010
10:25 am

sanity, I understand. my point was, this really had nothing to do with MMA. it was a murder, and there are laws on the books to deal with murders. earlier this week a porn star allegedly (for the lawyers) murdered a co-worker in Los Angeles. the fact that the murder took place at a porn production facility, or that the alleged murderer and his victim both worked in the porn industry isn’t really the issue. by Bob’s reasoning, we should ban NASCAR and I suppose air travel, as they endeavors produce far more deaths than MMA or ‘cage matches’. as a long time libertarian, I would have hoped Bob was a true libertarian, but he’s not (which is why I did not vote for him in 2008). he’s just a shill for Cox Enterprises, which is OK, because we all have to work for a living, but as I have announced over on CT’s blog (where I have been repeatedly censored), I’m gonna take my business elsewhere.

JF McNamara

June 4th, 2010
10:37 am

You’re free to watch or not, and you can stop your kids from watching with a little parenting. I don’t care for it, but others are free to watch it if they want to.


June 4th, 2010
10:40 am

What a chicken and egg argument. Look at overall murder rates and lack of feeding Christians to the lions.

Rightwing Troll

June 4th, 2010
10:43 am

It’s way more of a sport than say Football, Basketball or NASCAR.

If you can’t see the skill and hard work it takes for these guys to make it on TV, then you aren’t watching it and most likely basing your opinions on your favorite commentator…

These gentlemen hug each other after beating each other’s brains out, they don’t keep guns in thier lockers and take thier fame and fortune and throw it all away on dog fighting…


June 4th, 2010
11:07 am

JohnF wrote: “They just end up rolling around on the ground like a couple of 13 year old boys in a back yard fight.”

You clearly do not understand what is going on, which puts you in the same ignoramus boat with Mr. Barr. I suppose you also define football as a bunch of men lining up and running into each other? Oh, so when you UNDERSTAND something, you suddenly see the rhyme and reason to it.

In wrestling, they would be trying to pin the opponent (do you consider Olympic Wrestling to be “rolling around in a back yard fight”?). In MMA, they are generally trying to isolate a body part … arm/leg/head… to inflict enough pain to force a submission (tapout) without compromising their own position. YOU don’t understand or recognize what is going on, so you show your ignorance by characterizing it in the most simplistic terms you understand.


June 4th, 2010
12:19 pm

alexis arguello, arturo gati, vernon forest, edwin valero: all high profile fighters who have met a violent end within about a years time…the catch? they are all boxers. Quite frankly i can’t stand MMA and i LOVE boxing, but this article seems a bit unfair to MMA. Is it violent? sure…maybe even a little unseemly? yah….does it lack the polish of the sweet science? i think so, but what it doesnt need? governement regulation outside of state gaming commisions, violence inside the ring in inevitable but thats part of society. Fight sport has been part of popular society since the start of society, and quite frankly its healthy, you have millions of humans who live their lives everyday about to explode violently, but societal rules and personal beliefes keep them from such outbursts, for many such people MMA and fight sport in general can be cathartic as they live vicariously through the violence on the screen, just like film, video games, literature, music. In the wrong, unstable hands of course violent sport can have disasterous results, but letting a few unstable apples ruin the bunch is just foolish….sorry if i rambled a bit, rant over.


June 4th, 2010
12:21 pm

I was an all american wrestler in college dude, and currently have earned a green belt in tae kwon do..so I do recognize “real” fighting skill (and the lack of it). Oooh..that is some skill..grabbing a body part and bending it to cause pain unil the other oaf says uncle. It’s “athletic” value is slighly above professional wrestling.

But more power to ‘em if idiots enjoy watching that crap and buying the crappy energy drinks they endorse..hahahahaha!


June 4th, 2010
12:29 pm

Several commenters have already offered succinct and well-reasoned rebuttals to Bob’s column, so I am not even going to bother.

I just wanted to say, MMA kicks a@@ and can be very entertaining. It is a physical chess match, and watching these athletes ply their trade leaves me with respect for what they do.

Robert DeSantis

June 4th, 2010
12:33 pm


Your just way off here and i feel the result is misinformation. You need to educate yourself a little bit on the rules and regulation that goes into the sport. Whether or not MMA may be of your particular taste or not is one thing, and i could certianly understand why it wouldn’t be, but it is far from being No Holds Barred as you so put it.

In 99% of fights, these fighters come out of the ring with scrapes and bruises, and worse case a cut on the fact or a concussion. Certianly nothing to downplay, but it is no less than your average football, hockey player does after playing a full game is it? More to the point, the blog you just posted here shows that you didn’t take the time to look at the statistics, or bother looking into the rules. 17 years ago when they had the first UFC, it was no holds barred, but that got banned, and the sport undertook tight regulation. It is a safe sport now, however, still possesses voilence as any combat sport would.

But your arguement that the sport had anything to do with that murder is one of the biggest leaps in logic i’ve ever seen you make.

This article was disappointing to me as someone who enjoys your politics most of the time. You obviously did no homework before writing it.


June 4th, 2010
12:37 pm


So you are saying you would have no problem taking down an MMA fighter? If you ever try to do so under sanctioned conditions please let me know so I can be there to report the results on YouTube. The resulting video title would be, “Former All American College Wrestler with Green Belt in Tae Kwon Doe Gets Owned by MMA Fighter in First Round”.

Real Libertarian

June 4th, 2010
12:53 pm

If we’re going to outlaw any sport when one of their roid-rage athletes kills somebody, “professional” wrestling and football would have been gone based on crimes in the metro-Atlanta area alone. As long as there are people willing to abuse their bodies for money, they’ll be people willing to pay to see it.


June 4th, 2010
1:01 pm

JohnF considers college wrestling and a green belt Tae Kwon do advanced forms of martial art skill. Enough said.

Barr's blog

June 4th, 2010
1:07 pm

The most violent sport of all is woman’s mud wrestling. The sheer debauchery should make all Americans ashamed. Proponents argue that there’s always a fire marshal on call with a fire hose, you know, just in case.

But that’s small consolation. We must start enforcing at least the laws that are already on the books concerning women’s mud wrestling.

If not, we’re finished.

John McCain

June 4th, 2010
1:17 pm

MMA is human co(c)kfighting.

That’s why we need to bomb Iran and kill those little rag head children before they grow up to be terrorists.

This piece reminds me of my good friend Bob…the Bob I knew and respected.


June 4th, 2010
1:21 pm

@Van: Do I have to shave my head?

@CheeseWhiz..that’s what’s in your brain isn’t it? If you had any reading comprehension skill you could have discerned that I was merely stating that I have some experience in forms of person to person contact…see, that was the challenge from the guy that said my opinion was that of an ignoramous..by showing my background I make the point that I’m not entirely ignorant..now that’s not that hard to comprehend..is it?

No, I’m not as advanced as some in the martial arts but I would have no problem saying the owner of our Tae Kwon Do School..a third dan black belt..who is 50 years old and weighs about 160 lbs..would have no problem taking out any of the MMA neanderthals I’ve seen.

Again..they fight like 13 year olds.


June 4th, 2010
1:22 pm

BOB…..like (2)adults engaged in consensual SEX….these R all adults in the CAGE…Nanny……leave it be…leave it alone..


June 4th, 2010
1:39 pm

JohnF-Keep backpedaling and spewing ignorant remarks. You know not of what you speak. It seems the 13 year olds you speak of would be a self projection. Good luck with your green belt with one stripe.


June 4th, 2010
2:21 pm

greg- very good point. I personally am a fan of both MMA and boxing and it is very refreshing to see a boxing fan who has an informed opinion on MMA and doesn’t feel threatened by it to the point that they feel they need to bash it.

I think MMA is a great outlet for people to get out frustration and burn off steam which otherwise could explode violently in a very bad way. It is safer than football and boxing and as long as the participants are consenting, it is not a problem


June 4th, 2010
2:26 pm

neo-Carlinist: I completely agree

JohnF: Look up the early UFC’s to see what happens to Tae Kwon Do guys against real fighters. It would end badly for your school master. Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are superior martial arts. And throw in the boxing, Judo, and wrestling these guys have to know and you will find you and anyone at your school are far outclassed in technique and physicality. Movie fighting only works in movies.


June 4th, 2010
2:41 pm

Well, according to Bob’s points we should also outlaw lawyers, look how they have ruined our country. They are greedy, murderers, robbers, and the list goes on. If you mistreat a UFC fighter, he will beat you up but if you mistreat a lawyer, he will bankrupt you in court. What is the difference for the average Joe? Either he is nuturing his wounds or his is living on the streets. Lawyers are cowards!


June 4th, 2010
2:59 pm

I guess JohnF thinks Mr. Miaga could beat up George Rush St. Pierre. Tae Kwon Do is a joke compared to MMA fighters. If your Sensei is such a bad ass, why doesn’t he go rule the UFC and make millions rather than running a Karate dojo? I guess he prefers training with “all-american” wrestlers. Hilarious!


June 4th, 2010
3:13 pm

Sanity: Bingo!

JohnF: Do yourself a favor. There is this thing called “Google”. Go to google.com, and enter “Tae Kwon Do against MMA”

Then, sit down and weep at your stupidity. A few fighters will use some aspects of Tae Kwon Do, but it is mostly useless.


June 4th, 2010
3:14 pm

JohnF: “I would have no problem saying the owner of our Tae Kwon Do School..a third dan black belt..who is 50 years old and weighs about 160 lbs..would have no problem taking out any of the MMA neanderthals I’ve seen.” A 50 year old Royce Gracie or Hixon Gracie would absolutely kill your guy. The fact of the matter is in REAL fights, about 90% of them go to the ground…which is why the jiu jitsu is taught. Your guy, if he fought St. Pierre or some of the big names at that weight would not stand a chance. And as Sanity said at 2:26…it’s been proven time and time again. A guy who is an expert in ONE martial arts form OTHER than jiu jitsu has very little chance against a true mixed martial artist.


June 4th, 2010
3:15 pm

JDawg; well said…


June 4th, 2010
3:32 pm

Dont you just love how the editors of the AJC ignore the obvious. Young Blacks arent worth a FCK! First the mistake of having a hip hop party in Kennesaw (us older partiers saw what they did to Buckhead in the late 90’s) and now this…………
Hmmm… why dosent the ACLU / NAACP go after ALL hate crimes? Perhaps THEY are the racist ones!

Truth Hurts Everyone

June 4th, 2010
3:54 pm

It really is silly to start saying this guy could beat up that guy and blah, blah, blah. I don’t think the average black belt would not do well against a MMA professional under MMA rules, but who cares? I can pretty well bet he would beat the tar out of most MMA fans who think they know something. And the average MMA guy isn’t going to do all that well out on the street either. I’ve seen a photo of what one swing by a cop with a maglite in his hand does to one of them…and it made for a very quick KO from what I understand.

interested observer

June 4th, 2010
5:10 pm

Gee, Bob, I always thought there was a potential for an Execution Channel on cable, but our nanny state governments just weren’t executing enough people to fill a 24-hour slot.

You can’t get good porno on basic cable. Violence is the next best thing. Look at the responses to any editorial on any web page. People are mad. They want to see someone bleed, even if they can’t be the cause of the bloodshed. What do you think made the Iraq war so popular early on? Americans got to kill folks.


June 4th, 2010
5:29 pm

Wow Bob. I’m glad I voted for Nader.

[...] know an anti-MMA article is gonna be good when it starts off like this: In the 1985 movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” Mel Gibson as the film’s hero is forced to [...]