August 13, 2012

The racial silliness that makes up so much of our public discourse has also infected the MMA world. Fans are meant to believe that the words “BROWN PRIDE” tattooed in oversized letters across former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez‘s chest are merely a healthy expression of ethnic solidarity. But Caucasian fighters whose bodies are adorned with similar displays get sanctioned. Mr. Velasquez is the child of an illegal immigrant. Privileged, contemptible Anglos are apparently supposed to celebrate this narrative as the American Dream exemplified.

Women have swiftly asserted their equal right to break each other’s jaws and orbital bones. Liberated women’s invasion of the “masculine space” of combat sports, once almost solely the domain of working-class minority males, seems to be among the final fronts in the gender-equity wars. Having freed themselves from patriarchal oppression’s constraints, these women now claim their right to move down in life rather than up. Why pursue a stifling corporate career when you can duke it out in the gym with the boys? Even Dana White, who postures as a recalcitrant chauvinist, seems to be coming around to the idea.

MMA attracts many professionals who are keen on slumming. Ph.D. Rosi Sexton is probably MMA’s highest academic achiever, while Jeff Monson and Rich Franklin are notable among those who hold graduate degrees yet abandoned professional careers to pursue fighting.

Haven”€™t we seen all this before? Is history indeed cyclical?

It may not even be accurate to claim the gladiators were only symptomatic of Roman decline. The arena’s spectacles may well have worked to reinforce Roman law and morality in the citizenry’s minds. Often, however, the bouts didn’t end fatally, and at times there were female gladiators. Bored aristocrats sometimes entered the arena, as did certain emperors who made sure to minimize personal risks. The phenomenon of bread and circuses looks, as others have observed, like an apt description of our own historical moment.

These fighters are our modern gladiators, but if history is to be trusted, this is nothing to celebrate. The implications are ominous.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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