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Spectacle, not sport

Published November 08. 2011 4:00AM

With all due respect to John Naples, a Montville man in pursuit of his dream to become a successful mixed martial arts fighter, we don't consider this brutal activity a sport and urge the Connecticut legislature not to sanction it.

Mr. Naples' first professional fight at the Mohegan Sun Arena and his preparation for it were the subject of a front-page feature story in The Day on Nov. 6 and an extensive photo essay on theday.com.

Despite efforts by Ultimate Fighting Competition (UFC), the dominant marketing and promotional business in the mixed martial arts field, to clean it up, we still think Arizona Sen. John McCain's initial assessment of the activity had it right: "Human cockfighting." UFC shrewdly dumped the name of a competitor it acquired last year, World Extreme Cagefighting. Some names are too honest.

To win approval for sanctioning by states, some tactics that endeared early fans to these human cage fights are now illegal. Rules no longer permit "fish-hooking," which involved inserting the fingers of both hands into the mouth, nostrils or other orifices and violently pulling in opposite directions. New rules also do not allow kicking and kneeing the head of a downed opponent and strikes to the groin area. Head butts and blows to the back of the head are also now forbidden.

Yet any competition that allows a competitor to keep punching and elbowing a prone opponent until they surrender or become incapacitated or unconscious does not deserve sanctioning as a sport. These events held inside chain-link cages are more violent spectacles than tests of athletic ability.

But these brutish displays do draw crowds, TV viewers and produce money. That's why UFC has lucrative TV network deals and sanctioning in most states. Connecticut, New York and Vermont remain admirable holdouts. The Mohegan Tribe, operators of the Mohegan Sun casino, is free to set its own rules. Connecticut should not follow suit.

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