Sunday 23 October 2016

The Yates Anthology: Violence and cruelty are reality of MMA

Published 16/04/2016 | 02:30

Portuguese MMA fighter Joao Carvalho (right) during the fight against Charlie Ward. Photo: Dave Fogarty
Portuguese MMA fighter Joao Carvalho (right) during the fight against Charlie Ward. Photo: Dave Fogarty

The so-called 'sport' of mixed martial arts (MMA) was finally exposed for what it truly is this week, with the tragic loss of a young man's life.

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The death of Joao Carvalho is far too high and unacceptable a price to pay for what, in my estimation, amounts to a sadistic form of 'entertainment'.

Nine blows to his head inflicted life-threatening brain injuries which couldn't be repaired by neurosurgery in Beaumont Hospital.

The marketing of UFC and Extreme Fighting Championship events is based on an appetite for gratuitous violence.

We have seen where, repeatedly, a vanquished combatant is either unwilling or unable to signal an end of the contest. You have the wide spectrum of blows, but for good measure choking, suffocating holds are also part of the mix.

No surprise really that the referee's intervention can come too late to avoid permanent injury or death.

This leads to a difficult and very painful question, which is: How, precisely, does one define the death of Mr Carvalho - a legal killing? Manslaughter? It is hard to see it as a run-of-the-mill accident. Repeated blows to the head bring something of the inevitable to serious injury or a loss of life.

If we're waiting on a government or the Sports Council to ban such events in Ireland, it won't happen. Public attitudes to ostracise MMA and to see it for what it is need to be championed within the media. Because 'Notorious' Conor McGregor (pictured) is Irish, we feel obliged to wave the green jersey and flag to embrace his success in America. A new generation idolises him, every word and gesture. His image now fronts a mega-marketing campaign by Budweiser beer; his 'Dream Big' campaign is being trumpeted and he has become a role model for young boys.

It's no surprise parents of primary school pupils as young as eight are receiving letters from teachers asking them to exhort their kids to stop beating the heads off each other in schoolyards during break time.

The blood-splattered images from MMA cages are looked upon with awesome respect by impressionable adolescents.

This is just plain wrong.

MMA violence isn't cool, it's cruel. It's not compatible with boxing or other sports.

Clinicians like Dr James Gray and Professor Tim Lynch testify to the shocking state of MMA victims appearing in Dublin hospitals.

Serious injury shouldn't be a consequence of any organised event. Venues such as the National Stadium, Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium should prohibit MMA bouts; commercial property owners such as hoteliers should publicly disown the sport. Sponsors should reflect on having their brands associated with it.

Regulation of all contact sports should be under constant review in light of the new medical evidence about the long-term dangers from concussion.

Even rugby authorities must protect young athletes with new protocols. Helmets in hurling and amateur boxing are rightly compulsory. It is difficult to see how MMA can prevent further fatalities or permanent brain damage in its participants without radical change.

Supporters and spectators may scream the sport will go underground; if so, it's no different to outlawed bare-knuckle fighting in car parks.

Insurance soars in the 'whiplash capital'

The renewal notices for annual car insurance are causing shock and annoyance to motorists, with premiums up by 30pc.

Never mind you may not have had a recent claim. Insurers highlighted cumulative losses of €456m over the past three years; apparently due to a rise in claims. Leaving aside picking up the tabs for insolvencies at Setanta and Quinn, as well as unprecedented fraud, the main blame is attributed to the levels of awards for injuries cases.

The recent annual report from the Injuries Board relays a different story. The volume of claims (33,561) is up 6pc, while average cash pay-outs are only up 1pc (€22,878). This State entity was set up in 2004 to provide a fair, speedy, non-litigious compensation scheme for accident victims. What's gone wrong? It's dealing with 20pc of all awards, while 80pc are still settled through the courts. Inconsistency in awards is driving these uncontrollable costs.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton is hoping to get some agreement with the President of the High Court, Peter Kelly, to invoke some kind of financial norms.

But it would be more effective if the Government would just confront this problem head-on by putting the Injuries Board book of quantum - the guide book used by the board when assessing compensation for personal injury claims - on a statutory footing. This would standardise compensation for specific injuries. Unless there's a mandatory, systemic approach, the Injuries Board will be by-passed in preference to spinning what some see as the lucrative lotto wheels at the Four Courts.

The Troika battled in vain to dismantle restrictive, uncompetitive practices amongst solicitors and barristers. Yet Ireland is the 'whiplash capital of the world'. The most common car accident injury yields an average payment of €14,000 - compared with £5,000 in the UK; France €2,000; and Germany €3,000.

An all-party agreement to streamline compensation is the only way to avoid young drivers being put off the road through unaffordable insurance policies.

Fancies to follow for the flat racing season

THE flat racing season on the turf is opening up, with so much to savour. Owners and trainers have great expectations on the home front. My top two to follow: Jack Hobbs, John Gosden's four-year-old raced in the shadow of Golden Horn (retired) last year, but won the Irish Derby, on soft ground.

He can still win many Group 1 races, beginning with the Jockey Club Stakes at the Newmarket Guineas meeting. US Army Ranger is impeccably bred (by Galileo/out of Moonstone). He made his eye-catching debut in the muck at Curragh a fortnight ago, sensationally winning a decent maiden.

Irish Independent

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