News & Politics

Missouri House Votes to Ban Kids From Competing in MMA

Derrick Lewis (left) punches Marcin Tybura during their heavyweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC Fight Night 126 on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

Perhaps the fastest growing sport in the country is mixed martial arts, or MMA. Popularized by the UFC, MMA has taken the country by storm in the years since the first UFC event was held on pay-per-view.

After initially disturbing many with its brutality, the UFC codified some safety rules that made it far more palatable to the masses. Now, MMA has a massive following throughout the world, and legions of kids clamor to take part.

But if those kids live in Missouri, they may be out of luck. On Thursday, the state’s House passed a measure with a 112-29 vote to ban kids under 17 from taking part in the sport.

To be clear, the law doesn’t stop kids from learning MMA. But it bars them from competition outside of the training environment.

Are MMA competitions more dangerous than sports like football, hockey, or rugby? The biggest risk factor for kids competing in MMA is concussions. That is a genuine risk, and MMA does carry that risk. It’s one of the “big six” sports for concussions, after all.

However, lawmakers aren’t putting restrictions on those other five sports.

Had the law required MMA competitions to use protective headgear, that would likely not disturb even the staunchest libertarian. But that’s not what the Missouri House did. Instead, they arbitrarily banned kids from actually competing in one sport while turning a blind eye to every other sport that has the potential for the same kind of injury.

The truth is, football players die: as many as 12 per year, as a matter of fact. Between 1990 and 2010, 62 players died as a result of brain injury. You know how many minors have died as a result of MMA? One.

If this is really about kids welfare, why single out MMA? Because it looks brutal?

That’s not how laws should be made in this country. We shouldn’t legislate because something looks bad. Especially when it’s something that gives many kids an outlet for aggression that might otherwise be directed at their peers, while also giving kids self-confidence, physical strength and endurance. And the means to protect themselves from schoolyard predators.

We can’t just wrap everyone in bubblewrap and call it a day.