Opinion: MMA and It’s Part in the Fight Against Bullying
By Jesse Heitz
Bullying has been an age-old disease that has plagued an incalculable number of people. For nearly as long, flocks of people, both young and old, have turned towards martial arts in order to learn to effectively defend themselves against their tormentors. Recently, many athletes of all sports have joined in the fight against bullying. Perhaps the most interesting vocational group to take up arms against bullying are MMA fighters.
On October 30, longtime UFC staple, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz and “Razor” Rob McCullough talked to students at Huntington Beach High School, trying to advise them on the intricacies of bullying. This marks an incredible transformation for MMA fighters in general. While it is certainly true that the first series of UFC events depicted the success of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in defeating larger opponents, it also offered highly visible proof that an undersized meek-looking martial artist could defend him or herself against physically imposing bullies.
To be sure, some of the early UFC fighters were bullies themselves, who found MMA as a legal outlet to beat someone up, but as the fight game evolved it became apparent that the local barroom brawler such as “Tank” Abbott could easily be put in his place by a skilled and disciplined martial artist.
Yet today there is a clear message being given by the MMA community, that not only is the organized and regulated sport of MMA a far cry from bullying, but that those involved with MMA might very well be the best suited to guide suffering youths through their struggles with bullies.
Several well-known fighters, such as current UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre, and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski, former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz, among many others began their journey in martial arts because they themselves were the targets of bullies as kids.
The overall message presented by professional fighters is, in my opinion, highly effective. The words focus on empathizing with the victims of bullying, a vast majority have shared in the unpleasant experience at one point or another in our lives. They also promote the notion that it takes a community to rise up against bullying, to expose it and condemn it.
However, the largely unspoken message is that these men and women, professional fighters, went from being the easy prey of bullies, and through hard work and diligent training in martial arts, developed the physical, and more importantly, the mental skill set to take themselves out of the crosshairs of bullies. Perhaps more importantly, such training gave them the self-confidence to stand up bullies outright, either for their own benefit or on behalf of others.
Quite simply, I’d like to commend the current crop of MMA fighters on their service in combating the insidiousness of bullying.