Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gay for M.M.A.

“The New York Times Magazine” has done a public service by publishing Gladiator, Paul Wachter’s article on the underground versus state-sanctioned arenas of mixed martial arts, through the lens of an ex-con named Shad Smith who’s participated in both. Shad Smith also happens to be openly gay and, rightly, Wachter does not dwell on this detail any more than the other fighters do. As Smith himself allows, while fans will sometimes taunt him, the world of M.M.A. is “like a fraternity…once these guys see you in the cage, as long as you don’t make a fool out of yourself” you’re treated like everyone else. Finally one of the biggest misconceptions about fighting (boxing, muay Thai, M.M.A., jujitsu, etc.) as a macho, misogynistic, homophobic sport – when it’s actually the opposite – has been exposed. Anyone who’s ever spent time around serious fighters knows they dedicate themselves to what happens inside the ring. And gender and sexuality are checked before you set foot inside that space. There’s no time for categorizing people when your life is on the line. The only relevant question is, “Can you hold your own?” Fighters don’t distinguish between men and women, straight and gay. Everyone trains the same and is held to the same standard. Sports where opponents draw blood are very often the most civilized.

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