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4/7/2019 Ban This Extreme Barbarism - The New York Times

| 1997

JAN. 17, 1997

Merely regulating a barbaric act does not change its nature. Nor does posting doctors at ringside to prevent the combatants
from killing each other turn a bloody public spectacle into a legitimate sport.
The commercial sponsors of ''extreme'' or ''ultimate'' fighting maintain that such bouts are safe because no contestant has
yet been killed. But that fact is more a testimonial to the novelty of these competitions than to their safety. Unfortunately, the
promoters managed to sell that line to gullible state legislators who passed a law last year making New York the first state to
sanction extreme fighting, which Illinois and Missouri have outlawed as dangerous.
Extreme fighting puts two contestants in a ring surrounded by a chain-link fence. They are allowed to pummel each other
into pulp until one of them becomes unconscious or surrenders, or until a doctor stops the action because a contestant has
sustained serious injury. Head butts, kicks to the groin, punches to the kidneys all are allowed. The rules prohibit only eye-
gouging, biting and, in New York State at least, kicks to the throat. No one wins points for style; the promotions hawk violence,
blood and pain, not athletic technique. The fact that audiences may relish seeing men bleed, and that some fighters will risk
any amount of injury for prize money or glory, does not justify the state's approving these exhibitions of brutality.
State Senator Roy Goodman of Manhattan, Gov. George Pataki and New York City's Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, worked to
block an extreme-fighting match at Brooklyn's Park Slope Armory in 1995. But Mr. Pataki eventually signed the new state law
because his veto would have been overridden. As a result, the politicians may now be powerless to block a match scheduled by
the same sports promoter in Manhattan in March.
Supporters of extreme fighting contend that legalization will allow the State Athletic Commission to regulate the events.
But in fact, the commission will not change the nature of the contests, which are distinguished by their lack of rules. The new
state law may also make it difficult for communities to ban the repulsive fights by pre-empting local ordinances. Mayor
Giuliani will test that issue with his proposed ordinance to ban the fights in New York City.
Governor Pataki has vowed to reintroduce a bill to ban the fights statewide. At the very least, communities ought to have a
say in whether they want such events taking place in their midst. Repeal of the new law would give communities that
prerogative. It would also nullify the promoters' efforts to enhance their sport's acceptability throughout the country by
brandishing the official blessing of New York. In a culture awash in violence, there is no need for another form of savagery as
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A version of this editorial appears in print on January 17, 1997, on Page A00030 of the National edition with the headline: Ban This Extreme Barbarism.

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