The Cage Should Be AbolishedPosted on January 2, 2011, 01:43 PM by overhand right
Since the UFC's inception, it has used a cage. The octagon is as much of a UFC trademark as it is a symbol of the sport. Other promotions such as Strikeforce, the late WEC and Bellator have also adopted the cage as a platform for their fighters. After all, many would argue that it is what seperates MMA from every other combat sport.
But is the cage a hinderance to the fighters and the demand for exciting fights? One of the more recent criticisms of contemporary MMA is the so called 'lay 'n prayers' that are dominating the sport in a lacklustre manner. Many fights end up against the cage, with fighters throwing just the right amount of strikes to stop from being separated by the referee.
On the JMMA scene they use a more traditional stage for their fights: a ring. The ropes appears to be much more difficult to push your opponent up against and allow for more free flowing fights. Japanese referees are also nowhere near as lenient with stalling as western ones are and are quick to break up a clinch if the fighters are not making an attempt to do damage, improve position or work for a takedown. Perhaps it is no coincidence after all that the most exciting fights of all time took place between the four corners of the Pride FC ring.
The cage also allows for the man on top to trap his opponent up against the fence, a tactic that is predominantly used by wrestlers. In a ring there are boundaries to how far into the ropes you can go before you fall out and fighters that go too far beyond these perimiters are broken up and reset in the middle of the ring, making it easier for the bottom man to sweep or shrimp away and thus providing a level playing field. The cage can also be worked to a fighter's benefit for getting up by walking their feet or back up the cage so it really comes down to whether being trapped against the fence or being able to manoeuvre your way up it is more important.
Another drawback of the cage is the publicity it gets. It is already widely accepted that the UFC has by far the largest fanbase out of MMA promotions and thus are most responsible for representing the sport. MMA has had many hurdles to jump over the years with regards to public opinion, one of the main ones being the 'barbarism' of the sport. By locking these professional sports men and women in a cage, a very gritty and savage picture is being painted, one that will not help it in the quest for global recognition and legalisation.
An irritating blunder that is often made by casual fans or people unfamiliar with the sport is referring to MMA in general as 'cagefighting'. It is an international sport that is presented differently wherever you go. Calling it cagefighting is simply buying into the Zuffa branding and copywright they are trying to put on MMA. People need to be educated and realise that the fighters aren't thugs from the streets that get locked in a cage to fight in a no holds-barred slugfest. They are well rounded mixed martial artists and high level athletes and should be presented as such.
The sooner the cage goes, the sooner the sport will be able to evolve and eradicate the stigma that is attached to it.