Players: Nick Hartley, father of nine-year-old cage fighter Kian Makinson; Chris Cloke of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; U.K. medical officials
The Opening Serve: A 14-minute video (which has seen been taken down by its user) of nine-year-old boys cagefighting has surfaced surfaced. The Telegraph obtained the clip and reports that the video "featured a scantily clad ring girl parading between rounds...At one point, one of the young boys featured appears to be crying, and paramedics are brought into the ring to assess the youngsters, who were not wearing head gear or padding." They add that the sold-out rowdy crowd of adults were heard "whooping as the two children wrestle each other in headlocks on the floor of the cage." The children's trainer, Steven Nightingale, told The Telegraph: "Competitions start from the age of five, it is definitely a big up-and-coming sport. It is all based around martial arts...The kids are not getting hit or anything at all when they are under age. We do not let them strike - punch and kick - until the age of 14 or 15." Unsurprisingly, the video has unleashed criticism toward the gym and the children's parents. "The main question I would ask is why were the parents allowing them to do that," said Paul Jackson, a manager for a kickboxing and self-defense center. "I wouldn’t really agree with anything like it." Chris Cloke of the NSPCC agreed. "We would strongly discourage parents from letting their children take part in this kind of fighting," he said. "It's quite disturbing that some of those involved in the bouts were as young as eight, an age when they are still developing, physically and mentally...The organisers of these activities should think very carefully before allowing children to be involved when they are egged on to inflict violence." The British Medical Association called it disturbing.
The Return Volley: Nick Hartley, the father of one of the child fighters defended his and his child's actions in the Lancashire Evening Post. "It [Mixed Martial Arts] has done him the world of good, it has really calmed him down," Hartley said. "He used to be quite naughty but he has learned to respect people and he is not half as bad as what he used to be. His temper has calmed down and he is a brilliant little lad." Hartley's opinion of the match differs from what the Telegraph reporter noticed--Hartley believes it's more like wrestling. "Before we took him to cage fighting we took him to karate, kick boxing and boxing but he did not like them," Hartley said. "He would rather go up there (to the gym) than play out on the streets." Michelle Anderson, owner of the venue where the fight took place, seconded Hartley's opinion. "The kids were there to fight, they have fought before. The parents were there. Would people rather these kids were out on the streets with guns and knives," she asked.
What They Say They're Fighting About: Mixed Martial Arts, the violence, and the age of the children involved in this cage fight.
What They're Really Fighting About: Parenting. What's really at stake here are Hartley's parenting skills (or lack thereof). Opponents argue there's a lack of responsibility in allowing your child into a cage match. Hartley defends his and his son's decisions, waxing poetic on the benefits of MMA while implicitly pointing out that karate, wrestling, and kick-boxing are other options that parents allow their children.
Who's Winning Now: Not children. Aren't parents supposed to be looking out for their offspring? While Hartley does bring up some other sports that have violent components in which children take part, there's something morbid and possibly beyond comprehension about allowing your child into a cage to fight another child while a sold-out adult audience cheers on his or her favorite miniature fighter. But, with diet books aimed at four-year-olds, coloring books depicting human shields, J.C. Penney peddling idiotic t-shirts for young girls, and parents strapping fake breasts on their toddler, we can't blame you if your outrage is already spent.