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Does MMA Have a Domestic Violence Problem?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Domestic violence, a crime police and prosecutors once considered a family matter, has become a central focus for law enforcement and victim's advocates. The media has shone the most light on domestic abuse involving professional athletes. 

While the Ray Rice incident, with accompanying brutal video footage, might've gained the most attention recently, a new investigation shows that domestic abuse arrests among MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters is twice that of the general population and triple that of NFL players.

How Bad Is MMA Domestic Violence?

Using horrific assault on Christie Mack by former fighter War Machine (nee Jonathan Koppenhaver) as a jumping off point, HBO's "Real Sports" researched the criminal records of hundreds of MMA fighters:

The show, citing the Bureau of Justice Statistics, states that for every 100,000 American men aged 18 to 39, 360 are arrested for domestic violence. That number drops to 210 for the NFL, they said, using numbers from the USA Today database.

Yet HBO's own research -- delving into the backgrounds of hundreds of American-born MMA fighters since 2003 throughout various weight classes -- found that the adjusted rate among top-ranked MMA fighters skyrockets to 750.

Even taking into account that these men fight for a living, that is a sobering statistic. To address this problem, the sports' s main governing body, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has done little more than issue PR statements about the rampant domestic abuse problem in its ranks.

The NFL, whose own response to domestic violence has been deplorable, at least can say that its players abuse women less often than the rest of the population. (NOTE: No domestic violence, no matter how infrequent, is ever acceptable.)

Not Just a Sports Issue

While athletes may not commit acts of domestic violence as often as non-athletes, their cases obviously draw more attention to the issue. Incidents of domestic abuse have been widespread, from the highly-publicized NFL cases to boxers and baseball players. Yes, female athletes do it, too, and so do the sportswriters that cover athletes.

Domestic violence is not a problem confined to a single sport, nor is it confined to sports alone, though it may seem that way from the news. But perhaps the light shone on athletes who commit domestic abuse will open everyone's eyes and help bring the problem of domestic violence out of the shadows.

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