You Say Soccer, I Say Mixed Martial Arts


Last week, I was interviewed by ABC News in conjunction with a 20/20 piece on “Xtreme Parents” regarding my sons’ participation in MMA (mixed martial arts), which I will defend to the teeth.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to defend it because, to my pleasant surprise, the woman who interviewed us did a really great job letting us simply tell our stories, and hopefully helped paint a better picture of the less mainstream sports like MMA, or bull-riding or monster truck driving or motocross (which happens to be on my sons’ to-try list), than John McCain did.

Hypocrisy aside: You know what is like human cockfighting? Elections. And the guys are way less buff.

Personally, I don’t think of any of the sports mentioned in our article as “extreme.”  My husband was a competitive swimmer his entire life and, well, you want to talk about extreme sports? Talk to 14 year old him trying to qualify for the Olympics about waking up at 4:30 to do more exercise before breakfast than I’ve done my entire life, cumulatively, and then doing it again after school, before dinner – and doing that again every day for a decade. Including Sundays.

He's on the block

The shaving required to get into that speedo alone is an extreme sport.

My nephew was one of the top wide-receivers in his all-football, all-the-time city in Arizona, and courted by college recruiters from age ten. Talk to 12 year old him about running drills at 5pm in June in Arizona, when it’s a balmy 120 dry degrees out, and having an entire team of Red-Bull-jacked-jugheads charging at your skull for hours on end – and doing that again every day for a decade. Including Sundays.

That is an extreme sport. (And an extremely awesome kid, but that’s a different story.)

Letting a kid do what comes natural to them isn’t extreme, it’s parenting. It isn’t endangering your child, it’s supporting them. My oldest broke his eyesocket on a playground. He broke his foot on a slide. My middle son cracked his skull at gymnastics. I’ve never had to go to the ER for MMA. #yet

I remember one day a few months ago, my oldest son was grappling with a kid just a little less skilled than him and that kid swung his elbow around just the wrong way and clocked my son’s nose just the right way. Blood flew out of his face, spraying the gis and the mats and the other kids around him. My natural reaction was to jump up, run across the mats, and make it awwwl better for him. Instead, I took a deep breath in and waited.

My son’s instructor brought him a kleenex, and while he wiped up the blood my son stood up. With a bloody, beaming grin, he shot me two great big proud thumbs up.

There’s something to be said for doing something you believe in, and are proud of. There’s something to be said, also, for knowing you can take a hit, for knowing you can defend yourself if you have to. There’s more fear in what you think a hit to the nose feels like than pain in what one actually does feel like, and MMA has given my kids the self-confidence to deal with the terrorists when they strike, but also just enough confidence that they don’t really bother striking all that much anymore.

My sons love MMA like their father loved the 400 meter relay, like their cousin loved football, like this totally awesome kid loves monster trucks. I love wrapping hands as much as the soccer moms love lacing up cleats, and blood stains are just as much a bitch to get out as grass stains. Sport is sport, and passion is passion, and showing our kids we respect those things is good, no matter what form it takes.


Article Posted 4 years Ago
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