Q: My husband and I recently started coming to Element, and we have been getting the weekly update. I noticed that UFC was on this update, and I thought it was interesting. My husband and I have been debating whether it is Biblically (and morally) right to watch UFC. I was going to ask Pastor Aaron about it at church, could you forward this email to him so that I might hear his opinion on the issue.

A: First off, I think we must be aware that if God has called you not to watch UFC, then you must be true to what He asks of you no matter what I may say. God is God, and when He says something we must listen. But we must also be aware if it is a personal preference that you as a person have, and not an issue about Christianity.

Now, you asked for my opinion (and we all know the old adage about opinions…right? If not, then ask me Sunday and I will finish the quote).

Straight up fighting and violence is pointless…but violence does exist in the world that we live in. Some people believe that even learning how to defend yourself is wrong because they believe it promotes more violence (I do not hold to this opinion).  If you talk to the people who are the most proficient at self-defense, the "Masters" of martial arts, they will be quick to tell you (and their students too) that you should never use your acquired skills to inflict physical harm unless it is absolutely necessary.  Conversely, the people who are usually the most eager to use violence are individuals who have not had formal training or instruction.  Many men feel the need to, in some way, prove themselves and test their toughness (it is how men are made…God created us to slay the dragon and protect the princess). Many men do not understand how to properly funnel this God given gift and so become bullies to others or their spouse.

The original idea of the UFC was to determine which martial arts discipline would be the most effective in a real-world combat environment.  At that point in the event’s history, there were no weight limits, and very few rules. While the UFC, and the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) as a whole has evolved significantly from those early days, the idea of testing the various chosen styles and skills of the participants remains intact. With the additional benefits of rules, weight limits, sanctioning bodies, and referees who are dedicated to ensure the fighters’ safety now in place, the UFC and other MMA competitions are the best ways to compete and test oneself within a controlled environment.

In an MMA competition almost all (probably 95%) of the opponents have deep respect for each other.  Even if they dislike each other beforehand, after the fight, they frequently hug and demonstrate mutual respect for one another (the Georges St-Peirre/Josh Koscheck fight was a perfect example of this). In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Randy Couture summed it up like this, "It's a combat sport, and injuries can happen. But what a lot of people don't realize is that you're not there to hurt the other guy. Your adversary isn't your enemy. It's a kinetic chess kind of thing."

As a matter of fact, a couple years ago on The Ultimate Fighter (UFC’s reality show) two of the fighters got in a personal fist fight while living in the UFC house. Dana White, the president of UFC, had a very strong reaction to it…He said, "For the last six years I've been…[trying] to prove that this wasn't what this sport was about." He explained that this would have the non-fan thinking what they've always thought, that this sport was full of "a bunch of goons." Dana kicked the two fighters off the show as well as one more guy who was the instigator of it.

Numerous fighters in the UFC claim to be Christians. Some are very outspoken (one of my favorites is Rich Franklin). But many others claim to be: Quinton Jackson, Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Ron Waterman, and Diego Sanchez.

The Bible's perspective:

  • Psalm 144 - The Bible advocates men being strong warriors.
  • The Old Testament heroes: Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Sampson, and David were all men, skilled in battle, and yet still loved God.
  • When Jesus said to turn the other cheek when struck, it had nothing to do with violence, it had everything to do with retaliation, respect and honor. A Rabbi, in Jesus’ day, would never advocate NOT protecting yourself or your family.
  • As believers we are to protect victims.
  • Scripture is full of protecting your country from invaders.

I'm not saying that all violence is good (not at all). As Christians, we believe in the actual existence of evil, and with this belief is the reality that sometimes it is necessary to physically defend yourself, your family, other people, and/or your country against those who are controlled by its influence.

If we can embrace this concept, then watching an event like the UFC is merely observing and appreciating two highly trained mixed martial art combatants who desire to test their skill and their fitness level against one another, to eventually answer their own questions of “How effectively can I apply what I’ve learned?”

Again, UFC is not simply violence for violence sake, but skilled athletes applying what they have learned.

Not all people will see it that way, and I understand that. I believe it is an open handed issue when it comes to faith; which mean it comes down to personal conviction. Personally, I enjoy watching UFC, the one this Saturday is actually at my house. But I also don’t think you should feel judged if you don’t enjoy it…my wife is a nurse and she hates it, not because she sees it as wrong, but simply because she sees enough blood during the day.

We also do the events as a group because it is WAY cheaper to pitch in together than pay for it on your own (haha).

Hope that helps.