MMA: Bloodsport or path to peace?

Ev Ting isn't a name familiar to most Kiwis.

But the Malaysian-born, Auckland-raised, young MMA star is a title contender in one of the largest Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) organisations in the world, 'One Championship'. During his two and a half years in the promotion, he's amassed an impressive six wins with just one loss.

My crew and I arrive at Auckland's MMA headquarters where Ev is holding his first training camp in preparation for an upcoming fight. After a quick wrestle with Ev, in which I was completely outclassed, he ran me through his thoughts on the public perception of his sport and the role his sense of identity plays in his career.

Ev insists that while the sport is violent, on closer inspection, there are a number of benefits, including physical fitness, mental health and a form of spirituality unique to the sport. Ev uses MMA to promote his sense of being a 'global citizen', his disdain for division and a promotion of togetherness. All things which seem to contradict commonly held stereotypes of a blood-thirsty cagefighter.

So what does the sport of MMA stand for? A violent spectacle, only acceptable to a few, or an avenue for those who take part to find some peace and meaning in an ever-chaotic world? The reality remains that at the sport's core, it is hand-to-hand combat. And while MMA competitions can be difficult to watch, not everyone taking part ends up fighting in a cage.

For those who don't want to subject themselves to a beating, martial arts can still provide confidence, fitness and means of connection to other like-minded individuals.

My view on the sport is biased, given my involvement in it, but I would encourage everyone to learn more about the individual athletes and their personal philosophy before passing judgement. At the end of the day, both fighters are consenting adults putting their bodies on the line for the entertainment of others.

My perception of Ev is that he is a driven, passionate and intelligent human being. He's under no illusion about the violent nature of the sport he endorses, but he uses this platform to preach a message of inclusion, empathy and tolerance.

I believe we'd struggle to find a better man to throw our nation's support behind. Keep an eye out for Ev in his next fight in 'One Championship: Throne of Tigers' . He'll be up against an experienced Iranian wrestler in Kamal Shalarous, and I'm picking there'll be fireworks.

•Sam Martin is an amateur MMA practitioner, training in the sport over the past few years.

- NZ Herald

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