Question: "What does the Bible say about extreme fighting / violent sports?"

Extremely violent sports, such as MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) are greatly increasing in popularity. Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, struggle with whether or not to support and enjoy these sports. Some wonder if it would be allowable for a Christian to participate in sports that involve an extreme amount of violence. What guidelines does the Bible give?

Genesis 32:24-25 mentions Jacob wrestling with the angel of the Lord. In an athletic analogy, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the apostle Paul possibly uses terms related to what was essentially "boxing" in that time period. The Bible nowhere explicitly condemns sports that involve violence. Does this mean that enjoying/participating in extremely violent sports can be biblically allowable and/or God-honoring? Not necessarily. Just as the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns violent sports, neither does it condone violent sports.

Nearly all sports contain a measure of violence. Most competitive sports involve one person or team exerting physical superiority over another person or team. So, while boxing, MMA and UFC are more violent than other sports, they are not the only sports that contain or involve violence. Gridiron football, for example, can be very violent. At the same time, there is an important difference. While other sports can be violent, boxing, MMA, and UFC are, in their essence, focused and/or centered on violence. Violence itself is the sport; it is not just a matter of the sport sometimes being violent.

While many would place boxing on a different level than MMA and UFC, the general concept of the sports is the same. In extreme fighting, the specific goal of the competition is to physically harm/injure the other person to the point that he/she is knocked unconscious or injured to the extent that he/she can no longer continue. There is nothing in the Bible which indicates that intentionally injuring another person can, in any way, be glorifying to God.

There have been many Christians who have participated in boxing. Surely, there are also genuine Christians who are involved in MMA, UFC, kickboxing, and other violent sports. Biblically speaking, though, this should not be. In no sense can intentionally pummeling and injuring an opponent in an athletic competition be glorifying to God. While the "what would Jesus do?" saying is overused and sometimes misapplied, the question "can I really picture Jesus participating in extreme fighting?" is very relevant to the question of whether a Christian can participate in or enjoy extreme fighting, MMA, UFC, and other sports that are focused on physical violence.

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