David Zinczenko, editor in chief of Men’s Health and the editorial director of Women’s Health, has come clean. The former opponent of MMA legalization in New York state has had a change of heart. To offer his mea culpa that he has erred in misjudging the sport as well as to argue for it's sanctioning in New York, Zinczenko takes to the editorial pages of the Old Gray Lady:
As the editor in chief of Men’s Health, I’d been a de facto supporter of New York’s ban by refusing to put a mixed-martial artist on the magazine’s cover — despite the entreaties of several editors and even my own brother, Eric, who trained in M.M.A. I edit a health magazine, after all, and this is a sport in which men use nearly every means available to beat one another into submission, from jujitsu to kickboxing to simply slugging one another in the face with nothing but lightly padded gloves on their hands.
But I’ve come to believe that, in fact, the New York Legislature is wrong. Mr. Reilly is wrong. And more to the point, I was wrong (an admission my brother will hold over my head as long as I live). Mixed martial arts may be a violent sport, but it is much safer than other, supposedly more civilized competitions, and New York and its fellow holdouts should finally sanction it.
He goes on to explain the safety record of MMA, how it compares to other popular sports and includes the findings from the 2006 Johns Hopkins University study to make the case that brain trauma is generally not as big a concern in MMA as other sports. He rounds the corner with his argument in this well-crafted piece of logic:
Some might argue that such statistics only make the case that boxing, too, should be banned. But what about hockey or football? Men’s Health has proudly and without controversy featured Drew Brees, Tom Brady and other N.F.L. stars on our cover — despite the fact that football and hockey combined sent 55,000 Americans to the emergency room for head injuries in 2009 alone.
Hall of Famers like Harry Carson, a former linebacker for the Giants, and Pat LaFontaine, who played center for the Islanders and the Rangers, have talked publicly, even courageously, about the physical and emotional toll of their multiple concussions. And watching 41-year-old Brett Favre dragging his swollen body onto the field week after week last season was an exercise in spectator-sport sadism.
Compare that to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the premier M.M.A. league, where 23-year-old Jon Jones recently won the light heavyweight championship but injured his hand in the process; as a result, he is barred from competition until doctors say he has healed. In fact, fighters who suffer knockouts are suspended and barred even from sparring for three months; in the N.F.L. and N.H.L., we cheer when a player leaves the game on a stretcher and returns the next week — and even louder if he comes back the next period.
The New York State Assembly and Senate both have bills in committee that would allow M.M.A. into the state, and it only makes sense to push them through. In the meantime, I’ve changed my policy: This month Men’s Health features the U.F.C.’s reigning welterweight titleholder, Georges St-Pierre, on its cover. Sometimes the more raw and visceral a sport appears, the more humane it may actually be.
Third-party validation. Including more robust grassroots support, this is what will help turn the tide on either negative or jejune attitudes towards MMA legalization. The arguments in favor of changing the law are as close to air tight as they can be. I'm happy to see this cause being given attention in such a prominent media outlet as the Times and by someone who can speak to transformation on ideas.