Earlier this week, the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV) released a letter to the New York State Assembly, urging its members to maintain the ban on mixed martial arts in the Empire State in 2012. The letter states that the world’s largest MMA organization, the UFC, “contributes to a culture of violence against women and lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.” Several womens’ and LGBT advocates were approached to weigh in on this new angle of assault on MMA, with the first response and most definitive rebuttal coming from womens’ self defense instructor Caroline Portugal.
Portugal is the founder of The Hot Ninja Defenders, a self-described “anti—rape/violence program against women, teens and LGBT people.” The program combines self-defense instruction with counseling and empowerment to create a holistic program for women, teens, and LGBT people. She is also a long-time athlete in multiple combat sports including two professional forays into MMA.
Portugal opened a prepared statement in response to the NCDSV letter by crediting not just her status as a self-defense instructor but her status as a living human being to her martial arts training.
“The sport of Mixed Martial Arts saved my life,” said Portugal. “MMA empowered and taught my 100 [pound] petite body to use [proper] self defense techniques against a 200 lb 6’ 2” man who attempted to suffocate me with a bag of chemicals over my nose and mouth.”
Portugal also directly disagreed with the claims of the NCDSV letter that the sanctioning of mixed martial arts can have an effect on violent hate crime.
“Banning sanctioned professional [MMA] for men and women does not prevent or promote domestic violence, rape, serial killings, kidnappings or hate crime,” she stated bluntly. “Banning cage fighting for women who wish to fight will not help decrease the climbing numbers of rape and violence against teenagers and women. All female MMA fighters will agree with me that that cage fighting will promote and inspire self worth, dignity, respect and the power of self awareness.”
Portugal also felt strongly that legitimate, sanctioned MMA in New York would also help the children that the NCDSV letter claims that the sport harms by better facilitating them to “not fight in the streets, learn traditional fighting techniques, and control their anger in a controlled positive atmosphere.”
The NCDSV letter’s argument mostly cites comment via specific employees of Zuffa Entertainment, owners of the UFC, that showed insensitivity or hateful language towards the alternative sexualities. Portugal closed her statement testifying to the good character of the majority of MMA athletes.
“I’m a pro fitness model and training with hundreds of male fighters internationally and nationally, has always been a positive and respectful experience,” Portugal said. “Using [three] UFC fighters’ inappropriate quotes as a reason why MMA should be banned is a limiting self-belief that restrains many potential local respectful athletes [from having] the positive, active opportunity.”