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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 4, 2006

Kill the exemption for 'extreme combat'

"Extreme combat," the no-holds-barred brawling marketed as "ultimate fighting," has been described as the human equivalent of cockfighting.

Like cockfighting, ultimate fighting is illegal in Hawai'i.

But Gov. Lingle last May signed into law an exemption for promoters who sell the violence as entertainment. Ultimate fighting promoters must pay a fee, as well as provide referees, doctors, and a guarantee of safety to the fighters.

Indeed, the spectacle attracts thousands of people who pay good money to see the fights.

But that doesn't make it right.

With safety concerns rising and alongside complaints of Island youth mimicking the sport outside the sanctioned arena, a bill introduced by Rep. Tommy Waters, D-51st (Waimanalo, Lanikai), would rightly reverse the exemption and restore the ban on all forms of extreme fighting.

These fights stretch the limit of sport, with their sheer graphic violence. The fights have also resulted in the deaths of 13 people nationwide since 1981. Some form of the fighting is banned in 13 states, and regulated in 24 others.

Here at home, there's another proposal aimed at legitimizing the sport by expanding the powers of the state boxing commission to oversee "extreme combat" matches as they do in California.

But is sanctioning a sport whose appeal is unfettered violence really the message we want to send, particularly to our youth?

We think not.