SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President Trump will attend the Ultimate Fighting Championship MMA - mixed martial arts - event at Madison Square Garden tonight. The event, of course, is a punching, kicking, pay-per-view brawl between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal that takes place inside a cage. The winner gets a belt embellished with the initials BMF, which does not stand for best mocha frappe.
Mr. Trump is not expected to be booed at Madison Square Garden, as he was at a World Series game earlier this week. The president is a fan of Ultimate Fighting and used to book MMA events into his casino in Atlantic City.
Millions of people all over the world, from all backgrounds watch mixed martial arts. I'd wager there may not be much crossover between the Ultimate Fighting audience and NPR's, although, no doubt, each could learn from the other. UFC fans cheer for maneuvers like the ground and pound, flying knee and the guillotine choke. NPR's audience gets choked up about tote bags, Tiny Desk concerts and Terry Gross.
But mixed martial arts are not burlesque, like pro-wrestling, where actor-athletes like Epico Colon and Ember Moon play characters that hurl and hurt each other according to a script. MMA is real violence. Fans will tell you how it combines boxing, wrestling, judo, capoeira and other techniques. But all that translates into two human beings who punch, grab, kick, knee and gouge each other in a cage even after an opponent hits the floor to the roar of thousands.
Senator John McCain once called MMA human cockfighting and would later work with promoters to fund research into brain injury in the sport. At least six fighters have died from MMA matches since 2006. That's actually fewer deaths than boxing or high school football. But a spectator sport does not have to be deadly to be damaging.
A president, like any of us, is free to enjoy any entertainment or diversion, but what they choose draws attention. There's so much to do this weekend in New York - a food fest in Little Italy, Dia de los Muertos at the Green-Wood Cemetery, comedy clubs, jazz joints and plays, the New York Cat and Dog Film Festival and the New York City Marathon on Sunday, where athletes will use their feet to run - not kick someone in the chest. There are lots of ways to enjoy a weekend in New York without cheering for anybody's bodily harm.
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