Birds of prey

We should be pleasantly surprised, we suppose, that Connecticut has held out this long. But each spring the promoters return to Hartford with the same predictability of migrating birds. These birds of prey appear ready to persist until they get what they want - Connecticut to end its prohibition against the blood sport of so-called "mixed martial arts." We think unrestrained cage fighting is a more apt description. The fights are held in chain-link cages. If we were talking about dogs, not men, there would be no question about its illegality.

Alas, this may be the year Connecticut, the only hold out along with New York, finally relents and gives the "sport" legitimacy here. It is permitted at the state's two tribal casinos under their sovereign authority.

The big promoter in the field is UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championship - led by brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. Interestingly, what opposition there is in Hartford seems as much about the Fertittas' anti-union reputation (their Station Casinos are among the few non-unionized casino chains in Las Vegas) as it is about the savage nature of mixed martial arts.

The House recently voted 117-26 to legalize the brawling in Connecticut. We urge the Senate not to follow suit.

Despite efforts by UFC to improve the image it remains a vicious activity. Unlike boxing, which limits blows to above the belt and sends a competitor to a neutral corner after downing an opponent, mixed martial arts has few limits. The rules, such as they are, encourage a competitor to keep punching, kicking, elbowing and twisting a prone opponent until they surrender, become incapacitated or are rendered unconscious. There is usually plenty of blood.

Unlike in the early days of these gladiatorial events, rules now prohibit eye gouging, biting and groin attacks. Apparently for some that passes as sufficiently civilized.

We have to note the irony that in the wake of the Sandy Hook horror, and the criticism heard about violent entertainment and video games, that the House would vote this year to legalize such events.

We applaud local House members who said, "no" - Reps. Ted Moukawsher, Diana Urban, Elissa Wright, Steve Mikutel and Betsy Ritter.

Editor's note: This version corrects an earlier version. It includes Ritter as one of the House members who voted against the bill.

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