Martial arts have been at the forefront of my life for some years now, ever since I started training in muay thai and my 7 year old son likewise in Gracie’s Brazillian Jiu Jitsu. Those two disciplines are two of the most popular sports/styles right now thanks largely to the growth of the UFC and mixed martial arts as a whole in the past 10 years.
What has amazed me though is the amount of mixed martial artists (cage fighters) who are not only of the Christian faith, but actively wearing their Christianity on their sleeves, right where its suppose to be. These fighters are every bit as public about their faith as any Tim Tebow but of course MMA hasn’t quite reached the status of the NFL yet. But its the fastest growing sport in the world. Brazil is pretty much the martial arts capital of the world thanks to the Gracie family’s Jiu Jitsu and its prevalence in the UFC and cage fighting. So its not surprising that most of those fighters are Christian, as Brazil is a very catholic country. But the number of American and European fighters who are publicly and actively professing their faith and using fighting as a platform seems to be growing by the day. Most notably is Benson Henderson, the current world champion in UFC’s Lightweight division. He’s a dominant fighter, but walks out to Christian music, is active in ministry, and a great ambassador. He’s only one example but I could go on.
Its an odd dynamic, the art of punching/kicking another man in the face while professing Jesus Christ. While I’m not training for MMA, the muay training I do will lead to a fight at some point in the future, and even the sparring is very intense. Muay Thai is generally considered the most brutal form of striking in the world, while BJJ is probably the number one best form of self defense and submission grappling in the world. Is it sinful to do that kind of damage to another man’s body for sport? Its an interesting discussion to have. People are cashing in on this new dynamic as well. There are even Christian MMA apparel companies, such as “Jesus Didn’t Tap”. Its my favorite, and the short I train in have that logo.
Some have strong feelings about the idea of fighting for sport while representing the cross of Christ. But for me, its exciting to see Christianity blowing up in my favorite sports like muay thai, Brazillian Jiu Jitsu, and MMA. The rise of the UFC is encouraging as most of these fighters are under contract with the organisation. The possibilities that come with the best and most popular fighters in the world in the fastest growing sport in the world, using to reach people for Christ, are simply endless. For me, its a very exciting time.