Group Goes Fist-to-Fist With Ultimate Fighting, Seeks Ban On Minors Attending Matches

Backed by City Councilor Stephen Murphy, parents don't want kids watching the bloody brawls in Boston.


On August 14, Boston will have an “Ultimate Fighting Champion Homecoming,” and celebrate the return of the sport to the city.

But a team of parents, doctors, and city officials are trying to put the chokehold on the “extremely violent form of entertainment” by banning minors from baring witness to the martial-arts matches.

The “UFC Homecoming” event, which will be held at the Barrio Cantina on Boylston Street and hosted by UFC President Dana White, is scheduled to take place just weeks after City Council President Stephen Murphy filed a resolution asking to put an end to anyone under the age of 18—even with a parent or guardian—from attending the fights. “Cage fighters at the amateur and professional levels have competed in public stadiums and on television bearing Neo-Nazi messages in their tattoos or on their clothing,” Murphy said in his filing during a City Council meeting on Wednesday, “and extensive research has associated exposure to media violence with a variety of physical and mental health problems for children and adolescents, including aggressive and violent behavior, bullying, desensitization to violence, fear, and depression.”

According to Murphy, fighters from the UFC, which is the professional level of the mixed-martial arts sport, have joked about rape, used foul and abusive language that’s demeaning to women, and used homophobic slurs, all of which, he said, set a bad example for Boston’s youth. He said the sport uses alcohol sponsors to fund the fights, which adds to the negative image that can be imposed on children.

Murphy’s request to ban underage spectators from viewing the sport in a live setting will have to be discussed by the appropriate committee, and later voted on by officials in the coming months before it can become law in the city.

Diane Levin, a professor of early childhood education at Wheelock College, backed Murphy’s resolution, and “strongly urged” that the City Council pass it.

“Because of how children think, they are especially vulnerable to learning the harmful lessons that directly witnessing entertainment violence can teach—about how people treat each other, about the role of violence in society, that violence is fun and exciting with few consequences, and that grownups glorify and value it,” Levin said. “Everyone who cares about the wellbeing of children and the wider society should call for a ban on children attending Live Cage Fighting events.”

An advocacy group comprised of parents, doctors, and professors are also supporting Murphy’s efforts, and have started a petition and website sponsored by national movements like the National Organization for Women, the Boston Women’s Fund, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment.

The group, known as “Parents Say No to UFC,” supplemented their campaign message and petition page with a video that shows gruesome shots from various professional fights, including bloody contenders punching each other in the head repeatedly.

Following the August 14 event on Boylston Street, the UFC will have its first match at the TD Garden and in the city since 2010. UFC President White said he was excited to be returning to the area after a two-year hiatus. “We look forward to bringing another successful event to Boston during an incredible week for sports fans,” he said in a statement in June.