Peter Williams: UFC is barbaric, animalistic, crude - and not sport

As the world evolves, the same question is asked every few years in the sports department of newsrooms all over the world.

"Is it really a sport?"

I first heard it about 1980 with the Hawaii Ironman. That quickly developed into triathlon and now that’s in the Olympics. So the answer was "yes".

It's still asked regularly of darts.

ONE News Presenter and columnist Peter Williams. Source: 1 NEWS

And of poker.

Despite hundreds of hours of each on live TV each year on sports channels, I reckon the jury is still out on both.

But at least they're relatively harmless pursuits which, while not exactly increasing cardiac performance, do at least develop an individual's capability for staying cool under pressure.

So what to make of MMA, or UFC or whatever you want to call it?

There is no doubting its extreme popularity.

But it could only be the product of the digital television age.

It is barbaric, animalistic and crude.

The aftermath of the Conor McGregor – Nate Diaz encounter in Las Vegas had more blood than surgery in an emergency room.

The unhealthiness of the environment was staggering.

In this age when the merest hint of blood on the face of rugby or league player has them trotting to the side line for a patch-up, the mess on the floor of the ring in this fight was quite unbelievable.

In boxing, they stop the fight after the first sign of a gash on the face.

I sometimes think it should be grouped with the nature and wildlife channels. - Peter Williams on UFC

But then the blood and guts is part of UFC's appeal.

Americans love violence. The most popular game in the country is football.

Lax gun laws persist despite numerous mass shootings.

Therefore who should be surprised that what is essentially a no-holds-barred style of hand to hand combat should be so popular.

So it's quickly become a staple of pay television’s sports channels.

I sometimes think it should be grouped with the nature and wildlife channels.

Because I doubt if there's a more unrestrained form of human activity.

But how should the so called mainstream media treat it?

Can it be placed on the same pedestal as a world championship boxing bout?

Today on Breakfast, the sports producer felt he had to report the outcome of the McGregor – Diaz fight because of the perceived public interest.

Then he to ensure some judicious editing of the pictures because of the amount of blood to be seen.

Is that really sport?

I don't think so, but millions will disagree.

The Eliza McCartney story is shaping as something altogether way more wholesome

The best story of an emerging athlete this year has been the teenage pole vaulter Eliza McCartney.

In the space of two months, she’s gone from being a promising junior to a real medal chance at the Rio Olympics.

Eliza McCartney not only set the new pole vault record, but she beat the reigning Commonwealth champion in the process. Source: 1 NEWS

Don’t pay too much attention to the fact that her 4.80m at the National Championships in Dunedin was higher than the gold medal winning vault in London in 2012.

Olympic jumping and vaulting events at the Olympics are notorious for even the best failing to reach a PB, probably because of the nerves such an occasion produces.

But such has been Eliza’s progress this year, she can’t help but have high expectations placed on her in August.

This country does not have much of a pole vaulting heritage.

The last "New Zealander" to win an international medal in the event was the Russian born fast- tracked Kiwi Denis Petushinskiy who originally won silver at the Commonwealth Games in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur.

He tested positive for drugs, had his silver medal annulled and was never heard of again.

The Eliza McCartney story is shaping as something altogether way more wholesome.

With her, and the returning to form Valerie Adams, who would have thought that the field events programme in Rio would hold so much appeal for New Zealanders ?