People are still equating MMA to cockfighting, a lot of that may just be their perceptions of a cage.
The UFC is known for the Octagon, which is essentially a fence holding the fighters in until someone loses. The problem is pro wrestling has used cages to showcase their most extreme matches. Although we all know pro wrestling is scripted it doesn’t help the claim that MMA is less dangerous than boxing. Boxing takes place in a ring as we all know, there is no major obstruction of viewing the fighters and even though it isn’t likely to happen the boxer could simply walk out of the ring if they needed.
The issue with removing the cage is that it’s use is beneficial for MMA. It can be used to get up, to hold your opponent in your clinch, and to keep them in range. With a ring people intentionally fall through the ropes and require their position to be moved. It’s a double edged sword, you lose some major benefits to only potentially gain some success in the main stream cross over.
Besides the ring, “Boxing purists” also just don’t understand the ground game, it’s more complex than they want to admit. Being a long time follower of the sport the many nuances that one has to be aware of are plentiful. Many people don’t understand how much thinking goes into the ground game, ask James Toney just how easy it is to avoid it. Joe Rogan did a great job this weekend explaining those things this weekend on the FOX card. He transformed from saying “He needs to get his hooks in here.” to saying what hooks are. It was incredible and that sort of commentating will hopefully bring a better understanding to the would of MMA. While guys are getting put in submissions it doesn’t help that it’s taking place in a cage, especially when something breaks.
The cage is here to stay, the perception of a cage needs to change. It isn’t used to show that they are “Extreme Fighters”, it’s used because that’s the better option for the sport. While some MMA fans prefer a ring, most wouldn’t know what they were watching if it was in a ring, due to the lack of U.S. promotions that use one. Does it hurt perception of the sport? Of course. Can this be easily overcome? Yes, and it should be, people who cannot tell the difference between Pro Wrestling and MMA probably shouldn’t be commenting on the sport anyway. However, it is necessary to bring these people into the fold because all sports fans come from somewhere. Plenty of people watch MMA because it’s what boxing was to their fathers, others watch MMA because Brock Lesnar bought them in from WWE. A cross over between MMA and Pro Wrestling is inevitable; however the need to show that the two are very different has never been greater.
Keeping the cage is necessary, the difference needs to lie in the thoughts of people who look at it.