Sport Writer Rachel Higgins unpicks the latest controversy in martial arts after fighter Michael Page was deducted a point in a recent bout

History student at the University of Birmingham. Also national, international and world champion kickboxer.
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Following the recent success of Michael ‘Venom’ Page (MVP) on 27 September in Dublin, the martial arts world has been openly debating the use of trash talk both in and out of the cage. The fight itself only lasted two minutes and 47 seconds as opponent Richard Kiely faced a brutal flying knee to the nose resulting in a stunning technical knock-out. Fans were left in awe at the 32-year-old fighter’s stunning execution of such a high-risk technique. However, critics are far more interested in the aftermath.

It is important to consider the crucial undertones of emotional well-being linked to sport and performance

The well-known Bellator referee Dan Miragliotta decided to deduct a point from Page during the fight for unsportsmanlike conduct, not that it affected the result of the fight. Fans were shocked as it is known this type of showboating seen from Page is part of his cage fighter image and serves to make his unique style recognizable. MVP’s long-awaited return to the cage breeds questions of how we categorise things like bad-mouthing as entertainment over personal impact on sportspeople.

The martial arts sphere is now, more than ever, inclined to question; where do we draw the line with trash talk and showboating in the cage?

Several of the biggest fighters are renowned for their arrogant fighting style. Notably, MVP prides himself on the fact he can fight ‘hands down’ without a guard because he is, well, that good. Many have gone further to say Page’s style should be admired and supported because it brings waves of entertainment for fans.

Page’s style should be admired and supported because it brings waves of entertainment for fans

Not only this, but putting the jokes and dancing in celebration aside, in the aftermath Page is known to always hold the utmost respect for his opponent, congratulate and make peace. No one can deny this is the most apt definition of good sportsmanship.

We see the likes of Connor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov in the UFC spit hateful comments at each other pre-fight and during press conferences which undeniably sparks up interest for a fight. With the brutal nature of not just contact, but full-contact sport, these insults run deep and arguably inject more passion into each match. In fact, some argue that trash talk, when done well, promotes talented fighters’ road to public success, therefore instrumental to a career in this area. Social media platforms have only served to expand this impact with the rise of diss-tracks and memes.

But again, where do we draw the line? Discriminating statements surrounding religion, family and ethnicity have been in the news before, yet there remains no clear ruling on what is explicitly not allowed. Hence, it was interesting to see Miragliotta calling Page out on his taunting as it is so rarely enforced.

With this in mind, it is important to consider the crucial undertones of emotional well-being linked to sport and performance, alongside a growing knowledge for the importance of mental health in today’s world.

Ultimately, drawing the line under trash talk in the cage is down to the discrepancy of the referees. This has resulted in Miragliotta refusing to referee Page in the future. Many eagerly await Page’s return to see what he will bring next.

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