Is UFC too Violent for Christians?

Is UFC too violent for Christians?

That’s the question I wanted to ask Kyle Wescott — a high school and collegiate wrestler, founder and CEO of Discipline over Comfort, and a life coach to those who lack confidence in their direction in life. 

Kyle, can you tell us more about your path to wrestling and UFC?  

I started wrestling when I was 5 years old along with my twin brother. Initially it wasn’t our interest to go into wrestling. It was my father’s way of finding a caretaker for us, because he was a single dad. We were living in Pennsylvania. We would go to Penn State where they had a young wrestling group. We had coaches, so my dad could leave us there, and we could be under the supervision of responsible individuals that were helping develop strength and character in us. My dad could go handle errands without lugging two rambunctious boys around. He put us in a good place where we developed our minds, but also became strong and responsible. That’s where wrestling started, and we fell in love with it. There were a few periods where I took a little break in my wrestling, because I went into the army. After I left the army, I went back to college, and then I got back into wrestling. But I’ve always had wrestling training to zero me in and keep my mind focused on my goals. I was also a high school wrestling coach, and I’ve met most of my UFC friends through wrestling. One of the directions most wrestlers go is either MMA or grappling jiu jitsu, because it’s a similar mindset connection.

So much of martial arts is discipline, self-control, balance, and of course there’s an incredible amount of strategy that comes with these sports. People need to truly understand these values before they critique it. But ultimately UFC is a sport of precision and discipline. That’s what drew me to your work because you stress this idea of discipline over comfort. Can you talk about why the lens of discipline over comfort is a helpful way to understand UFC?

With mixed martial arts, the training is really hard and rigorous. There’s a lot of running, dieting, and long hours in the gym. You’re pushing yourself to the point of failure, even past the point of failure. When I mean failure, I don’t mean, “oh, I’m tired.” No, it’s like you can’t move your fingers, because your forearms are so full of blood from grabbing continuously and moving and pushing that there’s not enough space in the tissue to absorb more blood and oxygen for you to function properly. You’re pushing yourself to the point where your ability to stand is very, very hard to find. Because you’re pushing yourself to the limits. You feel pain, but you block the pain out. That’s what discipline is. It’s doing the stuff that is very uncomfortable initially, so that when you apply it in a match six weeks, eight weeks, or two months away, all that hard work makes you flawless. 

The discipline of UFC fighters is really interesting. And I think it’s also a reflection of how they grew up. A lot of fighters grew up in poor villages, and their discipline was born out of their own survival. My husband and I live in a working-class community of largely Latinos and Black Americans. Almost every family we know watches UFC. And I think you can really make the argument that UFC is a working-class sport because it’s generally loved by people who grew up poor, who feel like these UFC fighters represent them. Do you think that’s why UFC is so popular around the world? 

Survival is key. Think of Conor McGregor. He’s from Ireland. He came from nothing and grew up in a cold climate where he needed to learn how to adapt. His body needed to be rigid enough to handle the weather. Now, he’s able to put himself in whatever atmosphere he wants. In his initial interviews, Conor told the press he was going to be the best, before he was anybody. He said, “I will be the best fighter in the world.” And he achieved that. He owned up to what he said because he believed in it. He showed people that if you really believe in yourself and what you’re doing, you’re gonna do your best, and you’re gonna outwork anybody in that aspect of your life. It’s gonna happen. That’s the survival mentality these guys have. Guys like Conor and the other fighters, they’re not book smart. They don’t have the resources to put them in a different atmosphere that could change the trajectory of their lives. But being in contact sports was a way for them to stay out of trouble, keep focused on something, keep their hearts driven, and make them strong. 

There’s a lot of Christians who make the argument that UFC is too violent. I think this is a complicated argument. On one hand, in every sport there is inherent risk, right? You can get concussions in football, torn ligaments and broken bones in basketball. Though of course in UFC you have men and women intentionally trying to smash each other in the face. Do you think UFC is too violent? Why or why not? 

Absolutely not. I do not think it’s too violent for Christians. Yes, fighting can be graphic. Each fighter is in the ring striking one another with blows that are causing physical damage: lacerations, broken noses, swollen eyes, broken limbs. But Christians who think UFC is too violent need to better understand the discipline behind it. 

No discipline seems pleasant at the time. It’s painful. But later on, discipline produces a harvest of righteousness for those that have been trained by it. That’s Hebrews 12:11. It’s in the Bible. You need to discipline yourself. UFC fighters are masters at the craft. 

When fighters get into it, it’s not because they want to beat the snot out of each other. They just want to be able to apply the skill they’ve acquired over a period of time. They want to be the superior fighter because they’ve practiced their technique for hours in the gym. Look at the press releases. The guys have the face off, and it looks like they’re mad at one another. But they’re really not. They’re just psyching each other out. They’re trying to show each other, “Hey, look. I’m in tune. I know I’m ready for this match. I know that when I step into that octagon my skill is going to surpass your skill because I put the work and effort into it.” UFC fighters are a model to Christians for how to discipline yourself across the board. Discipline is what will get you through the sucky situations and the good situations. It’ll build you mentally, physically, and spiritually. 

Can you share more about your friend, Super Sage Northcut, who is a Christian and a UFC fighter? 

I know a number of people who are strong Christians and, if they need to be, are the scariest people that they need to be. They are very, very dangerous because of the skills they have. Sage is one of those guys. His last fight was in Denver. It was like 39 seconds. He was striking the guy, and then, I think, he tripped him. But Sage ended up on the mat and he heel-hooked his opponent. This move puts a lot of pressure on the LCL and the MCL. If you pull too much, the ligament and patella will just break. Sage put enough pressure to subdue his opponent and the other guy tapped out. But when Sage got up, his message was, “You can do anything in the world if you believe in God. He will guide you through anything you want to do.” That’s his belief.

Sage is also one of the nicest people on the planet. There’s absolutely nobody nicer than him. I have never heard a negative word come out of his mouth. I’ve never heard him put anybody down. He is always 100 percent positive. He looks at the brighter side of things. We were in Japan recently for one of his fights. The fight didn’t pan out because of situations I can’t go into, but he didn’t make it seem like a crazy big deal. We were at the hotel and I texted him, “No matter what happens, you’re where you need to be, and everything happens for a reason.” Then I came to find out there were other people that also sent prayers to him. Sage just took that situation and turned it into a positive experience.

Who are some other UFC fighters who are Christians? Do they share Sage’s mindset when it comes to discipline, faith, and UFC? 

All the UFC fighters I know who are strong believers use their faith as fuel. They truly believe they are using the power of the Lord as fuel. They’ve got confidence. They know God’s going to get them through the fight. They think to themselves, “God’s been in my life the entire time and every step of the way he’s guided me here and I believe in him. So he’s going to help me get through this.” The people I know, that’s how they think. 

Tyler Poalillo always praises his success to the strength and courage he has in his Lord and Savior. I’ve known him through high school. He was a state champion wrestler in high school. He was a state wrestler in college with me. Now he’s in Honolulu, Hawaii. The way that he thinks about things is similar to Sage. He’s a very positive guy. He’s a very hard worker, and he’s very receptive to people giving him positive feedback. He takes that information, and then he applies it to his training so that he can then make better decisions.

Another name you should know is Karim Shakur. He believes in a greater power, helping him strive harder and stay motivated. He’s got an edge, a rougher side. He’s got a more of an animated character. But he doesn’t antagonize. He’s not disrespectful. He just had a big fight and ended up winning by knockout.


Discipline over Comfort is an organization that helps people achieve their dreams by understanding that Discipline is required each day no matter the situation. You can learn more about Discipline Over Comfort here

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