Brandeis and Mixed Martial Arts


In order to keep up with Louis Brandeis scholarship, I created a Westclip search on Westlaw. As result, I get about 4 or 5 articles sent to me every week–usually about privacy or about financial regulation, and most of them only tangentially related to Brandeis. But one this week really caught my eye: “Understanding and Regulating the Sport of Mixed Martial Arts” by Brendan S. Maher in volume 32, issue 2 of the Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal (pages 209-245.)

After just writing that post about John Marshall Harlan and his skill at baseball,* I was hoping for a read about Brandeis’ love of MMA–maybe an anecdote about how he learned Brazilian jiu-jitsu from a runaway South American slave, or maybe the account of a couple bare fisted brawls in the back room of some seedy Cambridge bar during his Harvard days. But alas, it was not to be.

As it turned out, the article is a straight-forward of the history of MMA as a sport and its legal troubles during its brief existence. Brandeis’ only connection to the article is the fact that Maher uses Brandeis’ “Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants,” which is used in about 1 out of every 10 law review articles. (Why is that anyway? Do law professors get paid by the footnote?)

Despite my initial disappointment, Maher’s article is fascinating read about a sport I was only dimly aware of. And make no mistake, despite general disapprobation (for instance, John McCain has likened MMA to human cock-fighting) Maher’s central thesis is that MMA is, in fact, a sport–one that is even considerably less dangerous than other respectable sports such as the rodeo and bike racing. For anyone who has stumbled onto the sight of grown men kicking and elbowing each other on Spike TV and wondered what was going on, this article is a good place to find out.

For people who have a phobia about libraries and/or the printed word, the article can be found on SSRN.

*Harlan was also known to be fond of football. He was playing a game of it with his three sons when he received the news that his nomination to the Supreme Court had been confirmed by the Senate. And one of these days I’m going to have to scan and post this picture we have of him playing golf with Taft.)

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