Is MMA Compatible with Christianity?

Jesus Didn’t Tap.

That’s the name of an MMA (mixed martial arts) clothing line and if you are confused about its meaning, the clothing line’s Facebook page explains it.

“In the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, to ‘tap’ is to quit or give up. The message of the Jesus Didn’t Tap line is that Jesus didn’t quit after going through unimaginable suffering and pain when he was crucified on the cross. The group aims to represent both the competitiveness of MMA and honoring God in all of their designs and hopes it will help spread the Christian message of salvation to a whole new audience.”

A New York Times article in February about Christians who are involved in MMA, said several pastors “put the number of churches taking up mixed martial arts at roughly 700 of an estimated 115,000 white evangelical churches in America.” The article went on to say that churches are using MMA to attract men, ages 18 to 34, who are absent from churches.

As men in that age range watch MMA, they see professing Christians such as UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, Diego Sanchez, and Rich Franklin in the cage, which might be helping to drive them to churches that offer MMA.

The question is though, should Christians watch or participate in a sport that contains submission moves such as the “triangle choke,” the “guillotine” or the “rear naked choke,” given its violent and brutal nature?

Anointed Martial Arts, a Christian martial arts facility in Temecula, Calif., offers a program it calls “ChristJitsu,” which is a blend of biblical discipleship and full discipline martial arts utilizing what it says is “the best of traditional styles combined with solid Bible based teaching.” Gary Kruger is an instructor at the facility.

“We are going up to Valley Bible Fellowship Church in Bakersfield next weekend to conduct a men’s event where we will expose the men to the physical techniques found in MMA,” Kruger told The Christian Post, “but more importantly use this teaching time as a way to expose the men to the reality that as Christians we are in a spiritual fight and called to fight the good fight of faith.”

Anointed Martial Arts cites scriptural passages that call Christians to defend themselves (Ecc. 4:12, Luke 22:36) and others as supporting texts for being involved in martial arts.

Victory Christian Fellowship, a campus outreach of non-denominational Christ Community Church in State College, Penn., has an MMA outreach on Saturdays. Dave Hatfield is one of the organizers.

“I believe most young men think that following God is about as exciting as learning how to knit ... and that nothing could be further from the truth,” Hatfield told The Christian Post. “The Bible talks about the Lord being a victorious warrior and says we’re created in His image.

“I believe God has given each one of us a divine desire to conquer and overcome ... that’s why I believe guys are so into sports like football and MMA. Obviously it’s far more important that we overcome the devil and sin than it is that we tap our opponent out, but for us as the church to look down upon an intense sport like MMA only reinforces my earlier point about men finding pursuing God boring.

“We use our MMA outreaches to tap into guys’ natural desire to conquer and compete and point them to their Creator and the fact He has plans for them to become not only beloved sons, but also warriors for Him.”

Pastor Brett Maragni, who writes for Baptist Press Sports, asked his blog readers ( whether Christians should support MMA and Todd Thomsen, one of the people who left a comment, offered an insightful look at scripture passages that speak against violence.

“I wonder if this is the kind of violence to which God was responding when He flooded the Earth (Gen. 6:10-14),” Thomsen said. “I know as one who has been saved by Christ and his finished work on the cross I am not going to be a recipient of God’s wrath. A look at Psalm 11:5 is a very clear warning about God’s view on those who love violence. In Psalm 74:20 we are also told that the dark places are the habitations of the violent.

“However, the violence portrayed in these pieces of scripture seem to refer to people who use their strength, weapons, and influence to rob and murder people unexpectedly and overthrow governments. This is certainly not the type of violence that is on display in the caged octagon that is common place in nationally televised MMA. The MMA competitors usually congratulate and thank each other at the end of a match. Some of them are the best of friends outside the ring while they fight each other in the ring.”

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, views the debate over whether Christians should be involved in MMA as secondary – especially when it comes to churches using MMA as outreach.

“The main issue here is not the legitimacy of martial arts,” Mohler said on his blog (, “but the fact that these churches are making a self-conscious effort to reach young men and boys with some kind of proof that Christianity is not a feminized and testosterone-free faith that appeals only to women.”

Adam Groza, vice president of enrollment and student services at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., wrote a column for Baptist Press expressing his strong opinion against Christians partaking in MMA, making a distinction between violence for violence’s sake and redeeming violence.

“UFC and MMA amounts to violence porn, a term which has been applied to movies with wanton violence such as ‘SAW,’ where violence is not part of the plot, it is the attraction,” Groza said in the article. “Violence for violence’s sake, as opposed to instrumental or redeeming violence, desensitizes the viewer to the graphic horror of watching two people pummel each other for the sake of entertainment. UFC and MMA offer exactly the kind of violence condemned in Psalm 11:5. Ezekiel 7:23 decries, ‘the city is full of violence.’ Why are Christians supporting violence in the city?”

This is one of those issues believers may never agree on, but as is always the case, Scripture should inform our consciences and we should act accordingly.

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