The NYTimes has a strangely compelling article on the topic of U.F.C. and its sudden rise in entertainment currency:

“Do you know why people die in boxing all the time?” he said. “Neurological damage. In boxing my goal is to hit you in the head and knock you out, or hit you in the head more times than you hit me in the head. That’s basically all there is. And with the boxing glove they have actually created a weapon for repeated brain trauma.”

He leaned over the aisle and make a quick, athletic flick of the shoulders. “You know what would happen if I punched you in the face right now?” he said. “Yes, it would hurt you, but since I’m not wearing a glove, I would probably break my hand. But in our sport there are 500 different ways I can win without hitting you in the head; boxing basically requires it.”

Ultimate Fighting Championship participants use light, fingerless gloves that are meant to protect the hand but not enlarge the striking area or increase the weight of a punch.

Another key difference relating to safety seems to be the culture of the two sports. A boxer who gives up before the referee stops the fight (as Roberto Duran is famously reported to have done, against Sugar Ray Leonard, in the 1980 “no mas” fight) is considered psychologically weak, if not a wimp. In the U.F.C. a fighter who submits, or “taps out,” generally seems to get credit among his peers for recognizing an impossible situation. (There are no female fighters in the U.F.C., though there are scantily clad “Octagon Girls.”)

(NYT: “Getting Your Kicks on Television,” by Seth Schiesel [1 Sept 2007])