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Ultimate fighting doesn't ultimately lead to fighting 

If things go as they have on past fight nights, some sports bars in SLO County will be beefing up their security staff for the May 26 Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view event between light-heavyweight champion and local Chuck Liddell and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.

But, at least according to the numbers, those extra bouncers may be unnecessary.

Though more than a few folks have practiced ninja moves after watching kung fu flicks or played catch following the Super Bowl, the physical reenactment of viewed sporting events evidently doesn't translate when it comes to mixed martial arts.

On the nights of the past 10 Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view events, only 18 assaults in SLO were reported no more than an average Saturday night. The study, conducted by the SLO Police Department at the request of New Times, started two hours before the card's first fight at 5 p.m. and ended one hour after the bars closed at 3 a.m.

In that nearly one-year time frame, without any regard for time of day or day of the week, there were 469 assaults, according to police.

Capt. Dan Blanke said city police haven't noticed a rise in street fights during similar events. He said that the origin of most fights is usually to traced back to one common thing: booze.

"Fights that occur in SLO are almost 100-percent alcohol related. What we mostly function on is drunken stupidity," he said. "It's a deadly combo of testosterone and alcohol."

At The Graduate bar and restaurant in San Luis Obispo, Chuck Liddell fights draw maximum-capacity crowds of about 600 people, said general manager Bob Kuntz. But while he said the crowds are enthusiastic, they're no more boisterous than are football fans.

"We've never had a fight during or after a UFC fight," Kuntz said.

"Knock on wood," he added.

England has its soccer hooligans and hockey fans enjoy their occasional fisticuffs, but mixed martial arts, at least locally, have no noticeable counterpart.

"Obviously with Chuck Liddell in town, people know when the fights are going on," said San Luis Obispo Police Department Lt. Chris Staley, who's worked downtown for a number of years. "But I haven't seen anything that's associated with a change of behavior when the fights are being played, and we've never stepped up patrol for the nights when the fights are happening for fear of increased violence."

Media scholars have long sought a definitive connection between the viewing of violent acts and the doing of violent acts by the viewers. Although there are strong suggestions that a steady appetite of violence desensitizes viewers over time, there's little evidence that the viewing of a single sports event or violent movie results in immediate violent responses.

William Parham, dean of John F. Kennedy University's Graduate School of Professional Psychology in Pleasant Hill, thinks the viewing of sports serves several functions ranging from escapism to allowing viewers to recall their own glory days.

According to Parham, in order to fully understand an individual's aggressive response to witnessing a violent sporting event, one has to understand two things: First, the degree of emotional investment that person has in the sport, and second, their vulnerability and susceptibility to the event they just witnessed.

"An event does not cause a person to respond, react or act out a certain behavior. It depends on the bigger picture," Parham said. "There are those whose life circumstances may be good and they may be able to appreciate strong competition and immerse themselves in the sport. On the other hand, people whose life is more challenged and experience more personal struggle may be more vulnerable to acting out what they see. But let's make it real clear that the sport does not make people behave the ways they do."

 

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