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Why Masks are not Accepted in the Overly-Macho World of Combat Sports


Let me be the first one to admit that getting the correct info on COVID-19 is not the easiest thing to do. These days information moves so freely and so quickly, it’s just as easy to spread fake news and conspiracy theories as it is to spread factual and helpful information. Just like you, I’ve heard everything imaginable about the Coronavirus including that it’s a complete hoax (it’s not) and that people are actually having COVID-19 parties (they are).

That being said, I’ve never ever heard a single reputable doctor say that they do not recommend a face mask as a protective measure, especially when in public or when going somewhere where many people are gathering together. The overwhelming scientific consensus seems to be that wearing a mask is helpful in slowing the spread of the virus. It helps to protect a healthy person from getting it and it helps to stop ill people from spreading it. So, why is it that so many fighters and other people involved in combat sports refuse to wear the face mask or think that it’s ineffective?

Too Macho for a Mask

According to an article recently published in Scientific American, wearing a face mask is a direct attack on your “masculine ideology”. And let’s face it, fighting is an overly-masculine, testosterone-driven business. It’s a business that accentuates violence and nearly-naked ring girls. Even though our world is rapidly evolving to accept people of different sexualities, disabilities, cultures, religions etc., there is still very much an idea of what a “real man” is and it involves three main aspects: adventure, risk and violence. All real men want to experience these things and anything that would infringe on your right to take part in it is seen as a threat to your masculinity.

Refusing to wear the face mask satisfies the need for both risk and adventure. And hey, if you’re in the fight business, you already have your need for violence filled. Conversely, wearing the mask is often viewed as an act of cowardice.

Masks are also seen by some men as a threat to their masculinity because they feel like they are somehow being controlled. They either feel like the government is enforcing unfair restrictions on them, or that they have to act submissively in some way to an authority. Of course, this goes back again to the idea of the dominant male / submissive female. Wearing a mask could be seen as a feminine act of submission.

Why it’s Okay to Wear a Mask

Don’t worry guys, you can still be masculine and wear a mask. Why? Well, here are several reasons:

1) In fighting, don’t you usually take general safety precautions? Do you tape your fists? Do you wear a groin guard? Do you wear a mouth guard? Do you wear boxing gloves or MMA gloves? Does the sport you practice have a referee, rules or rounds? Of course. Why? For the general safety of yourself and your opponent. Wearing a mask is also promoting the general safety and well being of those around you.

Is it possible you can go a whole fight without being kicked in the groin? Sure it is. It’s not uncommon for a fight to go the full three rounds with nobody getting kicked below the belt. So why would a “real man” wear a protective covering over his genitals? For the same reason he would wear a mask over his face during a pandemic. It’s also possible you could go the whole pandemic without wearing a mask and not get COVID-19, but why take that chance?

2) You don’t have to worry about being seen as submissive. Aren’t we submissive all the time in fighting sports anyway? Isn’t tapping out the correct thing to do instead of having your arm broken? In almost all health-threatening situations, the correcting thing to do is “live to fight another day”. I’ve also seen many situations where fighters have given up between rounds and while there will always be those who say he is a coward, most people will respect his decision.

3) The spiritual home of most martial arts is Japan, a country where covering your mouth and nose with a mask was the norm long before COVID-19 was even a thing. But why do they do it? Aside from the few people trying to make a fashion statement, most people do it out of a basic respect for the people around them. If they are sick and still have to go to work or go out in public, it’s just good hygiene and common decency to take measures from infecting other people. Even though we know masks are not 100% effective in stopping the spread of viruses, it still does help a lot. So, do you care for the health of the people around you or not?


Having spent countless hours eating, travelling, socializing and working with people in the fight business, I know how tough and macho many guys (and girls) feel they have to be. It’s a part of the game. No one wants to expose themselves as being weak in front of their opponent or even their teammates. However, wearing a mask should not be seen as a sign of weakness. It should only be seen as a sign of your duty as a part of your team.

In this case, your team is everyone you come into contact with. It’s everyone’s job to make sure that this virus does not spread any more than it already has. Otherwise, we’ll all be quarantined for even longer, more events will be cancelled and more gyms will be closed. Stop spreading misinformation and fake news about masks not being effective or about masks being some kind of instrument of oppression. And most importantly, wear your mask! Do it for the future of our sport and for everyone else’s safety.

- Daniel Austin








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