Like it, love it, hate it or even fear it, there’s no doubt that the sport of MMA (mixed martial arts) is starting to make waves across the globe. The expansion of the sports largest promotion, the UFC, has no doubt eclipsed all competitors with most acting as talent feeders. Some people who are new to the sport even call it UFC.
It’s not all been positive, however, and the advent of the term ‘cagefighting/fighter’ and the lack of professionalism with cowboy promotions, has led to negative press, scaremongering and general misunderstandings. The sport is brutal, there’s no denying that. Combat by its very nature is perhaps one of the biggest challenges a person can face.
It’s also important to remember that it is a contest between two consenting adults that have trained specifically to fight. It takes a level of dedication only found in a handful of sports, but that’s just one reason to love MMA.
If you’re brand new to this and perhaps still calling it UFC, then here are a few of the basics.
What is MMA?
MMA is an acronym for the term mixed martial arts, a phrase first coined in 1995 by promoter Rick Blume. The name stuck due to the diverse range of techniques and styles on display inside the Octagon or cage (essentially the same thing). A fight will last for three, five-minute rounds with some championship or main event fights taking place for five, five-minute rounds.
The aim for each fighter is to defeat their opponent by either knockout or submission with other wins coming from a referee stoppage or TKO. This is when the referee intervenes for the safety of the fighter and calls a stop to the contest.
In the event that none of the above happens, three judges watching the fight will decide the victory. This is done via a ten point must scoring system similar to that used in boxing for each round. Fighter’s are scored on strikes landed, takedowns, submission attempts aggression and control over their opponent.
There are many styles practiced in MMA with the main ones being Muay Thai, Boxing, Kick Boxing, Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s unusual but not unheard of to see Judo, Karate, Jeet Kune do and Taekwondo being used in MMA fights. In fact just when you think you’ve seen everything, a fighter will wow or surprise with a new type of strike or submission hold.
As long as it’s effective, it will find a place in the Octagon, and legal of course. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a free for all. Vale Tudo which rose from Brazil means anything goes. Many believe this is where modern day MMA has it’s origins, however, the ancient Greek Olympics held a contest called the Pankration which was mix of boxing and wrestling. Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do blended many style and techniques but if we’re going to be sensible about this, fighting is as old as we are. Many have developed systems, styles and techniques over the years but its soul and essence are the same. As UFC president Dana White says, “It’s in our DNA.”
The modern day sport has rules in place for the protection of the fighters. These include things such as no biting, head butting, eye gauging. No strikes to the back of the head or spine. No kicking or kneeing a downed opponent. The list goes on. While these rules have different classes and variations, the aim is always the same, to protect the fighters.
The early UFC’s will always be remembered because of a man called Royce Gracie, The man in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi that took on all comers. He should’ve been on a hiding to nothing and looking at him and his opponents you would’ve bet against him every time. Yet every time he emerged victorious due to his fighting style.
Down the line other martial arts such as muay thai and boxing showed their worth inside the octagon. As more young Americans became fans, college wrestlers began to make the transition into the sport and showed just how dominant it can be. Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes and the great Randy Couture used it to great effect and showed how it can control where the fight takes place, nullifying an opponent’s advantages and implementing their own game plan.
The sport really began to take off when the UFC launched The Ultimate Fighter Reality show, or TUF as it’s known. Sixteen guys in a house for six weeks, training together, living together and fighting each other. The first series climaxed with a barn burner of a fight with Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar which drew millions of viewers. Many say it is this that put the UFC on the map. TUF is now in it’s sixteenth series with the Smashes Series between Australia and the UK also on the horizon.
A new era of mixed martial artists are now beginning to come through the ranks. They have no base in one particular style, as all they’ve known is MMA. Being weak in a particular area such as grappling is increasingly being exploited and fighters today are far more rounded with their skill set.
The sport itself is expanding rapidly and is already hugely popular in the USA, Brazil, Japan, Australia and Scandinavia. Other markets such as China and India are also beginning to emerge. UFC on Fox 1 gained 8.8 million viewers in the promotions network television debut and the company will have more events than ever before in 2012.
In the UK, promotions such as BAMMA are showcasing the countries top talent and providing a springboard to the UFC. Although no British fighter has ever held a UFC title, welterweight Dan Hardy contested Georges St Pierre for the belt in 2010. Other stars such as Michael Bisping and Monkey Nutrition’s very own Brad Pickett are now beginning to make their claim and flying the flag for the UK.
MMA is a great way to get in lean, mean condition. Many gyms are surprisingly very friendly environments that take time and care to help beginners find their feet… and fists. You may not ever want to fight and that’s fine, just training is a great way to improve confidence and fitness whilst learning a little bit more about yourself.
If punching people in the face isn’t your thing then why not try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). The grappling art was developed in Brazil by Helio Gracie and has developed into a worldwide family of BJJ practitioners. Monkey Nutrition athlete Victor Estima is a world champion in the sport and alongside his brother Braulio runs the Gracie Barra academies in the UK. There are many gyms around the country also practicing the sport and its recent growth should make it easy to find a good gym near you.