By Joshua Hedges
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combative sport that combines aspects from many different martial arts. Competitors are often skilled in boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, karate, and other combative arts.
Mixed Martial Arts dates back to the ancient Greek Olympic Games in Athens where it was known as Pankration. In the 1920s, it again became popular in Brazil and later on in Japan where these fights were held as major events.
The Gracie family of Brazil is often credited with creating MMA. Eighty years ago in Brazil, it started as “Vale Tudo” (“anything goes”). The early fights in Brazil truly had no rules. There were no time limits, and it was common for fights to go on for hours.
MMA in the United States began in 1993 with the birth of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a pay per view event showcasing a “style versus style” spectacle. The idea was to bring together champions of various martial arts and Olympic sports, such as karate, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, sumo and other disciplines to determine which style would be most successful in a tournament. International support for the event was enormous. What began as a mere spectacle was transformed into one of the world’s most entertaining sporting events.
Over the years, MMA has gone through drastic changes and acquired many rules to create a legitimate sport. The UFC is still today the most recognized MMA event in the world. Over the course of its nine-year existence and 43 events, the UFC has become the premier mixed martial arts event in the world, featuring competitors of multiple disciplines in a quest to become an Ultimate Fighting champion.
The success of the UFC has spawned a multitude of similar or like events throughout the world. MMA events in some form are held in virtually every state in the US and many other countries around the world. The sport is most popular in the US, Japan, Brazil, and the UK.
In July 2001, the Nevada State Athletic Commission sanctioned the sport of MMA under a unified set of rules. The contests are held in either a traditional ring, similar to boxing, or a caged area. Despite how it looks, the cage actually is the safer of the two, as it prevents fighters from falling out of the fighting area onto the floor.
The ways to win a bout are similar to boxing - by knockout, technical knockout (referee, doctor, or corner stoppage), decision, or disqualification. A fight can also be won by submission, or tap out. When a fighter feels he cannot go on any further, either due to a hold, punches, or fatigue, he can physically or verbally tap out.
MMA bouts have five minute rounds – five rounds for title fights and three rounds for all other bouts. Prohibited techniques include, but are not limited to, groin strikes, throat strikes, kicks or knees to the head of a downed combatant, eye-gouging, biting, head-butting, striking to the spine, and holding on to the ropes or cage.
The MMA athletes today are some of the world’s best. Olympic and World Champions wrestling, judo, kickboxing, and jiu-jitsu make up the upper echelon of MMA competitors.
MMA athletes often train six to eight hours a day, seven days a week. In the early days, a fighter would train in one specific art, but today everyone is cross-training. All MMA fighters train equally in standup and ground fighting. Most competitors choose to study Muay Thai kickboxing and/or Western Boxing for standup. On the ground, they often opt for a combination of amateur wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
There has never been a death in the UFC and there has only been one documented death in the 80 plus year history of the sport of MMA. That occurred in an unsanctioned, unregulated event in the Soviet Union in 1998. Very rarely is there even an injury in a MMA fight. The majority of injuries sustained by the fighters are categorized as soft tissue type injuries such as abrasions, lacerations and bruising. Small bone injuries to hands, feet and facial areas such as the nose also make the list of injuries received.
The sport of Mixed Martial Arts has a long storied history. It has evolved from a “No-Rules” spectacle into a legitimate sport. MMA will continue to evolve and excite fans for decades to come.
Joshua Hedges is a MMA journalist and photographer, and he is the Public Relations Coordinator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He has been following the sport of MMA since 1994 and has attended over 50 MMA events. Joshua’s articles and photos have appeared in Full Contact Fighter Magazine, Tatame Magazine, UFC.tv, MaxFighting.com, UFighting.com, and countless other websites.
Joshua has trained in MMA for four years, and has competed in grappling tournaments in California and Texas. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from Texas Tech University.
For more information on Mixed Martial Arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, visit www.ufc.tv