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Articles: Mixed martial arts

Mixed martial arts

Mixed martial arts or MMA is a full contact sport that involves unarmed combat between two rivals using striking, submission hold, kicking, and grappling techniques belonging to a variety of other such sports and martial arts. It permits combat both on the ground and in a standing position. The very nature of the sport makes it exciting for the viewers, giving an adrenaline rush like no other.

The origins of the sport can be traced to the ancient Olympic sport of Pankration, which was extremely similar to MMA and was passed from ancient Greeks to the Romans. In the late 19th century, various types of mixed-style fights took place all over Europe, and later in the US and Canada. These styles included Judo, Boxing, Savate, Canne De Combat, Jiu jitsu, etc. Bartitsu, a mixed martial art form that combined Asian and European fighting styles, was also popular in England in the beginning of 20th century. Apart from these, Vale Tudo or no-holds-barred fight that originated in Brazil also contributed to the birth of MMA. MMA in its modern form originated in the US, with the founding of the UFC or the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the year 1993 by the Gracie family. The name of the sport mixed martial arts is said to have been first used by Howard Rosenberg, a television critic, while reviewing UFC 1.

MMA has gained immense popularity over the years with the practitioners of the sport increasing at all levels even though it is not an Olympic sport. The following of the game and its television viewership has also seen exponential growth. It is popular not only as a professional competitive sport but also as a recreational one. Though there are many MAA organizations across the world that produce MMA events, UFC is the top most one. It organizes a number of events in US as well in other countries like Australia, Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Scotland, etc. It also attracts the most talented players who are under contract with it to participate in its events. Moreover, its tie-up with Fox Network has allowed it to be viewed live across the world.

A Mixed Martial Arts Fight

Fighters can be both male and female, but no mixed fights, and are matched in weight categories. As per the United Rules of the Mixed Martial Arts agreed upon by athletic commissions of various US states and widely used by MMA fights, fighters are divided into 9 weight categories beginning with Strawweight up to 115 pounds and ending with Super Heavyweight which is over 265 pounds.

There is no unified weight division for women and each organization has its own categories. For example, UFC has only Strawweight and BantamWeight, while Invictaand Valkurie has five weight categories.

The Ring/Fighting Area and the Equipment

MMA contests and exhibitions are held in a ring measuring between 20 square feet to 32 square feet with one corner having a blue and the opposite having a red designation. They can also be held in a circular fenced area or one with at least six equal sides and should be between 20 to 32 feet wide. The floor needs to be padded with minimum 1-inch closed-cell foam layer. There should not be any obstruction or object in the ring or fenced area apart from stools for the contestants.

Player Safety and Apparel

Mouth Pieces: All contestants need to wear a mouthpiece during the contest without which the contest cannot begin.

Gloves: All contestants need to wear gloves which are at least 4 ounces.

<PGroin and Chest Protectors: All male mixed martial artists are required to wear groin protectors of their own selection while female mixed martial artists are required to wear approved chest protectors. <PApparel: Contestants wear either mixed martial arts shorts, biking shorts, kick-boxing shorts or other shorts as approved by the commission. Female Contestants also wear approved shirts. Apart from these, no other clothing, jewelry or footwear is allowed to be worn.

Fight Duration and Contest Officials

Each non-championship MMA contest has three rounds while each championship contests has five rounds. Each round is no more than five minutes and there is a rest period of one minute in between rounds. During a contest, the Referee is the sole arbiter and the only official authorized to stop a contest. He may take advice from the ringside physician and/or the Commission before taking a decision. He is also the only person, apart from the ringside physician as needed, authorized to enter the ring during a round or after a contest.

Judging a Contest

All bouts are evaluated and scored by three judges that observe the contest from three different locations around the ring or the fighting area. The evaluation is based on effective use of mixed martial arts techniques like striking, grappling, control of ring or the fighting area, aggressiveness, and defence with weight being given to each technique in the above order. Bouts are scored under the “10-point Must System” whereby 10 points must be awarded to the winner of the round (before deductions for fouls) while the loser is awarded 9 or less points. It is possible for both contestants to have even scores in a round which is scored as 10-10.

Fouls: There are a number of fouls that may result in penalties as decided by the referee. Some of the important ones include head butting, eye gouging, biting, hair pulling, groin attacks, striking the spine, throat, or the back of the head, striking the kidney with a heel, ignoring the instructions of the referee, low blow, etc.

Fighting Techniques

Striking Techniques: These include kicks, knees, punches, and elbows.

Grappling Techniques: These include clinch holds, pinning holds, submission holds, sweeps, takedowns, and throws.

Score-Oriented Fighting: This is used mostly by wrestling-background fighters against opponents highly skilled in martial arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and involves the fighters going by the book to score points on skills like striking, grappling, control of ring or the fighting area, aggressiveness, and defence and allowing the rival to stand up and carry on with the fight rather than try for a knockout win.

Victory in a Mixed Martial Arts Contest

The various ways in which a contestant may be declared a winner are:

Submission: When a contestant achieves a submission hold, the trapped opponent may concede defeat by either verbally announcing it or by tapping out his opponent’s body or the mat. The former is called Verbal Tap Out and the latter is termed Physical Tap Out.

Judge’s decision: This may be a unanimous decision, split decision, or a majority decision depending on the scores awarded by each of the judges to the two contestants.

Disqualification of opponent: It may be due to more than three illegal moves or causing intentional injury to the rival fighter using an illegal move.

Knockout: When the opponent loses consciousness due to strikes or kicks during the fight, it is called a Knockout. A Technical Knockout or termination of the bout (TKO) is also called by the referee when the opponent is injured severely and unable to continue the fight due to a legal manoeuvre by a contestant.

A bout may also end in a Unanimous, Majority or Split Draw depending on the judge’s scorecards or can be called out as a No Contest if both contestants violate the rules of the game or one of the fighters is injured by an unintentional illegal action although this is a very uncommon occurrence in MMA.

Becoming a Professional MMA Fighter

MMA fighters not only need discipline and endurance but also intense training in order to survive in the ring. Their need to be ready to take on some of the best fighters from all corners of the world means that they must train in a variety of disciplines like Boxing, Freestyle Wrestling, Jeet Kune Do, Kyokushin karate, Sanda/Sanshou, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Greco-Roman wrestling, Judo, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, etc. and master various fighting skills and techniques like strikes, clinching, grappling, take downs, ground, submission holds, etc. While these are the basics, the next step is joining MMA gyms to train with other fighters and to get noticed by winning bouts regularly in smaller regional MMA promotions. It may take you some years to get noticed by UFC or other major promotions but there is not shortcut to MMA success.

Professional MMA Contests and Fighter Rankings

Some of the major MMA promoters within the US, apart from the UFC, are Bellator MMA, World Series of Fighting, Invicta FC, etc. Outside of the US, ONE Championship (Singapore), JEWEL (Singapore) which is an all female MMA promotion, Cage Warriors Fighting Championship and BAMMA (London), M-1 Global and Fight Nights (Russia), Jungle Fight and Shooto South America (Brazil), KSW (Poland), etc. are some of the noteworthy MMA promotions around the world. Many of them promote new talent and act as feeders to major promotions like UFC. Fighters are put under contract by major promotions once they show consistent wins in other MMA organizations around the globe.

MMA fighters ranking is dependent on their performance in fights, outcome of fights as well as on the level of competition faced by them. These rankings are not done by a sports body; rather they are done by MMA sports portals. Some of the popular ones are Fight Matrix, Sherdog, SB Nation, UFC,, Tapology, etc. Apart from Fight matrix which ranks 250-500 fighters worldwide for all possible male and female divisions, others usually rank top 10 or top 15 fighters in specific categories only.

At the moment there is no governing body on a world scale, there is also no such thing as a world championship nor world champion. The sport is still relatively young and at some point the professional level will grow to the point of becoming a world sport.

Amateur MMA Contests

Apart from the professional MMA promoters, amateur version of MMA also exists. Fighters in these contests do not usually receive remuneration. These contests are held in a safe environment with similar rules as professional MMA contests under the aegis of International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF), World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA), and United World Wrestling. These organizations also hold annual world championships.

Betting on MMA

Betting on MMA has become quite popular with the success of the UFC. As such, most online sports betting sites offer MMA betting opportunities. Betting is not just limited to UFC, Bellator, Invicta or World Series of Fighting rather it has expanded immensely to include many other promotions including some of the regional ones.

People usually bet on the bout outcome (Money Line Market). Some bookies also allow bets on how the fight will end (Knockout, Submission, Decision, Draws). Apart from these, over/under betting is also offered which involves wagering on the number of rounds the fight will last. Some other types of bets available, though not as popular, are: betting on results of two or more contests on one ticket (Parlay betting), predicting the winning round of one of the fighters (Round betting), etc...