Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that allows fighters to utilise striking, grappling and ground fighting techniques from different martial arts disciplines in order to take down their opponents in the ring. Howard Rosenberg is credited as the first man to coin the term “mixed martial arts” in a televised UFC 1 event in 1993.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Japan and the Four Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) held interstylistic martial arts competition, which can be considered as the precursor for the modern mixed martial arts cage fighting that we have today. Right around that same time, the Brazilian Vale Tudo, a form of combat sport with unrestricted rules, was also becoming a phenomenon. Styles like udo/Brazilian jiu-jitsu, catch wrestling/Luta Livre, Muay Thai, and Capoeira were seen being used in the fights.
Experts also believe that the exhibition match between boxer Muhammad Ali and wrestler Antonio Inoki in Japan was another precursor for mixed martial arts. This match may have inspired the creation of Shooto in 1985, Pancrase in 1993, and the Pride Fighting Championships in 1997.
By the 1990s, when the Gracie family introduced the Brazilian jiu-jitsu style to the United States and eventually founded the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) promotion company in 1993. The UFC would be the first time where the Brazilian jiu-jitsu would be shown along with other martial arts styles like Shotokan karate, ninjitsu, Judo, Kempo, drunken boxing, various analogues of Chinese Kung Fu and more.
MMA fights were originally intended to find the most effective martial arts in hand-to-hand combat that’s very similar to street fighting. The UFC had little to no rules back then, and competitors were pitted against each other even if their martial arts styles were different, and that’s the goal of the competition – to see which martial arts style was better. There are even no rules against weight classes, and a 250-lb person can fight someone on the 190-lb class, as long as both parties agree to the fight, then UFC will allow it.
By April 2001, the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board adopted a set of standards that would become known as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. This allowed for the much-needed safety of the fighters and helped UFC be accepted in the mainstream sports in the United States.
Organisationstions like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) played a significant role in refining the ruleset and promoting the sport on a global scale.
Mixed Martial Arts Background
Before the UFC and other MMA organisations arose in our time, ancient kings, generals and warriors would engage in a single combat duel, which had various benefits for the victor of the duel. Sometimes, it’s loot, or salves, or a state honor, and sometimes, the duel is levied against the outcome of a certain war fought by two opposing kingdoms, where the victorious fighter automatically declares his faction as the winner of the war due to technicality. Kings can either challenge their rival king to a duel, or they can order their best fighter to fight against their enemy’s best in a fair combat. Whoever wins will decide the prize they’ll get from their opponent.
There’s also the “trial by combat” scheme in Medieval Germany. It is a law created to settle accusations in the absence of witnesses or a confession in which two parties in dispute fought in a single combat. The winner of the duel is legally proclaimed as the one who is right and is absolved of all accusations against him, while the defeated combatant will suffer utter humiliation, exile, or even death, depending on the crime he is being accused of.
The way these ancient duels were set up is similar to what modern mixed martial arts sports is also organised, except MMA is 100% hand-to-hand combat and no weapons are allowed in the fight. Still, in both cases, the victor is given honour and a prize, just like in those ancient duels.
Mixed Martial Arts Combat Elements
Due to the nature of the sport, it’s a bit difficult to narrow down the specifics; however, we can group the offensive, defensive and other techniques that the fighters use into easy-to-understand categories.
They are as follows:
- Striking: Fighters use a combination of punches, kicks, knees, and elbows to attack their opponents while standing.
- Grappling: Techniques from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, judo, and other grappling-based arts are utilized to control and submit opponents on the ground.
- Submission holds: A fighter can win by forcing their opponent to tap, signalling their submission to a joint lock or chokehold.
- Knockouts: Fighters can win by rendering their opponent unconscious through powerful strikes.
- Ground-and-pound: A strategy in which a fighter takes their opponent down and lands strikes from the top position.
- Clinch: The close-range standing position where fighters utilise both striking and grappling techniques.
- Takedowns and takedown defence: Techniques used to bring the fight to the ground or prevent being taken down.
Throughout the years, MMA has grown into a mainstream sport with a large fan base. Professional MMA events, like the UFC, Bellator, and ONE Championship, feature some of the world’s best fighters and showcase a wide array of fighting styles and techniques.
Do We Need More or Less Violence in Sports?
The question of whether we need more or less violence in sports is a complex and subjective matter, and opinions on this topic can vary widely. It depends on several factors, including the sport in question, cultural norms, and individual perspectives.
Pros of More Violence in Sports
Excitement and Entertainment: Some people argue that certain sports, like combat sports or contact sports, are more thrilling and engaging when there is a level of controlled violence involved. This can attract larger audiences and increase the sport’s popularity.
Tradition and History: Some sports have a long history of physicality and violence, and proponents may argue that reducing or eliminating violence would compromise the essence of the game and its traditions.
Cons of More Violence in Sports
Safety and Health Concerns: Increased violence in sports can lead to more frequent and severe injuries for athletes. These injuries can have long-lasting effects on their physical and mental well-being, potentially affecting their careers and quality of life.
Negative Role Modeling: Some argue that promoting violence in sports could send the wrong message to young athletes and fans, normalising aggressive behaviour and encouraging a lack of sportsmanship.
Image and Sponsorship: Sports leagues and organisations may face public backlash and loss of sponsorships if violence becomes a dominant feature of their games. Maintaining a positive image and attracting sponsors is essential for the financial health of the sport.
Pros of Less Violence in Sports
Safety and Well-being: Reducing violence can lead to a safer environment for athletes, reducing the likelihood of severe injuries and their long-term consequences.
Inclusivity: Minimizing violence can make sports more accessible to a wider range of individuals, including those who may not be comfortable with or capable of participating in highly physical activities.
Positive Role Modeling: Encouraging sportsmanship and fair play through less violent sports can promote positive values and behaviours among athletes and fans.
Cons of Less Violence in Sports
Potentially Reduced Excitement: Some argue that reducing violence may make certain sports less exciting or intense, potentially leading to a decline in popularity and viewership.
Cultural and Historical Impact: Changing the level of violence in sports with a long history of physicality can face resistance from traditionalists who value the sport’s roots.
Finding the right balance between violence and safety in sports is crucial. Many sports already have rules and regulations in place to control and minimise violence, prioritising the safety of the athletes while still maintaining the competitiveness and entertainment value of the game. It is essential for sports governing bodies to continually assess and adjust these rules to ensure the well-being of the athletes and the overall integrity of the sport.
In a new survey, mixed martial arts has over 550 million fans all over the world, and that number still keeps growing. Admittedly, true martial arts should be a full-contact violent sport with minimal rules (but this is just my personal opinion). After all, how can you gauge the fighter’s skills and competency in the martial arts discipline that they’ve trained in if you restrict them from using their skills to their full potential? But that would be the kind of contact sport that’s not for women or kids to consume, as it can traumatise them.
On the other hand, regulating mixed martial arts (MMA) makes it a mediocre sport in the eyes of real martial arts masters, but the tradeoff would also be more viewership and more profits. Still, I think that the goal of the UFC was lost in all this mess, which is to determine who is the best fighter and which is the best martial arts. Underground street fighting would be the place for you if you’re looking for the real blood sport. If you can also find a way to attend secret Kung Fu or other martial arts’ sparring matches, then that’s even better than getting a Pay Per View subscription.
But if you’re simply looking for an unarmed combat sport for pure entertainment purposes, then mixed martial arts is for you.