Mixed Martial Arts is exactly what it says: fighters competing in a sport where they choose to train from a selection of Martial Arts and Combat Sports to prepare them for competition, as well as to improve their fitness and challenge their physical and mental goals. It really is that straightforward.
However this is where the simplicity ends and the true complexity is realised. Those that have never seen MMA or don’t know a lot about it often believe it is for ‘meatheads’ and that those fighting are just two thugs slugging it out against each other in a cage: this is completely inaccurate and is a very jaded view of the sport. Fighters have managers, coaches and training teams that help prepare them for each and every fight, concentrating on both physical and mental fitness as well as all the different elements within MMA: striking, grappling and ground work.
You can find examples of these aspects below:
Striking – Muay Thai, Boxing, Taekwondo
Grappling and Groundwork – Wrestling, Sambo, Judo, Jiu Jitsu
Some Martial Arts are certainly studied and practised in more detail than others, but something can be taken from each and every Art and this is what can give a fighter the edge. They may spend months in preparation for the next fight and will tailor their training regime and goals for that sole purpose.
I remember the first time that I watched MMA back in 1994: The Ultimate Fighting Championship 2. I was immediately captivated by how fighters were pitted against each other, irrelevant of their fighting style or weight. With almost ‘no holds barred’ this was as exciting as it got and played Martial Art against Martial Art in a true test of its effectiveness in the ‘real World’.
MMA has evolved and come a long way since then becoming a recognised sport, one in which a fighter can make a career and earn a living. Together with rigidly enforced weight divisions and specific rules, MMA is just as safe as any other combat sport. Not only that but it is growing, and growing quickly. No matter your age, sex or level of experience there will be a club near you where you’ll be welcomed and be able to train in a safe learning environment. I have not seen any other combat sport where there is such a high standard of respect and humility between fighters or such a willingness to encourage others to learn and become better.
In conclusion I would say that the question: “What is MMA?” springs to mind for many people and unfortunately will often be put to the side without proper thought or consideration; all reason becoming tarnished by certain media circles hyping up their uninformed tabloid views, and the subconscious conjuring up images of news headlines and films watched in years past, bringing with it a preconception of what MMA is, which will undoubtedly be inaccurate and unbalanced. We have a responsibility to the sport to help educate those people and I have no doubt that in doing so, this sport will continue to grow.
MMA Prospects UK spoke with some well recognised figures involved within UK MMA and put a few questions their way.
Rosi Sexton is probably one of the best known mixed martial artists in the UK today. She has been involved in martial arts for over fifteen years and made her MMA debut in 2002, quickly proving she was a force to be reckoned with. She has remained ranked within the World Top Ten pound-for-pound female MMA fighters for many years now.
We asked Rosi what she thought some of the common misconceptions are surrounding MMA and for her thoughts on the subject?
1) That MMA fighting is just a brawl with little technique.
- Often it's hard for people who aren't familiar with the sport to understand the techniques and tactics involved. Until you've had the experience of grappling with someone who's trying to hit you in the head, it's sometimes a bit puzzling why fighters do, or don't do, certain things. And often, the end result isn't pretty to watch. Yet there's a lot of very technical manoeuvring going on whether or not that's obvious to the casual fans.
2) That MMA is for thugs or violent hooligans. Who else would want to get into a cage with someone else intent on doing them physical damage?
- People assume that because MMA can appear to be a very violent sport, the people who do it must be violent people. Of course, not every fighter is the same, but on the whole MMA is an intelligent person's sport. Many fighters have college degrees and/or second careers, for example as teachers, engineers or accountants. The amount of technique involved, as well as the highly strategic nature of the sport and the degree of commitment and dedication involved in even achieving a basic level of skill mean that unthinking thuggery is unlikely to get you very far.
3) The "cage" makes it appear barbaric or uncivilised.
- The wire mesh octagon has become to MMA what the roped ring is to boxing. Because of the grappling element of the sport, an arena was needed that made it impossible for fighters to fall out, or to get entangled with the ropes. Although in the earlier days of MMA some organisations used a modified boxing ring, many felt that this interfered with the flow of the action, as exchanges often had to be stopped and restarted when one fighter was in danger of falling out of the ring. The "cage" on the other hand adds an extra element to the strategy of the fight as fighters work to avoid being pinned against the walls, or use them in executing a takedown.
Jimmy Wallhead comes from a very successful judo background and became part of Team Rough House in 2005. He has fought on a number of the bigger promotions including Cage Warriors and Bellator, and he currently fights on BAMMA. He is a formidable fighter and is ranked within the UK Top Five MMA welterweights.
We asked Jimmy what he thought made MMA so interesting and why people get so hooked on it?
What I think makes MMA the greatest sport on the planet is the fact that it’s the ultimate test and every time you watch an MMA show something amazing happens! That’s why I believe people get hooked because it gets the adrenaline flowing and with so many good fighters around, people are rarely disappointed!!
Dave O’Donnell is one of the leading promoters for MMA throughout the UK. He was the driving force behind Cage Rage and is responsible for one of Europes biggest MMA organisations, UCMMA. Not only that but Dave has also been instrumental in launching the careers of some big names like Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort and John Hathaway just to name a few.
We asked Dave why he thinks MMA is so popular and what makes it such a unique sport?
I’ve got 35 years of Martial Arts experience and have seen many changes over the years. As it says in the title, MMA is a mixture of all the martial arts rolled into one. People have watched the action movies with stars like Jean Claude Van Damme, they’re great films, but in reality it’s all just fantasy in people’s minds. MMA is as close as you get to this type of thing, a crossing over of all the martial arts, using light-weight gloves and giving the fighters so many options.
It’s an appealing and trendy sport which ticks all of the boxes for the fans. How quickly it has grown and developed is proof of this and now MMA is becoming mainstream. You can also see evidence of this in clubs up and down the country: whereas before there were dedicated kick boxing and karate clubs, a lot of these clubs are now also teaching MMA. If you walk into them you’ll see a cage in the corner or people rolling.
This sport has evolved fast in recent years and it’s evolving the whole Martial Arts scene!
We hope that this goes a little further to explaining and helping your understanding of, "What is MMA?" Why not take a look around our site and learn some more about the sport and its fighters, as well as those involved in the background that help bring the whole MMA scene together. If you enjoyed reading this then help promote MMA amongst your friends by hitting 'like' on the Facebook button below and putting this article onto your wall: we need to better peoples understanding of MMA and get rid of the old stereotypical views!Tweet