As brutal and physical as it is, mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fighting is one of the most popular sports around the world today. The sport takes place in an eight sided, fenced in arena called the “Octagon”, where two fighters, based on weight class, are set to fight. The fighters use absolutely no body protection aside from thin, finger-cut gloves with almost no padding and that easily cause bleeding and bruising on their opponent. The matches consist of up to five 5 minute rounds, but will end before that if one fighter is knocked out, or held down long enough to “tap out”; if neither happens, a panel of judges establishes a score and decides the winner.
For many of those who have seen a mixed martial arts cage fighting match, they may wonder how such a physically damaging sport ever came in to existence. The sport was somewhat underground around the globe until 1993, when a Brazilian Jui-Jitsu fighter by the name of Royce Gracie beat three separate opponents in a row in a total of less than five minutes.
After this groundbreaking fighting event, MMA’s popularity soared, and in 1999 the International Sport Combat Federation (ISCF) was founded as the sports governing body, establishing sanctioned, universal rules. As we moved into the 21st century the sport began regular Pay Per View showings, and in 2006 the “Ultimate Fighting Championship” had sales rivaling those of some of the highest selling boxing matches of all time. In 2005 the United States Army began to see MMA’s usefulness and established the army Combative Championships, their version of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
There are a few combinations of martial arts that have proven most effective and are thus used in the sport today, including “stand up”, “clinch”, and “ground” techniques. “Stand up” techniques consist of kickboxing, boxing, karate, and Muay Thai to work on a fighter’s elbowing, kicking, punching, and footwork. “Clinch” involves Greco-Roman wrestling, sambo, freestyle, and Judo to work on takedowns, throws, and clinching in the fighter’s technique.
The “ground” methods are shoot wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and sambo to help with ground position and control, as well as defend against and successfully execute submission holds. Mixed martial arts cage fighting is also incredibly demanding on the cardiovascular system, and fighters often cross train with speed drills, strength training, triathlon, and flexibility exercises.
Mixed martial arts cage fighting, despite its image conveyed by the media, is actually quite safe and injury free. The only serious injury or death ever to occur in the sport was in 2007, when, upon being knocked unconscious, a fighter collapsed and suffered a stroke, never regaining consciousness afterwards. Because of mixed martial arts cage fighting’s huge growth in popularity, schools have begun appearing all over the United States and other countries, promising a safe, fun environment in which students can build excellent physical fitness and confidence.