MMA Mixed Martial Arts | An Extreme Combat Sport

Cowtown beatdown mma

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

MMA or Mixed Martial Arts is a combat sport that mixes several martial arts, from judo to Thai boxing and wrestling. They practice or fight in an octagonal cage, allowing kicks, punches, knees and elbows, but also hits to the ground. Winner is determined by K.O., submission, abandonment or injury.

Since antiquity, men have always sought to confront each other through fights to the death. If before we talked about Pankration (a sport that was introduced in Greece in the Olympics in 648 BC and is a hand-to-hand sport with almost no rules), today things have changed slightly with MMA or Mixed Martial Arts. Also called free fight or free fight, MMA is a very popular combat discipline all over the world.
Often described as sulphurous, violent or spectacular, MMA is a sport that is much talked about. If its competitions are still prohibited in certain countries, in particular in France, it is necessary to raise the practitioners and the fans are more and more numerous. To understand this sport, knowing what MMA is will allow us to shed light on this recent and still little-known discipline.

MMA became popular in the early 1990s thanks to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) organization, the world’s largest organizer of this type of tournament and its television broadcast.

Presentation and history of MMA

What is MMA? MMA as a combat sport is a discipline where two people (men/women) compete in a ring called an octagon. Fighters are free to use all types of effective and authorized techniques to defeat their opponents. Thus by using several techniques, complete discipline, MMA borrows many of its techniques from traditional martial arts (wrestling, pugilism, judo, Thai boxing, etc.) Practitioners can use standing and submission techniques , projections and percussion techniques standing or on the ground. If it is known that it is a sport that is not very artistic, its effectiveness is no longer to be proven and that is the reason why it is called the ultimate sport.

We find traces of free fights in ancient Greece with Pancrace, a very popular and violent Olympic discipline. Everywhere in the world, we found traces of free fight competitions and the beginnings of MMA are becoming clearer more precisely in Brazil. Indeed, the history of MMA is intimately linked to the Brazilian Vale Tudo and the Gracie family. This family has largely contributed to the development of mixed fights with the “ Challenge Gracie ” where fighters from several disciplines competed. Thereafter, Gracie Jiu-jitsu or Brazilian jiu-jitsu is exported all over the world and especially in the United States.

Birth of MMA

The MMA phenomenon was thus born with the establishment of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). The world’s premier MMA competition in the 1990s, the UFC laid the foundations for other MMA competitions and the professionalization of mixed-gender combat.
Today, MMA as the ultimate sport is far from what it was at the beginning, there are now rules, specific equipment, weight categories, different fighting styles, etc.

The general rules applicable in an MMA fight

MMA fighting rules differ from country to country or organization to organization. However, there are general rules concerning in particular the duration of the fights, the prohibitions, the preliminaries before each fight or the weight categories. In general, an ultimate sport MMA fight lasts 3 rounds with the possibility of going to 5 rounds if the fight involves a belt. Each round has a duration of 3 to 5 minutes and a recovery time (one minute) is respected between each round.

Certain restrictions must be observed, in particular the prohibition of:

  • Headbutting;
  • Hitting certain places (private parts, throat, neck, joints, spine, kidneys);
  • Putting fingers in nose, eyes, mouth, ears;
  • The projections outside the octagon;
  • Spit, claw, bite or pinch his opponent;
  • Hair pulling;
  • Hitting the head of a fighter on the ground with his knee or his foot;
  • Clinging to the shorts or gloves of his vis-à-vis;
  • Faking an injury or deliberately refusing the fight;
  • Getting into the opponent’s corner;
  • Ignoring the decision or instructions of the referee, etc.
We love mma
During We love MMA: Mixed Martial Arts at Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Ludwigshafen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany on 2017-04-22, Photo Credit: Sven Mandel / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Before a fight

Before each octagon MMA fight, each fighter must present several supporting documents to prove that he is fit to fight. These supporting documents include a medical certificate validating their fitness to fight for the current season, an eye fundus examination less than 3 months old, a notebook of all knockouts suffered or a cranial scanner in the event of a knockout suffered, an HIV and hepatitis test, an electrocardiogram, etc. On the eve of each fight, fighters are required to attend the official weigh-in held in the host city of the competition.

The official weigh-in consists of determining the weight of the two fighters. It may happen that one of the two opponents is heavier than the other and in this case, the fight can be postponed, canceled or the stakes of the fight can be reduced. If a belt was at stake, the possibility of winning it may be nullified. Before entering the ring, Vaseline is applied to the face of the fighter by a doctor. The purpose of this is to protect it from possible friction and cuts.

The different weight categories (Weight Class of MMA)

Weight classUpper weight limit
Strawweight115 lb (52.2 kg)
Flyweight125 lb (56.7 kg)
Bantamweight135 lb (61.2 kg)
Featherweight145 lb (65.8 kg)
Lightweight155 lb (70.3 kg)
Super lightweight165 lb (74.8 kg)
Welterweight170 lb (77.1 kg)
Super welterweight175 lb (79.4 kg)
Middleweight185 lb (83.9 kg)
Super middleweight195 lb (88.5 kg)
Light heavyweight205 lb (93.0 kg)
Cruiserweight225 lb (102.1 kg)
Heavyweight265 lb (120.2 kg)
Super heavyweightNo limit

Fighting styles

What are the strategies to win?

  • Sprawl and brawl (standing fight): A fighter comfortable on his feet tries to stay upright throughout the fight and uses a technique called “sprawl” to avoid ground fighting and takedowns.
  • Ground and pound: The most brutal fighters in the UFC try to put their opponents on their backs with a takedown, get into a dominant position and rain down the punches.
  • Submission Seeking: A submission lover takes their opponent down with a takedown or a throw, then tries to force them out with a submission hold.
  • Clinch fighting: The clinch grip, which gave its name to this style, makes it possible to prevent your opponent from finding a good position to strike. Once their opponent is blocked, clinch fighters attempt different types of takedowns or land clinch strikes using their knees, elbows, feet, and fists.

The different outcomes of an MMA fight

Like any sports discipline and sports fight in particular, the objective is to achieve victory and during an octagon MMA fight, several outcomes are possible. The first is the Knockout or KO which consists of making your opponent lose consciousness with any authorized technique.
Once unconscious, the referee is forced to end the fight to declare you the winner.

A fight can also end by Technical KO or TKO. Here, if the opponent does not lose consciousness, he will not be able to continue the fight. The Technical KO can be pronounced by the referee, the doctor, the fighter’s team.

There is TKO or Technical KO when:

The referee pronounces a TKO when your opponent takes several hits and can no longer fight back.
The fighter’s corner or team may admit a TKO or throw in the towel in sports fighting jargon (the coach throws the towel in the ring.) This situation arises if the opponent in front is stronger enough to put the the opponent’s life in danger or if the hopes of winning the match are nil.
The doctor can also stop a dangerous MMA match if one of the opponents is severely injured and cannot continue the fight.

With a submission

You can win an MMA fight with a submission technique. Here, you just have to bring the opponent to end the fight by tapping 3 times on his opponent with the flat of the hand. To be effective, you have to place a key or a joint choke on the opponent so that he stops the fight.

The referee can also stop the fight here and this is called a technical submission. In this case, the referee will consider that the fighter who undergoes the submission is unable to get rid of submission or tapping his opponent.


The MMA fight can also end by disqualification of one of the fighters. In case of flagrant non-respect of the rules, the fighter is disqualified and the fight ends.

Judges decision

The match can still end by decision of the judges or “technical decision”. Several possibilities can justify a technical decision, in particular the injury of one of the fighters occurring unintentionally. The judges with the help of the referee can decide a draw or the victory boxer MMA. The technical decision also intervenes at the end of the match to determine the winner by counting points. In this case, there are various decisions, including one:

  • Unanimous decision where the 3 judges designate a victorious fighter or a tie;
  • Decision by majority of judges. Here, the winner is chosen if two out of three judges vote for him and the last leans in favor of a tie (majority decision). The winner can also be designated even if the 3rd judge considers that the other fighter is victorious (split decision);
  • Equality which is pronounced when the three judges are not Okay. One will tip in favor of a tie while the other two each pick a different winner. We then speak of split draw, because no fighter is declared the winner or the loser. A tie can still occur if two judges decide there is a tie and the 3rd picks a winner. Here, it is a majority draw, because no fighter is recognized as victorious.

Sources: PinterPandai, British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), Britannica

Photo credit (main photo): John McStravick / Flickr

Photo description: An MMA fight in Ft. Worth. Real brutal stuff. This is Joe Cristopher defeating Ryan Chavarria.

Muay Thai (Thai Boxing): History, Techniques, and Cultural Significance

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *