What is MMA?
MMA is a form of combat sport that has garnered a lot of awe and interest in recent times, making it one of the world’s most popular sports. As the name suggests, it is a discipline that combines different forms of martial arts to produce a combat form that is both raw and lethal, but with established rules, discipline, code of ethics (not written), and respect for opponents.
Mixed martial arts require maximum core stamina, athleticism, endurance, flexibility, and mental strength. If you believe you have what it takes to progress through the ranks and step into the hallowed octagon, you have come to the right place.
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In this article, we will break down what is Mixed Martial Arts, answer questions to help you understand what you are getting into to help you make the transition from a mere mortal into a fighting machine.
Disciplines that makeup MMA
One of the most commonly asked questions by those aspiring to pursue mixed martial arts is: is it necessary to possess a martial art skill before training for Mixed Martial Arts? The answer is a ‘No.’ You would, however, have a definite edge if you already know a martial arts skill.
But as lethal as the sport is, let us be brutally honest with you. It would be best if you were combat-ready. The octagon is not a place for the faint-hearted or novice. You will be decimated in barely seconds if you refuse to undergo an intense training regimen and make some lifestyle changes. You need to build a body that can unleash punishment and withstand pain and have a heart of a warrior.
Here are a few disciplines that make up Mixed Martial Arts.
- Muay Thai
The evolution of MMA
As compared to many sports that have been introduced hundreds of years ago, MMA is a relatively new sport. It has, however, eclipsed more established sports in terms of the interest it generates and growing popularity.
The inception of MMA dates back to the early 1990s. Back then, there was no weight class, the combatants lacked formal training, and there were only three fouls-biting, eye-gouging, and striking the groin area. It was almost like a free for all.
In the mid-nineties, the sports begin to take a more definite shape as fighters now began to analyze combat techniques and infuse elements like Kick-boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu- a technique that increasingly found acceptance with fighters. There were also more rules incorporated to minimize the chances of grievous and life-threatening injuries.
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Busting some myths
Despite the game evolving with more defined rules and skill levels, some myths about MMA still exist.
- It is a street-style fight: Though it can be brutal, to call it a street-style fight would be disrespectful and doing it a disservice. Agreed, there might be intense rivalries, but these rivalries stem from the hunger to be at the top instead of personal grudges. The uninitiated may also not be aware that there are many rules, much like other combat sports.
- Bigger fighters stand better chances: This myth was busted when UFC Hall of Famer Roy Gracie from Brazil beat American Kimo Leopoldo in UFC 3 in September 1994. Gracie, who weighed 176 pounds then, defeated the 240-pound black belt Kimo by armlock submission in 4 minutes and 40 seconds.
- MMA fighters have no emotions: MMA fighters are like anyone one of us. Many are spiritual and credit their success to God. They go to church. They love to spend time with family and friends and feel pain and happiness like any other humans.
They might look angry and aggressive inside the octagon, but they are friendly and approachable outside of it. You would be pleasantly surprised to know that some MMA fighters are highly educated and have other careers like math teachers, engineers, or real estate agents.
- There is no discipline in MMA: Discipline lies at the heart of being an MMA fighter. Just talent is not enough. An MMA is generally self-aware as he knows his weaknesses and strengths. He/She trains very hard to hone his skills and overcome his shortcomings. He respects both the sports and the opponent.
How to train and get into MMA?
Only a chosen few qualify to fight in the octagon. They are the toughest and fittest- both physically and mentally. As such, the training process is long drawn and intense.
1. Know what you want
You must have absolute clarity before you choose MMA as a career. Your decision must not be influenced by mere emotions alone. You must be passionate about it and have time-bound definite goals. Do not, however, stretch yourself beyond the limit.
2. Do your groundwork
Groundwork may require the help of a professional trainer, or even better, an MMA fighter. You don’t just train for a few months and walk into an octagon like a boss. You need first to find an MMA gym and work on increasing your core strength and agility. You would also need to take an assessment of where you stand and design a training regimen.
Like in many other sports, you would first need to progress from sparring in the gyms to fighting in local competitions, fighting as an amateur, and finally graduating to the professional level.
The other aspects you need to know are techniques in fighting and diet to stay in top shape.
3. Keep your ego aside
It does not matter how fit or strong you are. If you are taking the first few steps in MMA, you are a learner. The MMA gym is not a place to show off or try to prove a point. It is a place where both the most seasoned fighter and the newbie is training hard to avoid being beaten up inside the octagon.
4. Get the proper training gear
A proper training gear is vital to look and feel the part and train without any restrictions to bodily movement. Some training gears you would need to buy are shorts, a cup (to protect your manhood), a shin guard, a mouth guard, a rash guard, and gloves.
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Some gyms may provide standard training gear, but it is best advised to use your own because equipments used by many fighters can cause allergies and skin irritation.
5. Start from the basics
Start by sparring with your trainer. Understand what it is to endure pain and unleash punishment from your trainer. As you become more confident, try sparring with other fighters and increase the intensity a few notches higher.
When you are confident that you are ready to face an unknown opponent, you can enroll in local competitions and become an amateur fighter. To move from amateur to professional, consult your trainer.
Once you move to a professional level, you won’t be able to compete at the amateur circuit again.
6. Never compromise on training
Every professional fighter has one thing in common- they do not compromise training. Training is as essential as breathing for them. They would not miss even a session of training for anything in the world.
7. Learn new martial arts form
The idea is to diversify your training and think about possible fight scenarios. Instead of being a one-dimensional fighter, focus on being a well-rounded fighter. While it is likely that a gym may heavily focus on one martial arts form, find a gym where you can learn two to three different martial art forms.
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Another aspect to observe is how passionate your fellow gym mates are and their skill levels. Training with highly skilled teammates will only motivate you further and help you grow faster.
8. Promote yourself
People should know you, your story, and your transformation. You can use social media to tell your story and what you aspire to achieve down the line. Self-promotion is not about boasting. It is about showmanship or advertising yourself, which is an integral part of MMA. The idea is to attract people to your fights.
When you become the talk of the town, people flock to watch you fight. If you prove your worth, you build a support base. This determines your pay grade and transition from amateur to professional level.
Basic Fighting techniques
There are three basic fighting techniques in MMA.
Striking: In other martial art forms, strikes primarily consist of throwing punches and kicks. In MMA, fighters use even their elbows and knees to attack their opponents and defend themselves. This element is crucial to winning a fight if the judges have to decide the winner if there is no clear winner at the end of all the rounds. It is also essential to understand how to defend yourself.
Grappling: This is the use of wrestling techniques to gain the upper hand and put your opponent in an awkward position to land clean blows or put in a submission move. In grappling, you wrap your arms or legs around your opponent to minimize any chances of him/her striking you and to throw your opponent off guard.
Submission: This is a move to force your opponent to tap out or quit. Though it sounds cruel, it is meant to inflict unbearable pain so that an opponent is forced to quit for fear of injury or simply because he/she has been put through a spot where there is no way out.
Some submission moves are joint locks and chokes. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a technique taught in most MMA gyms as it consists mainly of throwing your opponent off guard, grappling, and different submission holds.
How do you win MMA fights?
There are four ways an MMA fighter wins a fight.
- KO and TKO: Like in boxing, Knock Out or KO is when an opponent is rendered unconscious due to a strike or a submission hold. Technical Knock Out ( TKO) is when the referee steps in to stop a fight after it is certain that the match is headed for an inevitable result where there can be only one winner.
- Submission: When a fighter succeeds in making his opponent tap out by the use of chokehold or joint locks, he/she is said to have won the match by submission.
- Judges decision: At the end of all the rounds, if none of the fighters has been able to deliver a KO, TKO, or submission, the panel of judges will decide the winner based on the scores in different rounds.
- Disqualification: There a list of moves that are deemed unfair and dangerous. If a fighter resorts to any tactics in the list, he/she gets disqualified. Disqualification rarely happens in MMA.
Fouls in MMA
There are around 26 fouls in MMA matches. Some fouls that can result in disqualification are:
- Biting or spitting on the opponent.
- Head-butting the opponent.
- Kicking the head of an opponent when he is down.
- Attacking the opponent’s groin area.
- Blows to the throat.
- Use of abusive words towards the opponent.
- Interference from team members outside the octagon.
- Showing disrespect to the referee.
How safe in MMA? Is MMA safe for girls?
The chances of death inside an octagon have been reduced as referees are empowered to step in stop a match when there is a risk of a serious injury.
It is worth noting that there have been no reports of death in the largest MMA promotion Ultimate Fight Championship. There have, however, been seven recorded instances of death from sanctioned contests and nine from unregulated bouts from April 2019.
Research has proven that women can match the menfolk in physical feats, and hence, they can acclimatize to the demands and harsh nature of MMA.
Finding an MMA gym
Finding the right MMA gym is crucial as it helps you make the right start. You should find a gym that offers classes that focus on MMA elements like striking, grappling, and submission by infusing different martial art forms. The membership fees per month for reputed MMA ranges between $200 to $400. Many gyms will also offer you a free trial period before you enroll. You can also take advantage of the free trial period before you enroll.