What is Mixed Martial Arts? MMA for Beginners 101

MMA is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing sports in the world. For the last 20 or so years its been on a meteoric rise in popularity. Its a 1 on 1, man vs man, pure form of competition. Where two fighters square off and fight until there is one winner.

But what is MMA exactly?

It encompasses all the martial art disciplines you can think of, and the athletes use all their different skills to fight their opponent. The more common martial arts that have proven successful include; judo, boxing, wrestling, karate, kick-boxing, and jiu-jitsu.

Traditional martial arts tournaments go back for hundreds of years. It’s in man’s DNA to challenge others to see who is the toughest. But restrictive one discipline martial arts tournaments were lacking something.

There were always questions about which style was best. Or if a certain style would beat another style. Before MMA was introduced, these barriers were never formally crossed.

In a typical MMA bout there are three 5 minute rounds in normal bouts, and five 5 minute rounds in championship bouts. Competitors get a minute rest in-between rounds, and can win by a variety of ways (discussed later).

Here are 9 must-know bits of information every MMA fan should be aware of:

MMA Is Not to Be Confused with the UFC

One of the confusing aspects of the sport of MMA to newbies is the difference between MMA and the UFC. The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is an organization that hosts MMA events.

MMA is the sport. It just so happens that the UFC have such a dominance over the majority of top fighters that they are the most well-known name attached to the sport. There are several good organizations hosting fights however.

There Are Some Rules to Be Aware Of

A misconception among uneducated or new viewers is that there arent many rules. There are actually a lot of rules, all designed towards fighter safety. While it is a combat sport, and the goal is to damage your opponent. There needs to be safety measures.

To mention a few of the combat rules there are no groin shots, attacks to the spine or back of the head, or small digit manipulation. Some of the overall rules include not using the cage as a grip, wearing 4 oz gloves, listening to the referee’s commands. etc.

There Are Fouls

There is a governing body that sets rules and fouls. Some of the fouls include groin shots, eye pokes, and hitting the back of the head. Breaking any rules basically, and results in a 5 minute break for the opponent to recover. Along with a point being deducted if the referee so decides.

There Are Weight Classes

In the early days of MMA there were no weight classes. Then had some obvious disadvantages for the smaller fighters. As the sport has worked hard to become regulated and mainstream, weight classes were one of the first obvious changes to be made.

The current men’s weight classes in the UFC are:

  • Flyweight up to 125 lbs.
  • Bantamweight between 125 and 135 lbs.
  • Featherweight between 135 and 145 lbs.
  • Lightweight between 145 and 155 lbs.
  • Welterweight between 155 and 170 lbs.
  • Middleweight between 170 and 185 lbs.
  • Light Heavyweight between 185 and 205 lbs.
  • Heavyweight between 205 and 265 lbs.

The Fight Scoring System

MMA uses a similar scoring system to boxing, which is very much a point of contention with fans. It doesnt work too well, and there are always other ideas being thrown around. However, for now its still the 10 point system, and a fight is judged by three ringside judges.

The criteria includes octagon control, aggression, damage, and how close the fight was to ending. There isnt a point deducted for a knockdown, but points get deducted for one sided rounds.

The Cage Is for Fighter’s Safety

On first glance, the cage can look like a hostile and dangerous way to keep the fighters inside. While in fact is adds to the safety of the fighters. Other promotions use a boxing ring, and fighters have fallen out of the ropes on several occasions.

Wrestling and grappling is an important part of MMA. So having a cage wall to keep fighters safely inside the fighting mat is essential. Its also become synonymous with the UFC and MMA, so it wouldnt be the same any other way.

MMA Fighters Are Some of the Most Skilled Professional Athletes

While a lot of sports want to claim to be the toughest, MMA is certainly a proving ground for the toughest, most skilled athletes in the world. MMA originated to test one martial art against another. There were always age old questions, such as is karate better than tae kwon do?

Well the argument was settled in the cage. Fast-forward to today and MMA athletes are trained in all disciplines, highly conditioned, and have a high fight-IQ. There are few, if any sports that can match the overall skillset and intensity of MMA.

There Are Lots of MMA Promotions

Like I mentioned earlier, the UFC have the monopoly of the MMA scene. But there are dozens of other promotions, and they are all enjoyable and put on good fights. If you search you will probably find some smaller shows that come to areas near your home if you want to experience a live event.

There is also an extensive amateur program. MMA is a legit and massively expanding sport, and if it carries on at the current rate it will be a household name within a few years. This is great for the sport, and the UFC. Viewership is growing and that means more money and incentive for the athletes.

Fights Can Be Finished in a Number of Ways

There are a few ways a bout can end. These include:

  • Submission
  • Technical knockout
  • Knockout
  • Judges decision
  • Forfeit
  • Technical draw
  • No contest

In the UFC the most common way for a fight to end is by decision. Closely followed by a knockout, then submission.

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