If you aren’t too familiar with the sport of mixed martial arts you may have heard statements like “Mixed martial arts is human cock-fighting”, or “Mixed martial arts is no different than gladiators fighting to the death in the coliseum.” The ignorance in statements like these are what drove me to write this article and I hope to clear things up to those who don’t know the truth behind the sport of mixed martial arts.
The UFC just celebrated their 20 year anniversary last year and was truly a great milestone for the sport of mixed martial arts. The UFC was bought by Dana White and Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta 14 years ago with the belief that the UFC would be the next big thing in sports. For the first couple of years, the organization struggled. It was new to the public, it wasn’t considered a respected sport, and it involved two guys stepping into a cage and hoping to knock each other unconscious. Much of its criticism and lack of popularity died the night that the Ultimate Fighter Season One aired the final fight with Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar.
Griffin and Bonnar stepped in the cage that night and put on one of the most memorable and important fights in UFC history. Those two men may have single handedly saved the sport of mixed martial arts and put the UFC on the map. The fight was a five round war and both men proceeded to go back and forth at each other until the last second of the 15 minute fight. Due to the heart of both men, both received a six figure contract into the UFC, and the rest was history. What was beautiful about that night and what changed my perspective on fighting was the respect and love that Griffin and Bonnar showed each other both inside and outside of the cage. It may be nothing more than fighting to some, but to others it is simply competition.
Safety is something that must always be taken seriously when dealing with a contact sport. Whether it be football, boxing, or mixed martial arts, there is concern for the athletes safety and vulnerability to head trauma. Some argue that getting knocked out or hit with four ounce gloves can cause serious injury to the fighters and is much more dangerous than other sports, but the truth is, that is absolute nonsense. It is said that mixed martial arts is actually safer than both boxing and football. In football and boxing, the athletes get hit much more often than the athletes do in mixed martial arts. Boxing consists of 12 three minute rounds and significant strikes landed are often well into the hundreds. In mixed martial arts, you may get hit a few good times to where your knees buckle and you drop to the canvas, but the fight will be stopped once this happens therefore resulting in less strikes and damage to the head.
A professional MMA fighter has approximately 12-14 training sessions per week but only 1-3 fights per year. The physical shape required to be successful in a competition is high and hence every athlete will have long periods of rest and training in between each bout. Compare this with for instance ice hockey or even baseball where most teams have one or more games per week spanning over more than half of the year.
One of the more important reasons an MMA fighter is less likely to get hurt than athletes in other sports is because an MMA fighter trains offensively and defensively, therefore able to protect themselves. Compare this to being unfairly tackled when trying to score in football (soccer) or accidentally falling off a horse when jumping a fixed obstacle during an equestrian race. In MMA, you expect getting hurt and because you are ready for it, it is less likely to happen. This is especially true for a professional fighter. Injuries are relatively low in MMA and it stems from this, that MMA is a sport where you are prepared and trained for impact, not where your key task is something else and you might get injured in the process.
In MMA, the opponents are also evenly matched in weight and size (for the most part). In sports such as football, a 300lb linebacker can hit a 190lb receiver while the receiver is unaware that he is even coming. This is also similar to players in hockey, soccer, and many other sports. In MMA, the fighters weigh in 24 hours before the event and if they aren’t within a pound of the agreed weight, the opponent who made weight gets 20% of the others purse, or the fight doesn’t happen.
The UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts is now considered one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Having events in over a dozen countries and its popularity growing vastly, the sport is going nowhere and the public is going to have to start recognizing that.