Mixed Martial Arts Explained For Dummies

Mixed Martial Arts Explained For Dummies

Mixed martial arts is a combat sport. It uses the fighting techniques of wrestling and boxing. But, it also utilizes some moves from karate, kickboxing, and judo. It’s a great sport not only for recreational purposes but also for self-defense in case something happens. What’s more, thisi sport will humble you a lot.

What exactly is MMA?

Mixed martial arts (or MMA, for short) is a hybrid combat sport. It’s like a combination of boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, judo, muay Thai, and kickboxing. Here, athletes use the techniques either for attack or defense.

These days, this sport is often conducted on a ring with fences. Because of this, people also refer to this sport as “cage fighting.”

This sport is popular in South Korea, The Netherlands, Canada, The United Kingdom, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, and the United States.

Apart from being played for a certain medal or prize, people, these days, use it for self-defense.

History of MMA

People still debate about the start of mixed martial arts today. Some say it started in 1993 in Denver, Colorado. However, records show that the sport has already been played in 648 BCE  in the ancient Olympic Games.

The Early Years of MMA

648 BCE was when pankration, the martial training of Greek armies, was considered ancient Greece’s combat sport.

In its early years, the rules aren’t as strict as they were today. You can even kick and hit a downed opponent. The only thing prohibited is biting and/or eye gouging your opponent.

Before, to determine the winner, the game should not stop unless one of the fighters concedes or is rendered unconscious. Because of this, it is common for fighters to die during matches.

Due to the dangers of the sport, Roman emperor Theodosius I banned the Olympic Games in 393 CE. This was when the pankration met its end.

But, in the 20th century, the sport resurfaced in Brazil, thanks to siblings Carlos and Helio Gracie. However, its name became vale tudo, which means “anything goes.”

MMA in North America

Mixed martial arts then came to the attention of many people in North America. This was after the Gracie family introduced their trademark Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the 1990s.

Helios Gracie’s son represented the family in a tournament in 1993 in Denver, Colorado. The organizers dubbed the event as UFC 1 at the time.

Yes, this is the name referred to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), today’s leading promoter of MMA events.

Early UFC Events

In the early days of UFC, the organizers’ goal is to pit fighters against each other using their different styles to win.

Just like the early rules of the sport in ancient Greece, the only prohibited moves are biting and eye gouging. And like before, the game ends once a fighter submits or one corner threw in the towel.

Due to its rules and the excitement that it can make the audience feel, it became UFC’s first cable TV pay-per-view event. It garnered nearly 90,000 viewers at that time and the numbers increased by about 300,000 by the third event.

The Start of MMA Official Rules and the World of MMA Today

The early rules of mixed martial arts are what make it so exciting. But, truth be told, it is what makes the sport very dangerous.

And so, in 2001 the new UFC management created a set of rules. This way, they can keep the players safer.

With this, they added weight classes, rounds, and time limits. They also extended the list of fouls in the ring. This way, the sport can be safer.

In today’s mixed martial arts, fighters are more skilled. Most of them are wrestlers, boxers, and martial arts practitioners. They also need to train extensively to fight better in the ring and to meet the weight limits required.

Today, major mixed martial arts competitions, such as the UFC are governed by the same bodies that are governing the sport of boxing.

These days, mixed martial arts has become one of the most popular sports that people often watch out for. Even non-athletes can now enjoy MMA. It’s also great for self-defense.

Rules And Regulations Of MMA

Rules And Regulations Of MMA

Back in the early years of mixed martial arts, there isn’t actually any rules. You can use any technique you want. You can even kick your opponent even they’re already downed.

But, after the UFC created a set of rules for the sport, mixed martial arts became safer. For starters, here’s a glimpse of the rules that UFC set up.

Protective Grear

Mixed martial arts participants compete inside a ring or a fenced area. Each fighter must use a pair of padded fingerless gloves.

But, they’re not allowed to wear shoes. Headgear isn’t allowed either. However, headgear are permitted in amateur fights,

Attack and Defense

Fighters are allowed to strike, kick, throw, or grapple each other. You can attach either from a standing position or on the ground.

Despite that, gouging, like in the old days, is prohibited. Headbutting is not allowed either.

Aside from that, players are not allowed to pulley the hair of their opponent, bite any part of their body, or attack the groin. 

Downward elbow strikes, strikes to the spine or to the back of the head, and throat strikes are forbidden too.

In case a fighter does this – be it intentionally or not – the referee may deduct points, issue a warning, or disqualify the offending player.

Fight Duration

According to the unified rules of the sport, non-championship MMA competitions should consist of three five-minute rounds. Between each round, there should be a one-minute break. As for the championship bouts, the duration should be a set of five rounds.

Winning the Bout

A fighter can win a mixed martial arts competition if they knock out the opponent. One can also win by forcing their opponent to submit. This could be done by either tapping with their hand or verbally indicating that they concede.

In case the bout goes the distance, the panel of judges should choose the winner utilizing boxing’s 10-point must system. Harem the winner of the round gets 10 points. Meanwhile, the one who loses is awarded nine or lesser points.

Weight Classes

The weight classes in mixed martial arts vary depending on the region or organization. But, today, the UFC recognizes a total of nine weight classes in the men’s division. The upper weight limits of such classes for men are as allows:

ClassWeight Limit (in pounds)
Light heavyweight205

Today, men aren’t the only ones who can play mixed martial arts; women too. And for women, here are the weight limits for classes in the women’s category:

ClassWeight Limit (in pounds)

What Is MMA Fighting Style?

During the early days of MMA, there wasn’t such a thing as “mixed martial arts.” Fighters used their own fighting styles against others. As the sport developed, MMA itself developed into its own system. Today’s best fighters are able to excel in various aspects of MMA.

Each MMA fighting style is different. However, it’s still made up of a few common disciplines that fighters need to incorporate into their fighting style.


Focused primarily on using the fists. Training in boxing also helps fighters develop their footwork and head movement which allows them to be more nimble on their feet inside the cage. This is one of the bases for MMA. Another benefit to having boxing as a base is that you’ll have good cardio. Some fighters who excel in boxing include Max Holloway, Junior Dos Santos, and Cody Garbrant.

Muay Thai/Kickboxing

Apart from boxing, another striking art that players incorporate into their fighting style is Muay Thai or kickboxing. This involves the use of kicks, knees, and elbows. The only difference between Muay Thai and kickboxing is that kickboxing doesn’t involve the use of elbows and knees. Additionally, Muay Thai also teaches fighters one of the more important aspects of MMA which is clinches. Some fighters who excel in this include Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Israel Adesanya, and Anderson Silva.


Many fighters and veterans say that wrestling is the best base for MMA. This involves the use of takedowns to slam opponents to the ground. Wrestling also teaches fighters to control their opponents while on the ground. Wrestling is a physically demanding sport which is why fighters from this base are very strong. Some fighters who excel in this include Daniel Cormier, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Ben Askren.

Jiu Jitsu

The Gracie family popularized jiu-jitsu in MMA. It involves the use of joint locks and chokes to submit opponents into defeat. It’s a very complex art that not just requires strength, but also requires a huge amount of technique. Traditional jiu-jitsu, involves the use of a uniform called a Gi. People can even use most of the techniques with the uniform. Some of those aren’t applicable in MMA however. When used in MMA, jiu-jitsu is called submission wrestling or no-gi jiu-jitsu. Some fighters who excel in this include Nick Diaz, Demian Maia, and Charles Oliviera.

These are the common styles you see in MMA. However, some fighters bring their own disciplines. For instance, Stephen Thompson uses taekwondo as a striking base, and Ronda Rousey uses Judo for her grappling base.

There are many other disciplines that make it into MMA. Aside from these, we’ve also seen sumo, capoeira, Kyokushin karate, judo, and kung fu. Keep in mind that not all fighting styles are applicable to MMA. There are going to be some fighting styles that won’t be able to keep up with modern MMA.

Fighters mix and match various fighting styles to excel in MMA. They do what they’re most comfortable with on the ring. As long as they know how to strike and grapple, that would make for an excellent fighter already.

At the end of the day, fighters pick what they’re good at as a base. For instance, Demian Maia was a well-decorated jiu-jitsu competitor. When he made the move to MMA, he focused on taking the fight to the ground because that’s where he’s most comfortable.

Another good example would be Daniel Cormier. He was a part of the American Olympics team. When he made the transition to MMA, he became known as one of the best wrestlers around. His experience in wrestling allowed him to completely dominate and control his opponents on the ground.

What’s the difference between UFC and MMA?

What's the difference between UFC and MMA?

By now, you’ve probably heard of “UFC.” And if you’re new to mixed martial arts, it can be a bit quite confusing to distinguish from the term “MMA.” But, UFC and MMA are actually two different terms that have different meanings.

UFC is the term that refers to the American mixed martial arts promotion company. Today, it is the largest organization in the world for mixed martial arts. It stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Meanwhile, MMA (mixed martial arts is the sport itself. MMA is a contact sport. It’s the UFC that organizes most of the major events.

Is MMA Illegal?

Mixed martial arts is a dangerous sport. Here, you can suffer from bruises, lacerations, and even broken noses. Strikes to the head can sometimes lead to bleeding and brain damage. Because of this, some may think that the sport is illegal.

But, apparently, it isn’t. If the rules during its early years did not change today, the sport may be illegal. But, due to the rules set by the UFC, mixed martial arts has become a lot safer. Therefore, it’s completely legal – but, only in certain countries.

This includes the United States, South Africa, the Philippines, and Singapore. France and Vietnam, however, recently made the sport legal.

One of the countries known to have banned the sport is Norway. Even today, the sport remains illegal. 

Despite that, mixed martial arts doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. With its huge market, it looks like MMA will continue to trend in countries that have legalized it.

Is MMA Good For Self Defense?

Since MMA is an all-around fighting style, it’s safe to say that it’s good martial arts for self-defense. In fact, most self-defense centers have begun teaching MMA as the base for safety and security.

Boxing and jiu-jitsu are both good bases for self-defense. Boxing teaches you how to fight from a close distance. It also teaches you basic principles such as blocking, head movement, and footwork.

It teaches you the basics of close-quarters combat – both offense and defense which is a good thing.

Jiu-jitsu, on the other hand, is excellent as a base for self-defense grappling. Keep in mind that jiu-jitsu also involves close-quarters takedowns such as leg trips and hip throws.

Moreover, you can learn how to control your opponent on the ground to prevent them from moving even further.

If you want a martial arts that’s more focused on self-defense, consider taking up Krav Maga. It’s an aggressive form of martial arts that also uses kicks, punches, and grappling. Apart from that, there are many other martial arts that are best for self-defense. Another example is judo.

Keep in mind that there are specific martial arts and disciplines that are really for self-defense. If you have the chance to do it, go for those self-defense classes. Still, it’s good knowing that you can use your MMA skills outside of the gym and the ring.

How Hard Is MMA Fighting?

As with all forms of professional fighting, MMA fighting is difficult. However, some fighters say that it’s a more complicated sport. It all has to do with the fact that you are juggling three key disciplines of fighting – striking, wrestling, and grappling.

If you’re a fighter from one discipline who’s transitioning to MMA, the journey will be more difficult. Boxers that move to MMA find it really difficult to transition because they have to learn the principles of grappling and kickboxing.

For most of them, they focus on striking when they join the sport.

The good news is that most gyms now offer MMA training. If you’re a beginner, you’ll be able to learn all the basic principles at the same time. That isn’t to say that it’s easier to do this.

MMA is a very physically demanding sport. Aside from having a lot of strength and flexibility, you’re going to need a lot of muscle stamina and lung stamina as well.

The common duration of MMA fights in the amateur circuit are three, 5-minute rounds. Imagine fighting for 15 minutes straight.

It’s not just training MMA that’s hard. It’s the conditioning that’s hard as well. Most of today’s fighters do CrossFit, jogging, and biking to condition their bodies for a full fight.

Whether you want to be a professional fighter or you just want to fight for the experience of it, MMA is a tough sport.

If you want to go toe-to-toe with the pros, you should focus on fighting in the amateur circuit first. Stay there and build your experience. This way, you’re prepared to fight those in the more experienced leagues.

The journey towards MMA success if long and arduous and patience is definitely a must.

The journey will be a lot easier for you if you start with a base. The best base for MMA is wrestling. If you have experience in high school or collegiate wrestling, you’re already ahead of those at your level.

The other thing you need to prepare when becoming an MMA fighter is your mind. You need to be mentally strong to be able to stand in the ring and go toe-to-toe with another fighter. Those who aren’t ready often freeze the moment the bell rings.

Just inspect most of the fighters in the UFC, many are very outspoken and somewhat arrogant. This just goes how mentally strong and mentally prepared they are to perform on such a grand stage.

Do You Get Hurt In MMA?

MMA is a full-contact sport. It’s safe to say that getting hurt is a part of the sport. Fighters, like Anderson Silva, Israel Adesanya, and Conor McGregor get hit from time to time. Even if they are elusive.

In MMA, there’s no safe space once the bell rings. Whether you’re standing or on the ground already, pain is inevitable.

As a fighter, what you can do is minimize the amount of pain that you take. You do this with proper training. Focusing on footwork, head movement, blocking, and ground control will help you minimize the damage you take in fights regardless of where it happens. Even with the best training, pain is still a very common occurrence.

As for injuries, they do exist in MMA as well. The most common injuries that fighters face are concussion.

All it takes is a solid hit to the head to be knocked out and concussed with contact sports. There’s no type of training that prevents this as that’s just how your body reacts to getting hit.

Aside from concussions, MMA puts you at risk of many other types of injuries. We’re talking about dislocations, fractures, cuts, muscle tears, and many more.

Again, you can greatly minimize the occurrence of such injuries by having the skill to defend yourself during a fight. Proper conditioning also goes a long way when it comes to keeping your body free from injuries.

A good example of how conditioning prevents injuries is how you can prevent breaking your shin by kicking regularly. The more you kick, the more durable your shin becomes. This makes it less likely for you to get injured when blocking a kick from your opponent with your shin.

Don’t do MMA if you don’t have a high pain tolerance. Moreover, if you don’t want to get injured, then MMA is definitely not the sport for you. You cannot avoid pain in MMA no matter how good you are.

They say that to be good in MMA, you need to be strong mentally as well. Being mentally absent during a fight is a bad idea. You’re opponent is going to beat you up easily,

Mixed martial arts is a great sport. It doesn’t only teach you discipline and the techniques you need to win. It turns out, it also makes great self-defense.

Kids can learn and master MMA at an early age. This way, kids know and fully understand how to respect others and defend themselves in times of trouble.

So, if you’ve just heard about this sport, reading some items about mixed martial arts explained for dummies will help.

About Carla

I'm a journalist passionate about extreme sports. I love writing and reading stories about those brave people that are going beyond the limit of their physical capabilities.

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