Despite is brutality and use of blunt physical force, mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fighting has risen to the top of spectator sports in popularity in recent years. In the sport, two competitors are pitted against each other in the “Octagon”, an eight-sided, fenced in arena. The fighters have no body protection aside from small, thin gloves on each hand, which have little padding and can easily cause facial lacerations and bodily bruising. The match usually consists of five 5 minute rounds, and is over when one fighter has been knocked into submission, held down long enough to “tap out”, or, if the fight lasts through each round, it is decided by a panel of judges.
Because of its extreme physical demands, advanced martial arts technique, and the brutality it can exemplify, some may wonder how such a sport ever came to be. The sport was somewhat underground around the globe until 1993, when a Brazilian Jui-Jitsu fighter by the name of Royce Gracie beat three separate opponents in a row in a total of less than five minutes. Once the public caught wind of this groundbreaking event, mixed martial arts cage fighting grew enormously in popularity, and in 1999 the International Sport Combat Federation (ISCF) was founded as the sports governing body. The sport began being shown on Pay Per view into the 21st century, and quickly gained popularity until in 2006, an “Ultimate Fighting Championship” (UFC) match rivaled some of the highest selling boxing matches of all time. In 2005, the United States Army also began to realize mixed martial arts effectiveness and began its own Army Combative Championships in its own Army Combatives School.
The most popular combinations of martial arts in cage fighting today include the techniques of “stand up”, “clinch”, and “ground”. “Stand up” techniques consist of kickboxing, boxing, karate, and Muay Thai to work on a fighter’s elbowing, kicking, punching, and footwork. “Clinch” involves Greco-Roman wrestling, sambo, freestyle, and Judo to work on takedowns, throws, and clinching in the fighter’s technique. “Ground” is composed of shoot wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and sambo which enhance a fighter’s ability to execute and defend against submission holds, as well as their ground control and position. Mixed martial arts cage fighting is also incredibly demanding on the cardiovascular system, and fighters often cross train with speed drills, strength training, triathlon, and flexibility exercises.
Mixed martial arts cage fighting, despite its image conveyed by the media, is actually quite safe and injury free. There had never been a death in the sport until 2007, when a fighter collapsed after being knocked out, and subsequently suffered a stroke in his brain, never regaining consciousness after. Since its huge growth in popularity, MMA schools have popped up all over the United States and the world, and promise to provide a safe, positive environment for students to build self confidence and physical fitness.