MMA (or mixed martial arts) have become very popular in the past few years. It has been widely televised and famous fighters such as Conor McGregor, Chuck Lidell and Jon Jones have reached a broad audience. We can ask ourselves if MMA is a sport or not. Before we do this, let’s learn more about MMA.
What is MMA?
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a combat sport that allows competitors to compete using a variety of fighting styles and techniques from different combat sports such as boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, and muay Thai. Mixed martial arts is frequently referred to as “cage fighting” because they fight in an enclosed space called “the cage” that is similar to a boxing ring. But instead of ropes, the cage has chain-link walls that prevent the fighters from leaving it during a match. It was first introduced as the hybrid of all other forms of martial arts almost at the end of 20th century.
MMA is a full-contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking (standing) and grappling (on the floor) while other martial arts, such as judo and karate, only allow grappling. It allows competitors to use all hand positions, such as palm, finger and back fist (not allowed in boxing) and all leg positions, including knee, leg and heel kicks (not allowed in wrestling).
MMA gloves are smaller and offer less hand protection compared with other combat sports, such as boxing, which use larger gloves. The smaller gloves allow for better grappling.
Other forms of martial arts, such as judo and karate, use a points system to decide a winner. In contrast, MMA fights are won by a knockout or a referee-decided decision.
MMA fighting: the basics
The basic MMA fighting techniques can be divided into two groups: striking techniques and grappling techniques. Striking techniques are used when both fighters are standing up and grappling techniques are used when the fighters are on the ground. Striking techniques include the palm strike, finger strike, back fist, knee, leg and heel kick. Grappling techniques include takedowns, clinch (when both fighters are holding the same part of the body) and ground and pound (when one fighter is on top of the other fighter and hitting him). The most common MMA fighting tactic is the clinch technique. When the fighters are in a clinch, they are holding each other’s body parts, such as hands or arms, to gain an advantage.
The history of MMA
The earliest known MMA fighting style was created in Ancient Greece. As a result of warriors fighting each other in hand-to-hand combat, many of them were seriously injured or even killed. To minimize the injuries, the Spartans developed a fighting method that consisted of grappling and striking. Their fighting method was later adopted by the Romans who introduced it to the rest of Europe.
In the early 20th century, the fighters used in professional wrestling started competing against each other without rules and without predetermined outcomes. The first documented mixed martial arts fights were held in the 1950s and 1960s. These fights were considered to be no rules because they did not follow the rules of wrestling. The first MMA fighting style promotion company, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), was founded in the 1990s. Dana White has been a prominent figure in promoting this sport.
MMA is popular worldwide and a lot of people have picked up this activity. It is quite challenging to learn as you have to work on a lot of different poses. There are a lot of MMA gyms that allow people to practice every week.
Now that we know the basics of MMA, let’s see if it is a sport.
What is a sport?
The word “sport” is used as a synonym for physical activity or exercise. You might say that someone is a “sport” because they are active and fit. But what does it mean to be a sport? In the broad definition, it means a physical activity that requires certain skills.
Stricter definitions also require that sports have a competitive element. An activity needs 3 components before it can be considered a sport according to these definitions:
1/ A physical activity
2/ That requires a skill
3/ And has a competitive element
In today’s world, most sports involve competitive games where the goal is to beat your opponent. This means that you can’t participate in a sport without having an opponent.
A lot of sports can be viewed on TV and a lot of people have a favorite athlete. This can inspire them to start practicing this sport as well.
Is MMA a sport?
Let’s go over each of the discussed elements to see if MMA is a sport or not.
MMA has a physical element. Fighters have to move around. They also have to grapple and kick so this is clearly a very intense activity. Most MMA matches don’t last that long as fighters start out very fast.
MMA clearly requires several skills. The technique that the fighters use is very important. They can only learn this after years of practicing. Professional MMA fighters have several coaches to improve their skills.
MMA fights also have a competitive element. The goal is to win over the other fighter. Rounds are limited in time so the fighters have to break through the defense of their opponent and use this opportunity. There is a referee to make sure that the participants follow the rules as some things are not allowed. Some fights are over in a few seconds as one hit can be enough.
To conclude, we can state that MMA is a sport. It has all the features that a sport needs to have. It even is a sport in the most narrow definition. At the moment it is not in the Olympics but this could change in the future.