Mixed martial arts
|Olympic sport||No - not recognized by the IOC|
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that allows both striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from other combat sports and martial arts. The first documented use of the term mixed martial arts was in a review of UFC 1 by television critic Howard Rosenberg in 1993. The term gained popularity when newfullcontact.com, then one of the largest websites covering the sport, hosted and republished the article. The question of who actually coined the term is subject to debate.
During the early 20th century, various mixed-style contests took place throughout Japan, Taiwan and in the countries of the Four Asian Tigers. In 1980 CV Productions, Inc. created the first regulated MMA league in the United States, named Tough Guy Contest, later renamed Battle of the Superfighters. The company sanctioned ten tournaments in Pennsylvania. However, in 1983 the Pennsylvania State Senate passed a bill prohibiting the sport.
Originally promoted as a competition to find the most effective martial arts for real unarmed combat, competitors from different fighting styles were pitted against one another in contests with relatively few rules. Later, individual fighters employed multiple martial arts into their style. MMA promoters were pressured to adopt additional rules to increase competitors' safety, to comply with sport regulations and to broaden mainstream acceptance of the sport. Following these changes, the sport has seen increased popularity with a pay-per-view business that rivals boxing and professional wrestling.
- 1 History
- 2 Modern sport
- 3 Rules
- 4 Common disciplines
- 5 Strategies
- 6 Women's mixed martial arts
- 7 Amateur mixed martial arts
- 8 Safety
- 9 Legality of professional competitions
- 9.1 Australia
- 9.2 Bahrain
- 9.3 Belgium
- 9.4 Brazil
- 9.5 Bulgaria
- 9.6 Cambodia
- 9.7 Canada
- 9.8 China
- 9.9 Denmark
- 9.10 France
- 9.11 India
- 9.12 Ireland
- 9.13 Japan
- 9.14 Malaysia
- 9.15 Norway
- 9.16 Pakistan
- 9.17 Portugal
- 9.18 Romania
- 9.19 Russia
- 9.20 Singapore
- 9.21 Sweden
- 9.22 South Africa
- 9.23 Taiwan
- 9.24 Thailand
- 9.25 United States
- 10 See also
- 11 References
Over 6,000 years ago the earliest form of a mixed martial art was invented in ancient China by Han Chinese military generals and soldiers called Shuai jiao, and despite it being nicknamed in modern times as "Chinese wrestling," it is actually an ancient style of Kung-Fu that incorporated grappling techniques that are the earliest ancient precursors of modern jujitsu and judo combined with kicking, punching, throwing, joint locks, finger locks, leg sweeps, leg locks and close range trapping techniques used by ancient Han Chinese military forces to kill enemy soldiers on the battlefield.
In Ancient Greece there was a sport called pankration, which featured a combination of grappling and striking skills similar to those found in modern MMA. Pankration was formed by a combination of the already established wrestling and boxing traditions and, in Olympic terms, first featured in the 33rd Olympiad, 648 B.C. All strikes and holds were allowed with the exception of biting and gouging, which were banned. Fighters, also known as pankratiasts, fought until a fighter submitted; there were no rounds. According to E. Norman Gardiner, 'No branch of athletics was more popular than the pankration.' From its origins in Ancient Greece, pankration was later passed on to the Romans.
The mid-19th century saw the prominence of the new sport savate in the combat sports circle. At that time, French fighters wanted to test out the sport against the traditional combat styles of its time. In 1852, a contest was held in France between French savateurs and English bare-knuckle boxers in which French fighter Rambaud alias la Resistance fought English fighter Dickinson and won using his kicks. However, the English team still won the four other match-ups during the contest. Since then other similar contest also occurred by the late 19th to mid-20th century between French Savateurs and other combat styles. Examples include a 1905 fight between a French savateur George Dubois and a judo practitioner Re-nierand which resulted in the latter winning by submission, as well as the highly publicized 1957 fight between French savateur and professional boxer Jacques Cayron and a young Japanese karateka named Mochizuki Hiroo which ended when Cayron knocked Hiroo out with a hook.
No-holds-barred fighting reportedly took place in the late 1880s when wrestlers representing styles, Greco-Roman wrestling and many others met in tournaments and music-hall challenge matches throughout Europe. In the USA, the first major encounter between a boxer and a wrestler in modern times took place in 1887 when John L. Sullivan, then heavyweight world boxing champion, entered the ring with his trainer, Greco-Roman Wrestling champion William Muldoon, and was slammed to the mat in two minutes. The next publicized encounter occurred in the late 1890s when future heavyweight boxing champion Bob Fitzsimmons took on European Greco-Roman Wrestling champion Ernest Roeber. In September 1901, Frank "Paddy" Slavin, who had been a contender for Sullivan's boxing title, knocked out future world wrestling champion Frank Gotch in Dawson City, Canada. The judo-practitioner Ren-nierand who gained fame after defeating George Dubois, would fight again in another similar contest against Ukrainian wrestler Ivan Poddubny and lost.
Another early example of mixed martial arts was Bartitsu, which Edward William Barton-Wright founded in London in 1899. Combining judo, jujutsu, boxing, savate, wrestling and canne de combat (French stick fighting), Bartitsu was the first martial art known to have combined Asian and European fighting styles, and which saw MMA-style contests throughout England, pitting European and Japanese champions against representatives of various European wrestling styles.
The history of modern MMA competition can be traced to mixed style contests throughout Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim during the early 1900s; In Japan these contests were known as merikan, from the Japanese slang for "American [fighting]". Merikan contests were fought under a variety of rules, including points decision, best of three throws or knockdowns, and victory via knockout or submission.
As the popularity of professional wrestling waned after World War I, the sport split into two genres: "shoot", in which the fighters actually competed, and "show", which evolved into modern professional wrestling.
In 1963, "Judo" Gene Lebell fought professional boxer Milo Savage in a no-holds-barred match. Lebell won by Harai Goshi to rear naked choke, leaving Savage unconscious. This was the first televised bout of mixed-style fighting in North America. The hometown crowd was so enraged that they began to boo and throw chairs at Lebell.
During the late 1960s to early 1970s, the concept of combining the elements of multiple martial arts was popularized in the west by Bruce Lee via his system of Jeet Kune Do. Lee believed that "the best fighter is not a Boxer, Karate or Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt to any style, to be formless, to adopt an individual's own style and not following the system of styles." In 2004, UFC President Dana White would call Lee the "father of mixed martial arts" stating: "If you look at the way Bruce Lee trained, the way he fought, and many of the things he wrote, he said the perfect style was no style. You take a little something from everything. You take the good things from every different discipline, use what works, and you throw the rest away". A contemporary of Bruce Lee, Wing Chun practitioner Wong Shun Leung, gained prominence fighting in over 60-100 illegal beimo fights against other Chinese martial artist of various styles. In his career, Wong also fought and won against Western fighters and other combat styles such as his match against a Russian boxer named Giko, his televised fight against a fencer, and his well-documented fight against Taiwanese Kung-Fu master Wu Ming Jeet. Like Bruce Lee, Wong also combined boxing and kickboxing into his kung fu.
There were "Karate vs. Muay Thai fights" February 12, 1963. The three karate fighters from Oyama dojo (kyokushin later) went to the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Thailand, and fought against three Muay Thai fighters. The three kyokushin karate fighters' names are Tadashi Nakamura, Kenji Kurosaki and Akio Fujihira (also known as Noboru Osawa). The Muay Thai team were composed of only one authentic Thai fighter. Japan won by 2–1: Tadashi Nakamura and Akio Fujihira both KOed opponents by punch while Kenji Kurosaki, who fought the Thai, was KOed by elbow. This should be noted that the only Japanese loser Kenji Kurosaki was then a kyokushin instructor rather than a contender and temporarily designated as a substitute for the absent chosen fighter. On June of the same year, karateka and future kickboxer Tadashi Sawamura faced against top Thai fighter Samarn Sor Adisorn, in which Sawamura was knocked down 16 times and defeated. Sawamura would use what he learned in that fight to incorporate in the evolving kickboxing tournaments.
Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki took place in Japan in 1976. Both fighters refused to engage in the other's style and after a 15-round stalemate, it was declared a draw. Inoki flopped to his back for the duration of the bout and kicked Ali's legs. Ali had sustained a substantial amount of damage to his legs, causing him to be hospitalized for the next three days.
In 1988 Rick Roufus challenged Changpuek Kiatsongrit to a non-title Muay Thai vs. kickboxing super fight. Rick Roufus was at the time an undefeated Kickboxer and held both the KICK Super Middleweight World title and the PKC Middleweight U.S title. Changpuek Kiatsongrit was finding it increasingly difficult to get fights in Thailand as his weight (70 kg) was not typical for Thailand, where competitive bouts at tend to be at the lower weights. Roufus knocked Changpuek down twice with punches in the first round, breaking Changpuek's jaw, but lost by knockout in the fourth round due to the culmination of low kicks that he was unprepared for.
Timeline of major events
|Ancient China, 6,000+ years ago||– Shuai jiao (ancient Kung-Fu style)|
|Ancient Greece, 2,000+ years ago||– Pankration|
|Late 19th century||– Hybrid martial arts|
|Late 1880s||– Early NHB and Mixed Style contests|
|1899||– Barton-Wright and Bartitsu|
|Early 1900s||– Merikan contests|
|1920s||– Early vale tudo and Gracie Challenge|
|1960s and 1970s||– Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do
|1970s||– Antonio Inoki and Ishu Kakutōgi Sen|
|1985||– Shooto forms|
|1989||– First professional Shooto event|
|1991||– First Desafio (BJJ vs. Luta Livre) event|
|1993||– Pancrase forms|
|1993||– UFC forms|
|Mid/Late 1990s||– International Vale Tudo|
|1997–2007||– PRIDE FC and UFC era|
|2000||– New Jersey SACB develops Unified rules|
|2001||– Zuffa buys UFC|
|2005||– The Ultimate Fighter Debuts|
|2005||– US Army begins sanctioning MMA|
|2006||– UFC dominance and international growth|
|2006||– Zuffa buys WFA and WEC|
|2006||– UFC 66 generates over a million PPV buys|
|2007||– Zuffa buys PRIDE FC|
|2008||– EliteXC: Primetime gains 6.5 million peak viewers on CBS|
|2009||– Strikeforce holds 1st major card with female main event|
|2011||– WEC merged with UFC|
|2011||– Zuffa buys Strikeforce|
|2011||– UFC on Fox gains 8.8 million peak viewers on Fox|
|2016||– WMG/IMG buys UFC for US$4 billion|
The movement that led to the creation of the American and Japanese mixed martial arts scenes was rooted in two interconnected subcultures and two grappling styles, namely Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and shoot wrestling. First were the vale tudo events in Brazil, followed by the Japanese shoot-style wrestling shows.
Vale tudo began in the 1920s and became renowned with the "Gracie challenge" issued by Carlos Gracie and Hélio Gracie and upheld later on by descendants of the Gracie family.The "Gracie Challenges" were held in the garages and gyms of the Gracie family members. When the popularity grew, these types of mixed bouts were a staple attraction at the carnivals in Brazil. Early mixed-match martial arts professional wrestling bouts in Japan (known as Ishu Kakutōgi Sen (異種格闘技戦), literally "heterogeneous combat sports bouts") became popular with Antonio Inoki in the 1970s. Inoki was a disciple of Rikidōzan, but also of Karl Gotch who trained numerous Japanese wrestlers in catch wrestling.
Regulated mixed martial arts competitions were first introduced in the United States by CV Productions, Inc.. Its first competition named Tough Guy Contest was held on March 20, 1980, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, Holiday Inn. During that year the company renamed the brand to Super Fighters and sanctioned ten regulated tournaments in Pennsylvania. In 1983 Pennsylvania State Senate passed a bill that specifically called for: "Prohibiting Tough Guy contests or Battle of the Brawlers contests", and ended the sport. In 1993 the sport got reintroduced in the United States by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The sport gained international exposure and widespread publicity when jiu-jitsu fighter Royce Gracie won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, submitting three challengers in a total of just five minutes, sparking a revolution in martial arts.
Japan had its own form of mixed martial arts discipline Shooto that evolved from shoot wrestling in 1985, as well as the shoot wrestling derivative Pancrase founded as a promotion in 1993. The first Vale Tudo Japan tournaments were held in 1994 and 1995, both were won by Rickson Gracie. Around the same time, International Vale Tudo competition started to develop through (World Vale Tudo Championship (WVC), VTJ, IVC, UVF etc.). Interest in mixed martial arts as a sport resulted in the creation of the Pride Fighting Championships (Pride) in 1997, where again Rickson participated and won.
The sport reached a new peak of popularity in North America in the December 2006 rematch between then UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and former champion Tito Ortiz, rivaling the PPV sales of some of the biggest boxing events of all time, and helping the UFC's 2006 PPV gross surpass that of any promotion in PPV history. In 2007, Zuffa LLC, the owners of the UFC MMA promotion, bought Japanese rival MMA brand Pride FC, merging the contracted fighters under one promotion and drawing comparisons to the consolidation that occurred in other sports, such as the AFL-NFL Merger in American football.
Origin of 'MMA'
The first documented use of the name mixed martial arts was in a review of UFC 1 by television critic Howard Rosenberg, in 1993. The term gained popularity when the website newfullcontact.com, then one of the biggest covering the sport, hosted and reprinted the article. The first use of the term by a promotion was in September 1995 by Rick Blume, president and CEO of Battlecade Extreme Fighting, just after UFC 7. UFC official Jeff Blatnick was responsible for the Ultimate Fighting Championship officially adopting the name mixed martial arts. It was previously marketed as "Ultimate Fighting" and "No Holds Barred (NHB)", until Blatnick and John McCarthy proposed the name 'MMA' at the UFC 17 rules meeting in response to increased public criticism. The question of who actually coined the name is a question still in debate.
The first state regulated MMA event was held in Biloxi, Mississippi on August 23, 1996 with the sanctioning of IFC's Mayhem in Mississippi show by the Mississippi Athletic Commission under William Lyons. The rules used were an adaptation of the kickboxing rules already accepted by most state athletic commissions. These modified kickboxing rules allowed for take downs and ground fighting and did away with rounds but did allow for fighters to be stood up by the referee and restarted if there was no action on the ground. These rules were the first in modern MMA to define fouls, fighting surfaces and the use of the cage.
In March 1997, the Iowa Athletic Commission officially sanctioned Battlecade Extreme Fighting under a modified form of its existing rules for Shootfighting. These rules created the 3, 5 minute round, one-minute break format, and mandated shootfighting gloves as well as weight classes for the first time. Illegal blows were listed as groin strikes, head butting, biting, eye gouging, hair pulling, striking an opponent with an elbow while the opponent is on the mat, kidney strikes, and striking the back of the head with closed fist. Holding onto the ring or cage for any reason was defined as foul. While there are minor differences between these and the final Unified Rules, notably regarding elbow-strikes, the Iowa rules allowed mixed martial arts promoters to conduct essentially modern events legally, anywhere in the state. On March 28, 1997, Extreme Fighting 4 was held under these rules, making it the first show conducted under a version of the modern rules.
In April 2000, the California State Athletic Commission voted unanimously in favor of regulations that later became the foundation for the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. However, when the legislation was sent to the California capital in Sacramento for review, it was determined that the sport fell outside the jurisdiction of the CSAC, rendering the vote superfluous.
On September 30, 2000, the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB) began to allow mixed martial arts promoters to conduct events in New Jersey. The first event was an IFC event titled Battleground 2000 held in Atlantic City. The intent was to allow the NJSACB to observe actual events and gather information to establish a comprehensive set of rules to effectively regulate the sport.
On April 3, 2001, the NJSACB held a meeting to discuss the regulation of mixed martial arts events. This meeting attempted to unify the myriad rules and regulations which have been utilized by the different mixed martial arts organizations. At this meeting, the proposed uniform rules were agreed upon by the NJSACB, several other regulatory bodies, numerous promoters of mixed martial arts events and other interested parties in attendance. At the conclusion of the meeting, all parties in attendance were able to agree upon a uniform set of rules to govern the sport of mixed martial arts.
The rules adopted by the NJSACB have become the de facto standard set of rules for professional mixed martial arts across North America. On July 30, 2009, a motion was made at the annual meeting of the Association of Boxing Commissions to adopt these rules as the "Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts". The motion passed unanimously.
Canada formally decriminalized mixed martial arts with a vote on Bill S-209 on June 5, 2013. The bill allows for provinces to have the power to create athletic commissions to regulate and sanction professional mixed martial arts bouts.
Since the UFC came to prominence in mainstream media in 2006, and with their 2007 merger with Pride FC and following purchase of WEC and Strikeforce, no companies have presented significant competition, and the UFC has under contract almost all of the top ranked talent. On April 30, 2011, UFC 129 set a new North American MMA attendance record, drawing 55,724 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto; the event also set a new MMA world record for the highest paid gate at $12,075,000 and is the highest gate in Toronto for any event.
In 2011, the UFC reached a multi-year deal with the Fox Sports network, a tremendous milestone in the organization, bringing the sport to mainstream media. The UFC also broadcasts their shows live to other networks around the world.
Outside of the UFC, the current secondary major MMA promotions that also have on their roster at least 3 top 15 ranked fighters are:
- Bellator MMA. Based out of Newport Beach, California, United States. Broadcasts their fights locally on Spike TV and other networks around the world.
- ONE Championship. Based out of Kallang, Singapore. Broadcasts their fights locally on ESPN Star Sports and other networks around the world.
- Invicta FC (all female MMA). Based out of Enka, North Carolina, United States. Broadcasts their fights on UFC Fight-Pass online subscription service.
Fighters usually get contracts in the above promotions including the UFC after competing successfully in other MMA organisations from around the world.
Some MMA promotions tend to exist more to build up prospects while others have a good mix of prospect/veteran. Some exist only to be feeder leagues to the bigger promotions, others exist to try and be the best in the world. Some promotions only do 4 shows a year while others are doing them monthly. The top 50 regional MMA promotions in the world, compiled on Sherdog forum, have been evaluated by how much talent the promotion currently has, has had in the past, and how notable their fighting venues are while doing so. Popularity has some influence as well. (updated November 2014):
- 1. Cage Warriors Fighting Championship (CWFC). Based out of London, England, UK. Broadcasts their fights locally on Premier Sports and other networks around the world.
- 2. M-1 Global. Based out of St. Petersburg, Russia. Broadcasts their fights locally on Russia-2 and on Fight Network internationally.
- 3. Jungle Fight. Based out of Manaus, Brazil. Broadcasts their fights locally on SporTV and ESPN Deportes in the USA.
- 4. Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW). Based out of: Warsaw, Poland. Broadcasts their fights locally on Polsat Sport and on Fight Network internationally.
- 5. Fight Nights (Russia). Based out of Moscow, Russia. Broadcasts their fights locally on Russia-2 and REN TV, and on UFC Fight-Pass online subscription service internationally.
- 6. Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA). Based out of Kearney, Nebraska, USA. Broadcasts their fights locally on AXS TV Fights.
- 7. Legacy Fighting Championships (LFC). Based out of Houston, Texas, USA. Broadcasts their fights locally on AXS TV Fights.
- 8. Titan Fighting Championship. Based out of Kansas City, Kansas, USA. Broadcasts their fights locally on UFC Fight-Pass online subscription service.
- 9. Shooto South America (ShootoBrazil). Based out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Broadcasts internationally on UFC Fight-Pass online subscription service.
- 10. British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA). Based out of London, England. Broadcasts their fights locally on Channel 5 (UK) and other networks around the world.
- 11. Full Metal Dojo (FMD). Based out of Bangkok, Thailand. Broadcasts their fights locally on True Visions and Fox Sports.
See rest of list in main article.
These are the current top 10 MMA Gyms in the world based on how many top 15 ranked UFC fighters they currently train. There are 160 fighters who train at over 80 different gyms at the top 15 rankings in the UFC 10 divisions. The rankings are based on a system where a champion earns their gym a score of 25 points. A #1 contender is worth 15 points, a #2 contender is worth 10 points with a decrease in ranking equaling a decrease of 1 point until the ranking reaches #10. From there, rankings 11-15 are each worth 1 point. (updated July 2015):
- 1. Nova União located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- 2. Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA located in Albuquerque, New Mexico
- 3. American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) located in San Jose, California.
- 4. Team Alpha Male located in Sacramento, California.
- 5. American Top Team (ATT) located in Coconut Creek, Florida.
- 6. Kings MMA located in Huntington Beach, California.
- 7. Blackzilians located in Boca Raton, Florida.
- 8. Serra-Longo located in Long Island, New York.
- 9. Glendale Fighting Club located in Glendale, California.
- 10. Black House (Team Nogueira) based out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Web data traffic ranking leader Alexa Internet lists 50 online media outlets under its "MMA news and media" website category. As of October 17, 2015: the top 10 most popular websites covering the sport are:
- 1. Sherdog.com
- 2. MMAFighting.com (SB Nation)
- 3. UFC.com
- 4. MMAjunkie.com
- 5. MMAMania.com (SB Nation)
- 6. Bloodyelbow.com (SB Nation)
- 7. Mixedmartialarts.com
- 8. Espn.go.com/mma
- 9. Foxsports.com/ufc
- 10. MMAWeekly.com
As a result of an increased number of competitors, organized training camps, information sharing, and modern kinesiology, the understanding of the combat-effectiveness of various strategies has been greatly improved. UFC commentator Joe Rogan claimed that martial arts evolved more in the ten years following 1993 than in the preceding 700 years combined.
The high profile of modern MMA promotions such as UFC and Pride has fostered an accelerated development of the sport. The early 1990s saw a wide variety of traditional styles competing in the sport. However, early competition saw varying levels of success among disparate styles. In the early 1990s, practitioners of grappling based styles such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu dominated competition in the United States. Practitioners of striking based arts such as boxing, kickboxing, and karate who were unfamiliar with submission grappling proved to be unprepared to deal with its submission techniques. As competitions became more and more common, those with a base in striking arts became more competitive as they cross trained in arts based around takedowns and submission holds. Likewise, those from the varying grappling styles added striking techniques to their arsenal. This increase of cross-training resulted in fighters becoming increasingly multidimensional and well-rounded in their skill-sets.
The new hybridization of fighting styles can be seen in the technique of "ground and pound" developed by wrestling-based UFC pioneers such as Dan Severn, Don Frye and Mark Coleman. These wrestlers realized the need for the incorporation of strikes on the ground as well as on the feet, and incorporated ground striking into their grappling-based styles. Mark Coleman stated at UFC 14 that his strategy was to "Ground him and pound him" which may be the first televised use of the term.
Since the late 1990s, both strikers and grapplers have been successful at MMA, though it is rare to see any fighter who is not schooled in both striking and grappling arts reach the highest levels of competition.
The greatest MMA fighter of all time is considered by experts, fighters and fans to be either heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko or middleweight Anderson Silva. UFC color commentator Joe Rogan responded to a fan's question: "Joe, is Fedor the Greatest Of All Time? It's him or Anderson, and I could see the argument going either way honestly. Both guys have had truly magical moments in competition against some of the best in the world."
The rules for modern mixed martial arts competitions have changed significantly since the early days of vale tudo, Japanese shoot wrestling, and UFC 1, and even more from the historic style of pankration. As the knowledge of fighting techniques spread among fighters and spectators, it became clear that the original minimalist rule systems needed to be amended. The main motivations for these rule changes were protection of the health of the fighters, the desire to shed the perception of "barbarism and lawlessness", and to be recognized as a legitimate sport.
The new rules included the introduction of weight classes; as knowledge about submissions spread, differences in weight had become a significant factor. There are nine different weight classes in the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. These nine weight classes include flyweight (up to 125 lb / 56.7 kg), bantamweight (up to 135 lb / 61.2 kg), featherweight (up to 145 lb / 65.8 kg), lightweight (up to 155 lb / 70.3 kg), welterweight (up to 170 lb / 77.1 kg), middleweight (up to 185 lb / 83.9 kg), light heavyweight (up to 205 lb / 93.0 kg), heavyweight (up to 265 lb / 120.2 kg), and super heavyweight with no upper weight limit.
Small, open-fingered gloves were introduced to protect fists, reduce the occurrence of cuts (and stoppages due to cuts) and encourage fighters to use their hands for striking to allow more captivating matches. Gloves were first made mandatory in Japan's Shooto promotion and were later adopted by the UFC as it developed into a regulated sport. Most professional fights have the fighters wear 4 oz gloves, whereas some jurisdictions require amateurs to wear a slightly heavier 6 oz glove for more protection for the hands and wrists.
Time limits were established to avoid long fights with little action where competitors conserved their strength. Matches without time limits also complicated the airing of live events. The time limits in most professional fights are three 5 minute rounds, and championship fights are normally five 5 minute rounds. Similar motivations produced the "stand up" rule, where the referee can stand fighters up if it is perceived that both are resting on the ground or not advancing toward a dominant position.
In the U.S., state athletic and boxing commissions have played a crucial role in the introduction of additional rules because they oversee MMA in a similar fashion to boxing. In Japan and most of Europe, there is no regulating authority over competitions, so these organizations have greater freedom in rule development and event structure.
Previously, Japan-based organization Pride Fighting Championships held an opening 10-minute round followed by two five-minute rounds. Stomps, soccer kicks and knees to the head of a grounded opponent are legal, but elbow strikes to the head are not. This rule set is more predominant in the Asian-based organizations as opposed to European and American rules. More recently, Singapore-based organization ONE Championship allows soccer kicks and knees to the head of a grounded opponent as well as elbow strikes to the head, but does not allow head stomps.
Victory in a match is normally gained either by the judges' decision after an allotted amount of time has elapsed, a stoppage by the referee (for example if a competitor can not defend himself intelligently) or the fight doctor (due to an injury), a submission, by a competitor's cornerman throwing in the towel, or by knockout.
Knockout (KO): as soon as a fighter is unable to continue due to legal strikes, his opponent is declared the winner. As MMA rules allow submissions and ground and pound, the fight is stopped to prevent further injury to the fighter.
Submission: a fighter may admit defeat during a match by:
- a tap on the opponent's body or mat/floor
- a verbal submission
Technical Submission: the referee stops the match when the fighter is caught in a submission hold and is in danger of being injured. Often it is when a fighter gets choked unconscious; other times it is when a bone has been broken in a submission hold (a broken arm due to a kimura, etc.)
Technical Knockout (TKO)
- Referee stoppage: The ref may stop a match in progress if:
- a fighter becomes dominant to the point where the opponent can not intelligently defend himself and is taking excessive damage as a result
- a fighter appears to be losing consciousness as he/she is being struck
- a fighter appears to have a significant injury such as a cut or a broken bone
Doctor Stoppage/Cut: the referee will call for a time out if a fighter's ability to continue is in question as a result of apparent injuries, such as a large cut. The ring doctor will inspect the fighter and stop the match if the fighter is deemed unable to continue safely, rendering the opponent the winner. However, if the match is stopped as a result of an injury from illegal actions by the opponent, either a disqualification or no contest will be issued instead.
Corner stoppage: a fighter's corner men may announce defeat on the fighter's behalf by throwing in the towel during the match in progress or between rounds. This is normally done when a fighter is being beaten to the point where it is dangerous and unnecessary to continue. In some cases, the fighter may be injured.
Retirement: a fighter is so dazed or exhausted that he/she cannot physically continue fighting. Usually occurs between rounds.
Decision: if the match goes the distance, then the outcome of the bout is determined by three judges. The judging criteria are organization-specific.
Forfeit: a fighter or his representative may forfeit a match prior to the beginning of the match, thereby losing the match.
Disqualification: a "warning" will be given when a fighter commits a foul or illegal action or does not follow the referee's instruction. Three warnings will result in a disqualification. Moreover, if a fighter is unable to continue due to a deliberate illegal technique from his opponent, the opponent will be disqualified.
No Contest: in the event that both fighters commit a violation of the rules, or a fighter is unable to continue due to an injury from an accidental illegal technique, the match will be declared a "No Contest" except in the case of a technical decision in the unified rules.
Technical decision: in the unified rules of MMA, if a fighter is unable to continue due to an accidental illegal technique late in the fight, a technical decision is rendered by the judges based on who is ahead on the judges' scorecards at that time. In a three-round fight, two rounds must be completed for a technical decision to be awarded and in a five-round fight, three rounds must be completed.
MMA fighters get ranked according to their performance and outcome of their fights and level of competition they faced. The most popular and used, ranking portals are:
- Fight Matrix: Ranks up to 250-500 fighters worldwide for every possible division male and female.
- Sherdog: Ranks top 10 fighters worldwide only for current available UFC divisions. Also used by ESPN.
- SB Nation: Ranks top 14 fighters worldwide only for male divisions. Also used by USA Today.
- MMAjunkie.com: Ranks top 10 fighters worldwide for current UFC available divisions.
- UFC: Ranks top 15 contenders, UFC signed fighters only, as per UFC divisions. (For example: #2 means the fighter is #3 for the UFC, behind the Champion and the #1)
- Tapology: Ranks top 10 fighters worldwide for every possible division.
- Sports Illustrated: Ranks top 10 fighters worldwide for current UFC available divisions.
- MMA Rising: Ranks top 10 fighters worldwide in every possible division. Notable for their Unified Women's Mixed Martial Arts. Rankings
- MMA Weekly: Ranks top 10 male fighters worldwide in every possible division, and P4P for female fighters. Also used by Yahoo! Sports.
- Bleacher Report: Ranks top 10 UFC fighters in each division.
- Fight! Magazine: Ranks top 5 fighters and only in male divisions.
- Ranking MMA: Ranks top 20 male fighters worldwide in each division and also by promotions.
- Oddsshark.com: Ranks top 10 fighters worldwide in current UFC divisions.
- GroundandPound.de: Ranks top 10 European male fighters in all divisions.
- MMAViking: Ranks top 5 Scandinavian male fighters in all divisions and Scandinavian female pound for pound.
Mixed martial arts promotions typically require that male fighters wear shorts in addition to being barechested, thus precluding the use of gi or fighting kimono to inhibit or assist submission holds. Male fighters are required by most athletic commissions to wear groin protectors underneath their trunks. Female fighters wear short shorts and sports bras or other similarly snug-fitting tops. Both male and female fighters are required to wear a mouthguard.
The need for flexibility in the legs combined with durability prompted the creation of various fighting shorts brands, which then spawned a range of mixed martial arts clothing and casual wear available to the public.
According to the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, an MMA competition or exhibition may be held in a ring or a fenced area. The fenced area can be round or have at least six sides. There are variations on the cage such as replacing the metal fencing with a net, or using a different shape for the area other than an octagon, as the term "the Octagon" is trademarked by the UFC (though the 8-sided shape itself is not trademarked). The fenced area is called a cage generically, or a hexagon, an octagon or an octagon cage, depending on the shape.
Most 'traditional' martial arts have a specific focus and these arts may be trained to improve in that area. Popular disciplines of each type include:
- Stand-up: Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Karate, Taekwondo, Capoiera, Combat Sambo, Savate, and Wushu Sanshou are trained to improve stand-up striking.
- Clinch: Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, Judo, JuJutsu, Sambo, and Wushu Sanshou are trained to improve clinching, takedowns and throws, while Muay Thai is trained to improve the striking aspect of the clinch.
- Ground: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, JuJutsu, Sambo, Catch wrestling, Luta Livre and submission grappling are trained to improve ground control and position, as well as to achieve submission holds, and defend against them.
Most styles have been adapted from their traditional forms, such as boxing stances which lack effective counters to leg kicks and the muay thai stance which is poor for defending against takedowns due to the static nature, or Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, techniques which must be adapted for No Gi competition. It is common for a fighter to train with multiple coaches of different styles or an organized fight team to improve various aspects of their game at once. Cardiovascular conditioning, speed drills, strength training and flexibility are also important aspects of a fighter's training. Some schools advertise their styles as simply "mixed martial arts", which has become a style in itself, but the training will still often be split into different sections.
While mixed martial arts was initially practiced almost exclusively by competitive fighters, this is no longer the case. As the sport has become more mainstream and more widely taught, it has become accessible to wider range of practitioners of all ages. Proponents of this sort of training argue that it is safe for anyone, of any age, with varying levels of competitiveness and fitness.
Boxing is a combat form that is widely used in MMA and is one of the primary striking bases for many fighters. Boxing punches account for the vast majority of strikes during the stand up portion of a bout and also account for the largest number of significant strikes, knock downs and KOs in MMA matches. Several aspects of boxing are extremely valuable such as footwork, use of combinations, and defensive techniques like slips, stance (to include chin protection and keeping hands up) commonly known as Guard position, and head movement. Boxing based fighters have also been shown to throw and land a higher volume of strikes compared to other striking bases at a rate of 3.88 per minute with 9.64 per minute thrown (compared to Muay Thai at 3.46 and 7.50, respectively). Some fighters that are known for using boxing are Cain Velasquez, Nick Diaz, Junior dos Santos, B.J. Penn, Dan Hardy, Shane Carwin and Andrei Arlovski.
Muay Thai/Kick boxing
Muay Thai or Thai Boxing and Kick boxing, along with boxing, are recognised as a foundation for striking in mixed martial arts and are both widely practiced and taught. Although both are almost identical they both have their different techniques. One of the primary benefits of training in Muay Thai for MMA is its versatility. Techniques include long, middle and short range with everything from kicks to clinch holds and throws. It originated in Thailand, and is known as the "art of eight limbs" which refers to the use of the legs, knees, elbows and fists. Whereas Kickboxing is a group of stand-up combat martial arts based on kicking and punching. The modern style was originated in Japan and is a branch off from Karate and Muay Thai.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu and JuJutsu or Japanese jiu-jitsu came to international prominence in the martial arts community in the early 1990s, when Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert Royce Gracie won the first, second and fourth Ultimate Fighting Championships, which at the time were single elimination martial arts tournaments. Royce fought against often much larger opponents who were practicing other styles, including boxing, wrestling, (including freestyle, Greco-Roman, and American folkstyle), shoot-fighting, karate and taekwondo. It has since become a staple art and key component for many MMA fighters. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and JuJutsu are largely credited for bringing widespread attention to the importance of ground fighting. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is primarily considered ground-based fighting style, with emphasis on positioning, chokes and joint locks. Whereas JJJ is almost the exact same as BJJ but it also uses a method of close combat. It can't fully be used to its potential as it also does work on fighting an armed and armored opponent in which one uses no weapon or only a short weapon.
Capoeira came into UFC over more recent years used majorly as an attachement to Brazilian jiu-jitsu as they both originate from Brazil. No fighters use this martial art as their main way of fighting as it does also majorly consist of music and dancing. But there have been many amazing knockouts with Capoeira with it being so impressive and quick. Conor McGregor and José Aldo were the two main fighters who helped Capoeira gain such attention. It is known for its quick and complex maneuvers, predominantly using power, speed, and leverage across a wide variety of kicks, spins and techniques.
Using their knowledge of ne-waza/ground grappling and tachi-waza/standing-grappling, several judo practitioners have also competed in mixed martial arts matches. Anderson Silva, who is a top ranked fighter in the world maintains a black belt in judo, former Russian national judo championship Bronze medallist Fedor Emelianenko, famous UFC fighter Karo Parisyan, Jim Wallhead, Rick Hawn, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Olympic medallists Hidehiko Yoshida (Gold, 1992), rising contender Dong Hyun Kim is a 4th degree judo black belt, and Ronda Rousey (Bronze, 2008) now Strikeforce and one time Ultimate Fighting Championship Women's Bantamweight Champion as well as Hector Lombard, who has been highly ranked in both middleweight and welterweight classes, is a fourth degree black belt in judo and former Olympic judo competitor.
Wrestling (including freestyle, Greco-Roman, and American folkstyle) gained tremendous respect due to its effectiveness in mixed martial arts competitions. It is widely studied by mixed martial artists and credited for conferring an emphasis on conditioning for explosive movement and stamina, both of which are critical in competitive mixed martial arts. It is known for excellent takedowns, particularly against the legs. Notable wrestlers in MMA include Chael Sonnen, Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar and Olympians Daniel Cormier and Dan Henderson.
Karl Gotch was a catch wrestler and a student of Billy Riley's Snake Pit in Whelley, Wigan. In the film Catch: the hold not taken, some of those who trained with Gotch in Wigan talk of his fascination with the traditional Lancashire style of wrestling and how he was inspired to stay and train at Billy Riley's after experiencing its effects first hand during a professional show in Manchester, England. After leaving Wigan, he later went on to teach catch wrestling to Japanese professional wrestlers in the 1970s to students including Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, Hiro Matsuda, Osamu Kido, Satoru Sayama (Tiger Mask) and Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Starting from 1976, one of these professional wrestlers, Inoki, hosted a series of mixed martial arts bouts against the champions of other disciplines. This resulted in the popularity of the clash-of-styles bouts in Japan. His matches showcased catch wrestling moves like the sleeper hold, cross arm breaker, seated armbar, Indian deathlock and keylock.
Karl Gotch's students formed the original Universal Wrestling Federation (Japan) in 1984 which gave rise to shoot-style matches. The UWF movement was led by catch wrestlers and gave rise to the mixed martial arts boom in Japan. Wigan stand-out Billy Robinson soon thereafter began training MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba. Catch wrestling forms the base of Japan's martial art of shoot wrestling. Japanese professional wrestling and a majority of the Japanese fighters from Pancrase, Shooto and the now defunct RINGS bear links to catch wrestling.
The term no holds barred was used originally to describe the wrestling method prevalent in catch wrestling tournaments during the late 19th century wherein no wrestling holds were banned from the competition, regardless of how dangerous they might be. The term was applied to mixed martial arts matches, especially at the advent of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Karate, especially Kyokushin and other full contact styles, has proven to be effective in the sport as it is one of the core foundations of kickboxing, and specializes in striking techniques. Various styles of karate are practiced by some MMA fighters, notably Chuck Liddell, Bas Rutten, Lyoto Machida, Stephen Thompson, John Makdessi, Uriah Hall, Ryan Jimmo, Georges St-Pierre, Kyoji Horiguchi, and Louis Gaudinot. Liddell is known to have an extensive striking background in Kenpō with Fabio Martella whereas Lyoto Machida practices Shotokan Ryu, and St-Pierre practices Kyokushin.
Several accomplished MMA fighters have an extensive background in Taekwondo. Some of fighters that use TKD techniques in MMA are former UFC Lightweight Champion and WEC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis, who is 3rd dan black belt as well as an instructor, former UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, who is 5th dan black belt and still competes in TKD, a former UFC Lightweight Champion and WEC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson who is a black belt, UFC fighter Yair Rodríguez, who is a black belt, former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Cung Le, who is a blackbelt, Dan Hardy, who is a black belt, a UFC Heavyweight Champion, a three-time King of Pancrase world champion Bas Rutten, who is a 2nd dan black belt, a former 2006 Pride World Grand Prix Open-Weight Champion Mirko Filipović, who is a black belt, a UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar, who is a blackbelt, Dennis Siver, who is a black belt etc.
Anderson Silva in his instructional book admitted the influence of TKD in formation of his style in the beginning of his career. In each of my fights, I tried to utilize techniques from all the various styles I had studied. I threw Tae Kwon Do kicks. I threw Muay Thai knees and elbows, and I used my knowledge of Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the ground. Also Anthony Pettis has said that he is definitely a traditional martial artist first and a mixed martial artist second. as well as My style of attacking is different [because of] Taekwondo background.
Wushu Sanshou and other Chinese martial arts have also been utilized in MMA by several fighters, being highly effective in competition thanks to its novel mixture of striking and stand up takedowns, achieved through a condensation of traditional Chinese Martial Arts techniques. Most prominent and chief amongst these fighters is Cung Le, who is most notable for his TKO and KO victories over former UFC champions Frank Shamrock (in Strikeforce) and Rich Franklin (at UFC Macau). Other Wushu Sanshou based fighters who have entered MMA include KJ Noons, Pat Barry, Zhang Tiequan and Muslim Salihov. Fighters in the Ranik Ultimate Fighting Champion Federation also typically come from a Wushu, hence Wushu Sanshou background.
The techniques utilized in mixed martial arts competition generally fall into two categories: striking techniques (such as kicks, knees, punches and elbows) and grappling techniques (such as clinch holds, pinning holds, submission holds, sweeps, takedowns and throws).
Today, mixed martial artists must cross-train in a variety of styles to counter their opponent's strengths and remain effective in all the phases of combat.
A Sprawl-and-Brawler is usually a boxer or kickboxer, Thai boxer or karate fighter who has trained in various styles of wrestling, judo, and/or sambo to avoid takedowns to keep the fight standing. This is a form which is heavily practiced in the amateur leagues.
These fighters will often study submission wrestling to avoid being forced into submission should they find themselves on the ground. This style can be deceptively different from traditional kickboxing styles, since sprawl-and-brawlers must adapt their techniques to incorporate takedown and ground fighting defense. A few notable examples are Igor Vovchanchyn, Mirko Filipović, Chuck Liddell, Mark Hunt and more recently Junior dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski. and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Ground-and-pound is a strategy consisting of taking an opponent to the ground using a takedown or throw, obtaining a top, or dominant grappling position, and then striking the opponent, primarily with fists, hammerfists, and elbows. Ground-and-pound is also used as a precursor to attempting submission holds.
The style is used by fighters well-versed in submission defense and skilled at takedowns. They take the fight to the ground, maintain a grappling position, and strike until their opponent submits or is knocked out. Although not a traditional style of striking, the effectiveness and reliability of ground-and-pound has made it a popular tactic. It was first demonstrated as an effective technique by Mark Coleman, then popularized by fighters such as Chael Sonnen, Don Frye, Frank Trigg, Jon Jones, Cheick Kongo, Mark Kerr, Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, and Chris Weidman.
While most fighters utilize ground-and-pound statically, by way of holding their opponents down and mauling them with short strikes from the top position, a few fighters manage to utilize it dynamically by striking their opponents while changing positions, thus not allowing their opponents to settle once they take them down. Cain Velasquez is one of the most devastating ground strikers in MMA. He attacks his opponents on the ground while transitioning between positions. Whether he's moving from mount to back mount or from turtle to side control, he is constantly landing shots. Fedor Emelianenko, considered the greatest master of ground-and-pound in MMA history, was the first to demonstrate this dynamic style of striking in transition. He was striking his opponents on the ground while passing guard or while his opponents were attempting to recover guard.
In the year 2000, MMA play-by-play commentator Stephen Quadros coined the popular phrase lay and pray. This refers to a situation where a wrestler or grappler keeps another fighter pinned or controlled on the mat to avoid a stand up, yet exhibiting little or no urgency to finish the grounded opponent with a knockout or a submission and basically stalling a decision for the majority or entirety of the fight, basically taking the opponent down, holding on tight, referee stands them back up, and repeat again—a sort of extreme form of defensive wrestling. The implication of "lay and pray" is that after the wrestler/grappler takes the striker down and lays on him to neutralize the opponent's striking weapons, he prays that the referee does not return them to the standing position. This style is considered by many fans as the most boring style of fighting and is highly criticized for intentionally creating non-action, yet it is effective and some argue that lay-and-pray is justified and that it is the responsibility of the downed fighter to be able to protect himself from this legitimate fighting technique. Many consider Jon Fitch to be the poster boy for lay and pray. UFC Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has been criticized by fans for playing it safe and applying the lay and pray tactic in his fights and so has Bellator MMA Welterweight champion Ben Askren who justified applying lay and pray, explaining that champion fights are much harder because they are 5 rounds long compared to the usual 3 round fights.
Submission-Seeking is a reference to the strategy of taking an opponent to the ground using a takedown or throw and then applying a submission hold, forcing the opponent to submit. While grapplers will often work to attain dominant position, some may be more comfortable fighting from other positions. If a grappler finds themselves unable to force a takedown, they may resort to pulling guard, whereby they physically pull their opponent into a dominant position on the ground.
Submissions are an essential part of many disciplines, most notably Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, catch wrestling, judo, Sambo, and shootwrestling. They were popularized in the early UFC events by Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock.
Score oriented fighting
Especially used by fighters with strong wrestling background facing a highly skilled BJJ opponent, or by wrestlers who prefer stand-up fights. Usually fighters who adopt this strategy use takedowns only for scoring, easily allowing the adversary to stand up and continue the fight. They also want to land clear strikes and control the octagon. In order to win the fight by decision all score oriented fighters have to master perfect MMA defense techniques and avoid takedowns.
Clinch-Fighting is a tactic consisting of using a clinch hold to prevent the opponent from moving away into more distant striking range, while also attempting takedowns and striking the opponent using knees, stomps, elbows, and punches. The clinch is often utilized by wrestlers and Judokas that have added components of the striking game (typically boxing), and Muay Thai fighters.
Wrestlers and Judoka may use clinch fighting as a way to neutralize the superior striking skills of a stand-up fighter or to prevent takedowns by a superior ground fighter. Ronda Rousey, with her Judo background, is considered a master at initiating throws from the clinch to set up armbars.
The clinch or "plum" of a Muay Thai fighter is often used to improve the accuracy of knees and elbows by physically controlling the position of the opponent. Anderson Silva is well known for his devastating Muay Thai clinch. He defeated UFC middle weight champion Rich Franklin using the Muay Thai clinch and kneeing Franklin repeatedly to the body and face - breaking Franklin's nose. In their rematch Silva repeated this and won again.
Other fighters may use the clinch to push their opponent against the cage or ropes, where they can effectively control their opponent's movement and restrict mobility while striking them with punches to the body or stomps also known as dirty boxing or "Wall and Maul". Randy Couture used his Greco Roman wrestling background to popularize this style en route to six title reigns in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
In general, fighters who cannot win fights through lightning offense, or are more suited to win fights in the later rounds or via decision are commonly known as grinders. Grinders aim to shut down their opponent's game plan and chip away at them via clinching, smothering and ground-and-pound for most of the rounds. Prominent examples of grinders are Pat Healy, Rampage Jackson, and Chael Sonnen.
Women's mixed martial arts
While mixed martial arts is primarily a male dominated sport, it does have female athletes. Female competition in Japan includes promotions such as the all-female Valkyrie, and JEWELS (formerly known as Smackgirl). However historically there has been only a select few major professional mixed martial arts organizations in the United States that invite women to compete. Among those are Strikeforce, Bellator Fighting Championships, the all female Invicta Fighting Championships, and the now defunct EliteXC.
There has been a growing awareness of women in mixed martial arts due to popular female fighters and personalities such as Megumi Fujii, Miesha Tate, Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, Ronda Rousey, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Holly Holm and Gina Carano among others. Carano became known as "the face of women's MMA" after appearing in a number of EliteXC events. This was furthered by her appearances on MGM Television's 2008 revival of their game show American Gladiators.
In Japan, female competition has been documented since the mid-1990s. Influenced by female professional wrestling and kickboxing, the Smackgirl competition was formed in 2001 and became the only major all-female promotion in mixed martial arts. Other early successful Japanese female organizations included Ladies Legend Pro-Wrestling, ReMix (a predecessor to Smackgirl), U-Top Tournament, K-Grace, and AX.
Aside from all-female organizations, most major Japanese male dominated promotions have held select female competitions. These have included DEEP, MARS, Gladiator, HEAT, Cage Force, K-1, Sengoku, Shooto (under the name G-Shooto), and Pancrase (under the name Pancrase Athena).
In the United States, prior to the success of The Ultimate Fighter reality show that launched mixed martial arts into the mainstream media, there was no major coverage of female competitions. Some early organizations who invited women to compete included, International Fighting Championships, SuperBrawl, King of the Cage, Rage in the Cage, Ring of Combat, Bas Rutten Invitational, and HOOKnSHOOT. From the mid-2000s, more coverage came when organizations such as Strikeforce, EliteXC, Bellator Fighting Championships, and Shark Fights invited women to compete.
Outside Japan and the United States, female competition is almost exclusively found in minor local promotions. However, in Europe some major organizations have held select female competitions, including It's Showtime, Shooto Europe, Cage Warriors, and M-1 Global.
Following Zuffa's acquisition of Strikeforce in March 2011, the UFC began promoting women's fights. The notoriety of the female fights increased with Ronda Rousey's rise to fame, but the league still struggles to find its brand with women fighters. Contract problems with athletes like Gina Carano have made it difficult to secure compelling female main events for the UFC.
Controversy arose in 2013, when CFA (Championship Fighting Alliance) fighter Fallon Fox came out as a transgender woman. The case became a centerpiece of debates concerning whether it was fair to have a transsexual woman compete against one born of the female sex in a contact sport. Neither the UFC nor Invicta FC say they will allow her to fight, and then-UFC Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey says she will not fight her.
Amateur mixed martial arts
Amateur Mixed Martial Arts is the amateur version of the Mixed Martial Arts in which participants engage largely or entirely without remuneration. Under the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and the World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA), it is practiced within a safe and regulated environment which relies on a fair and objective scoring system and competition procedures similar to those in force in the professional Mixed Martial Arts rules. Amateur MMA is practiced with board shorts and with approved protection gear that includes shin protectors, and amateur MMA gloves.
International Mixed Martial Arts Federation
On February 29, 2012, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) was set up to bring international structure, development and support to mixed martial arts worldwide. IMMAF launched with support of market leader, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The IMMAF is a non-profit, democratic federation organized according to international federation standards to ensure that MMA as a sport is allowed the same recognition, representation and rights as all other major sports. The IMMAF is registered under Swedish law and is founded on democratic principles, as outlined in their statutes. As of March 2015, there are 39 total members from 38 countries, which come from Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland (Northern Ireland), Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Nepal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, The Seychelles, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. 
World Mixed Martial Arts Association
World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA) was founded in 2012 in Monaco by M-1 Global commercial promoters and is under the leadership of CEO Vadim Finkelstein and Fedor Emelianenko. The World MMA Association is an organization that manages and develops mixed martial arts, it establishes rules and procedures and hosts MMA competitions. World MMA Association includes national MMA organizations, representing the sport and registered in accordance with national laws.
As of December 2013 WMMAA has 38 member states under its umbrella: Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Guatemala, Georgia, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela.
On October 20, 2013 the first World MMA Championship was held in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
WMMAA Pan-American Division
On July 4, 2014 The WMMAC- The World MMA Council merged with the WMMAA and as a result the first ever Pan-American Division for the World MMA Association was created under the leadership of business magnate Tomas Yu, during the 2014 WMMAA Congress that was held in Amsterdam, Netherlands.     
Mixed Martial Arts competitions have changed dramatically since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993, specifically with the inception of the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. A paucity of data on injuries that occur in MMA and the resulting concerns and controversy with regard to MMA's safety remain. A recent systematic review concluded that the injury incidence rate in MMA appears to be greater than in most, if not all, other popular and commonly practised combat sports.
In a recent meta-analysis of the available injury data in MMA, the injury incidence rate was estimated to be 228.7 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures (one athlete-exposure is defined as one athlete participating in a single fight). The estimated injury incidence rate in MMA is greater than in other full-contact combat sports such as judo (44.0 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures), taekwondo (79.4 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures), amateur boxing (77.7 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures), and professional boxing (118.0-250.6 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures).
In general, the injury pattern in MMA is very similar to that in professional boxing but unlike that found in other combat sports such as judo and taekwondo. The most commonly injured body region is the head (66.8% to 78.0% of reported injuries) followed by the wrist/hand (6.0% to 12.0% of reported injuries), while the most frequent types of injury were laceration (36.7% to 59.4% of reported injuries), fracture (7.4% to 43.3% of reported injuries), and concussion (3.8% to 20.4% of reported injuries).
In preliminary results reported in April 2012 as part of an ongoing study of a 109 professional boxers and MMA fighters being conducted by Dr. Charles Bernick and his colleagues at Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, fighters with more than six years of ring experience were observed to have reductions in size in their hippocampus and thalamus whereas fighters with more than twelve years of ring experience were observed to have both reductions in size and symptoms such as memory loss (the hippocampus and thalamus deal with memory and alertness). Dr. Bernick speculates that the cumulative damage over time from lesser blows may eventually prove an even more important topic of study than that of infrequent concussions.
In the period of 2007 to 2010, there were two fatalities in mixed martial arts matches. The first was the death of Sam Vasquez on November 30, 2007. Vasquez collapsed shortly after being knocked out by Vince Libardi in the third round of an October 20, 2007 fight at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Vasquez had two separate surgeries to remove blood clots from his brain, and shortly after the second operation suffered a devastating stroke and never regained consciousness.
The second death stemming from a sanctioned mixed martial arts contest occurred in South Carolina on June 28, 2010, when 30-year-old Michael Kirkham was knocked out and never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead two days after the fight.
Legality of professional competitions
MMA in Australia is sanctioned in all States and Territories of Australia by various combat sports authorities/organizations. There is debate about the use of the cage, which was banned in Victoria in 2007 and then relegalized in 2015. The cage was banned in Western Australia in March, 2013.
MMA is legalized in Bahrain. Bahrain National MMA Federation (BNMMAF) has been set up under the patronage of Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa and the jurisdiction of the Sports Minister Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa. The development of MMA in the nation is convened through KHK MMA, which also owns Brave Combat Federation which is the largest Mixed Martial Arts promotion in the Middle East. Bahrain will be hosting World MMA Amateurs Championship 2017 supported by International Mixed Martial Arts Federation.
MMA is tolerated in Belgium but not supported. In May 2012 the Belgian MMA Federation (BMMAF) was accepted by the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation as its third member, after several years of carrying out many of the tasks of a national federation under the former name of the Belgian Shooto and MMA Federation. Active in developing MMA in Belgium from 2005, the group later redefined their activities to include MMA in order to be able to use a cage. Registered as federation in Belgium in 2006, the former Belgian Shooto and MMA Federation organized more than 1500 MMA bouts (Amateur, B class and A class), and built a structure for the sport nationally that included insurance, rules and regulation, experience levels for fighters and technical seminars. The BMMAF has continued its activities as part of the wider MMA community under IMMAF.
January 17, 2013 saw the announcement that the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission, or Comissao Atletica Brasileira de MMA (CABMMA), had joined the International MMA Federation. The CABMMA represents state federations across Brazil and is spearheaded by lawyers Giovanni Biscardi and Rafael Favettia, a former Executive Secretary of the Minister of Justice and Interim Minister of Justice. The CABMMA supervised its first event with "UFC on FX 7" on 19 January 2013 at Ibirapuera Gymnasium in São Paulo.
The CABMMA first hit international sports headlines when it suspended fighter Rousimar Palhares for prolonging a submission on opponent Mike Pierce, despite him tapping several times, during UFC Fight Night 29 in Barueri, Brazil on 9th Oct 2013. The CABMMA was called to preside over another controversy to involve a Brazilian competitor, when Vitor Belfort's use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy came to light over UFC on FX 8 (May 18, 2013)
Appearing on professional basis around 2008–2009, MMA is a new sport in Bulgaria and growing rapidly. With a strong wrestling and boxing culture in the region, general interest in the sport is huge. However, it remains unregulated. The Bulgarian Federation for Mixed Martial Arts was elected as the national federation representing the Republic of Bulgaria under the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation in October 2014; and like all IMMAF members, is a non-profit, democratic organization. Established in November 2013 by 10 MMA clubs, the organization is headed by UFC competitor Stanislav Nedkov. The federation's registration to the Ministry of Justice was approved in June 2014 and its application for formal recognition by the Ministry of Sport is in its advanced stages.
In January 2013, the Cambodian Mixed Martial Arts Association was created under the Cambodian Martial Arts Federation. At this time there are no MMA events organized with the CMMAA approval. Television channel MYTV holds its KWC promotion under the sanctioning of the Cambodian Boxing Federation, responsible for sanctioning all boxing and Kun Khmer events in the country, in direct contrast to the situation in neighbouring Thailand.
For many years, professional MMA competitions were illegal in Canada. Section 83(2) of the Canadian Criminal Code deemed that only boxing matches where only fists are used are considered legal. However most provinces regulated it by a provincial athletic commission (skirting S. 83(2) by classifying MMA as "mixed boxing"), such as the provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Northwest Territories. The legality of MMA in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and New Brunswick varies depending on the municipality. Professional MMA competitions remain illegal in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and Nunavut because it is not regulated by an athletic commission.
Canada formally decriminalized mixed martial arts with a vote on Bill S-209 on June 5, 2013. The bill formally gives provinces the power to create athletic commissions to regulate and sanction professional mixed martial arts bouts. Bill S-209 does not in and of itself make MMA legal across Canada; it allows provinces to make it legal on a province by province basis.
In 2011, the Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation (RUFF) hosted the first MMA event in Shanghai sanctioned by China's governing body for combat sports, the Wushu Sports Management Center of the General Administration of Sport in China. RUFF formally crowned the first Chinese national MMA champions in 2013 with each champion receiving 1,000,000 RMB in prize money. Other MMA promotions in China includes Real Fight Championship, which has produced 3 events in Henan and Beijing.
In Denmark, Mixed Martial Arts may be practised but is not an official or legally regulated sport. On November 11, 2012 the voluntary Danish Mixed Martial Arts Federation held its first official general assembly in Odense, Denmark. There the DMMAF was officially founded and a board was elected headed up by President Claus Larsen. The Federation was publicly launched on Friday November 24, inviting Danish MMA organizations, gyms and academies to sign up as members. The DMMAF is working towards recognition under the Danish Sports Federation, Dansk Idræts Forbund. On November 25 the DMMAF's application to the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation was approved.
There remains political opposition to MMA in France and full contact MMA competition is banned. All bouts on French soil recorded as Mixed Martial Arts are in fact held under Pancrase Rules and other variants (Pankration, Kempo, Pankido). These bouts involve no striking on the ground as it is illegal in the country. The Commission National de Mixed Martial Arts (CNMMA) was founded as a non-profit organization for the development of MMA in 2009. The CNMMA had worked over four years to put an educational structure in place, including a technical system for the safe progression from grass-roots level, all the way up to the top professional level. Comprising 11 regional leagues working under regional technical advisers and teams, the CNMMA joined the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) in March 2013 as The Commission Française de Mixed Martial Arts (CFMMA). In 2012, CFMMA president Bertrand Amoussou ascended to the position of President of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation.
Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports (India) have not recognized Mixed Martial Arts as a sport in India. Hence conducting Mixed Martial Arts events are not covered as sports but as unsanctioned events or street fighting. There had been allegations from MMA fighters about lack of insurance, medical facilities and financial benefits.
The Irish Martial Arts Commission recognised by the Irish Sports Council does not include MMA among its recognised martial arts. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport does not recognise MMA as a sport.[not in citation given] UFC Fight Night 46, featuring Conor McGregor, was held in Dublin in 2014.
Mixed Martial Arts Federation Ireland (MMAFI), intended as a federation for amateur MMA clubs, gained observer status at IMMAF in June 2012. MMAFI had a meeting in March 2013 with the Northern Ireland sports minister, Carál Ní Chuilín about the prospect of getting recognition from Sport Northern Ireland.
MMA competition has been legal in Japan since at least the mid-1980s, when Pancrase fights began to be held. There are several MMA-related organizations, including RIZIN FF, DEEP, Pancrase, Shooto and ZST.
In July 2013 the Malaysia Mixed Martial Arts Association (MASMMAA) was formally announced as the official national governing body for MMA in Malaysia, ahead of its formation in December 2013. MASMMAA is registered under the Malaysian Sports Development Act 1997 and recognized by the Commissioner of Sports, under the auspices of the office of the Youth & Sports Ministry. The federation comprises representatives of ten states out of fourteen in Malaysia. MASMMAA became affiliated to the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation in April 2014.
In Norway, sports that involve knock-outs as a means of securing victory or points are illegal, including MMA and boxing. Norwegian MMA fighters must therefore travel abroad to compete. The Norwegian MMA Federation (NMMAF) was elected as a full member of the International MMA Federation (IMMAF) on 22 April 2012, representing 49 member gyms across Norway. In 2012 the "Merkekamper" concept was introduced by the NMMAF, with government sanctioning, that enables member MMA gyms to hold events with sparring matches, but governed by strict rules concerning how hard a fighter is permitted to strike.
In Pakistan, Mixed Martial Arts Pakistan organizes MMA events, the organization was founded in 2007 by veteran Pakistani MMA fighter Bashir Ahmad for promotion of MMA in Pakistan. Bashir Ahmad came to Pakistan in 2007 and that is when MMA in Pakistan was born and ever since that day Bashir gave all he got to promote Mixed Martial Arts in Pakistan
The FMMAP is recognized by the Portuguese government as a non-profit sports federation and oversees Amateur MMA competition and coaching nationally. Based in Vila do Conde, the Federação de Mixed Martial Arts de Portugal (FMMAP) was founded as a collaborative effort between 6 existing non-profit organizations in 2012, as Portugal's first dedicated MMA Federation. This is in line with government requirements of all sport federations in Portugal that they consist of at least 3 associated, non-profit groups. The composite FMMAP organisations are all involved in the coaching and promoting of MMA with a shared goal for the Amateur sport, but come from various martial arts that include Karate, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Pankration Athlima, Mixed Martial Arts, Jeet Kune Do, Freestyle martial arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Wrestling. Affiliated groups at launch were AAMU - Associação Artes Marciais, Associação de Artes Marciais e Desportos de Combate (Açores), Associação Areagon (Chaves City), Associação Mirandelense de Artes Orientais (Mirandela City), Associação Portuguesa de Ciências de Combate/JKD Unlimited Portugal (Lisbon City), KMD MMA system (Porto City), Barcelos Gym (Barcelos City). The FMMAP is affiliated to the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF).
The Romanian Mixed Martial Arts Federation (RMMAF) was established in 2012 as a legal non-profit federation under the Ministry of Youth and Sport in Romania. The Federation was formed by the board of MMA organization AGON backed by a broad representation of the Romanian MMA community including around 20 pure MMA clubs and non-profit MMA organizations around the country. Based in Bucharest, Romania AGON club was founded in its present legal form in June 2012 following a long period of time of acting under different other organisations, and Gheorghe Stanciu was elected as its president. AGON's members brought long experience in the management of sports organizations, with Mr Mihail Mihailovici having previously founded the Kyolusing BudoKai organization in Romania under the IKO, organising national and international competitions over 5 years and working with the government as a recognised sports body. The RMMAF is affiliated to the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF).
In September 2012, MMA was given 'National Sport' status in Russia, and on the same day fighter and M-1 Global promoter Fedor Emelianenko was appointed to the role of Russian MMA Union president.
The MMA program at Singapore is licensed by the Cantonment Police Division.
MMA competition is legal and under the purview of the Swedish Mixed Martial Arts Federation (SMMAF) which was formed in 2007 and began overseeing MMA events and governing the sport as a whole in 2008. In 2009 the SMMAF was accepted into the Association of Swedish Budo and Martial Arts Federation, thus granting MMA "national sport" status and making its approved clubs eligible for partial government subsidization. On April 30, 2011, the SMMAF sanctioned the first event under its purview to utilize the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. The Swedish Mixed Martial Arts Federation governs the sport of MMA in Sweden as a member affiliated to the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation.
MMA competition is legal and under the purview of the Professional Mixed Martial Arts Council or PROMMA Africa; which was formed in 2010 with its main purpose to regulate MMA at larger MMA promotions such as EFC Worldwide (Formerly known as EFC Africa). PROMMA Africa began overseeing Rise of the Warrior MMA events in 2010. In 2012 the PROMMA Africa Council was accepted into the Mixed Martial Arts Association of South Africa (MASA) thus granting MMA "national sport" status. In addition to EFC Africa, there are other leagues such as Dragon Legends MMA.
MMA is officially sanctioned by the government and sports authorities of Taiwan and numerous Taiwanese MMA fighters are currently training and competing on the international level, with a few of them in the UFC and other MMA organizations. Many major international MMA fights are held at stadiums in Taiwan every year. Additionally, many martial arts schools and gyms in Taiwan provide professional level MMA training.
In 2012, the Sports Authority of Thailand banned competitions. It has been speculated that the Muay Thai industry played a factor in the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT)'s final decision, as MMA could potentially take away business from Muay Thai, from fighters to profit. SAT Deputy Governor Sakol Wannapong has said "Organizing a MMA event here would hurt the image of Muay Thai, if you want to do this kind of business, you should do it in another country. Organizing MMA here could mislead the public into believing that Muay Thai is brutal."
Jussi Saloranta, the owner of Thailand's only MMA promotion, DARE Fight Sports, revealed that his lawyers found that the ban was actually premature, and that from a legal standpoint, there is no law banning mixed martial arts in the country, and that the SAT's ban was more of a scare tactic. Because of this DARE continue to showcase events while informing fans only at the last minute through texts on the day of the event, and presenting the videos on YouTube as The Most Dangerous Gameshow. Saloranta has also helped set up the MMA Association of Thailand, in the hopes of reaching a compromise with SAT and regulating mixed martial arts in Thailand.
On September 12, 2013, DARE Fight Sports released a statement announcing SAT had removed the ban on MMA and would henceforth sanction the sport in Thailand.
Dare Fight Sports is currently the only MMA organization in Thailand to be officially sanctioned and publicized by the tourism authority of Thailand but there is now also an ever-growing set of new MMA organizations appearing around the country 
In the United States, professional MMA is overseen by the Association of Boxing Commissions. According to the Associations of Boxing Commissions, professional MMA competitions are allowed in all states. Alaska has no boxing or athletic commission. Montana has a state athletic commission although it doesn't regulate MMA. However, MMA is legal in both states. West Virginia became the 44th state to regulate mixed martial arts on March 24, 2011. On March 8, 2012, Wyoming became the 45th state to regulate MMA. On May 4, 2012, it was announced that Vermont had become the 46th state to regulate MMA. Legislation allowing MMA in Connecticut came into effect on October 1, 2013, making it the 47th state to regulate the sport. On March 22, 2016, the New York State Assembly voted to lift the State's 1997 ban on MMA and on April 14, 2016 Governor Cuomo signed the bill legalizing and regulating the sport into law.
- Hybrid martial arts
- List of current mixed martial arts champions
- List of female mixed martial artists
- List of male mixed martial artists
- List of Mixed Martial Artists with the most sanctioned fights
- Mixed martial arts clothing
- Shoot fighting
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