Taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, judo, and karate are just a few examples of martial arts of which many of us are already familiar. However, mixed martial arts is a relatively new field that has experienced exponential growth in participation largely due to the popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Simply put, mixed martial arts is a combat sport that includes full-contact techniques including striking and grappling from standing and ground positions.
The history of mixed martial arts, sometimes referred to simply as MMA, dates back as far as to the ancient Olympics of Greco-Roman times. While no-holds-barred fighting matches conjure images of gladiators fighting to the death, MMA in its current form is a sport that requires advanced skill and training. MMA may include movements from many disciplines which is why it is called “mixed” martial arts. Proponents may draw on training from judo, Muay Thai kickboxing, karate and more.
Still, make no mistake; the earliest incarnations of MMA could be quite dangerous. The Brazilian vale-tudo style of MMA is often considered among the most dangerous, and this is the type of MMA which gave rise to the UFC. Early forms of MMA fights were designed to test various fighting styles and techniques to see which were the most effective. Competitors fought with few rules and developed increasingly varied martial arts styles in their fighting. Nevertheless, over the past ten or fifteen years, the sport has been regulated to make it safer and more popular among amateurs.
The sport is actually much more established in South America and Asia. Brazilian vale-tudo dates back to the 1920s, while Japanese MMA contests also predate the sports introduction to North America. In fact, it wasn’t until 1993 that the UFC first brought MMA competitions to the United States. As regulations and rules were developed, MMA was poised to reach new peaks of popularity. Since the mid 2000s, a number of competitive fighting leagues have been established in the United States. As competitive MMA fighting has become more popular, there has been a growth in the number of organized training camps and competitors.
Indeed, the growth of the sport has been paralleled by its evolution. MMA is a much more varied and technically focused sport today than in the past. New strategies are always being developed, and there is even a great deal more time and energy put into the development of fighters. Styles and techniques are becoming more refined, and fighters with the ability to strategize before and during fights are much more likely to be successful in competitions.
It might be argued that MMA is a sport still in its infancy. The past 20 years have seen unprecedented growth in the sport, and it is much more common to see MMA taught in fighting gyms throughout North America. It’s hard to predict the future of the sport, but one thing is certain, its popularity is only going to expand.