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What are Mixed Martial Arts?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 23, 2024
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Mixed martial arts, also known as no holds barred fighting, is a combat sport that mixes techniques from different martial arts, Greco-Roman wrestling, boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While this form of fighting has been around since the late 1800s, it was Bruce Lee who made the movement popular by creating a unique fighting style that combined everything from western boxing to karate to fencing. Mixed martial arts didn't become an official sport until the Ultimate Fighting Championship was established in the US in 1992. Pankration, a form originally practiced in Greece as far back as 648 B.C., is now under consideration to become an Olympic Sport.

There are very few rules in mixed martial arts, all of which were established over the last ten years. Before that, it was a brutal combat sport in which the health of the fighter was always at risk. The new rules dictate that certain moves, including headbutts, biting, and eye gouging, are not permitted. Attacks to the groin area, kidneys, and trachea are also prohibited. There is no worldwide association presiding over this fighting form, so rules vary from country to country. Amateur fights usually have a stricter set of rules, in order to protect the health of the fighters.

There are basically three stages during a mixed martial arts fight: stand-up fighting, clinch fighting, and ground fighting. Stand-up fighting includes techniques such as kicking, punching, kneeing, and elbowing the opponent, while ground fighting involves holding the opponent down through the use of grappling holds. Clinch fighting means holding the opponent, either to prevent strikes or to get the dominant position while on the ground.

Most fighters use small gloves during fights. Both open-finger gloves and closed ones, similar to the ones used in boxing, are allowed, depending on the type of fight, the country, and the weight category of the fighters. There are different ways to victory in mixed martial arts: knockout (KO), technical knockout (TKO), doctor stoppage, and submission, in which a fighter voluntarily admits defeat. Referees can also stop a fight if they believe one of the fighters has sustained significant injury. Numerous fouls or warnings, such as illegal strikes or throwing the opponent out of the ring, can result in disqualification.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.
Discussion Comments
By yumdelish — On May 24, 2011

One of my best girlfriends is into this. She has always been sporty, so when her gym opened some mixed martial arts classes she was first in line.

Actually they were originally only for men, but she lobbied for some equality and has never looked back.

By CaithnessCC — On May 21, 2011

@MissMuffet - I can understand why you wouldn't want to see your guy fighting, whether in a ring or on the street. But i am guessing that he was already attending a mixed martial arts gym or training school when you met, right?

So I suppose I'm saying that you have to respect the skills he has and his decision to practice this sport. So long as he is not involved in some extreme form of it, and wears the safety equipment recommended, he will be fine.

I know several people who are against any kind of violent combat type activities, and they probably wouldn't date an MMA enthusiast! It's your call as to whether your issue is with the activity per se, or with him being vulnerable to injury.

By MissMuffet — On May 20, 2011

I think mixed martial arts fighting is brutal! My boyfriend loves it and fights most weeks. I did go and watch him when we first met, like a good supportive girlfriend should, but I couldn't take it.

Perhaps I'm just being a sissy, but I can't see the point of it. It strikes me as being one step up from street brawling! I know there are rules but it can take a while before anyone stops the match. Ugh.

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
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