But MMA isn't all about showmanship. It's not a WWE-boxing super hybrid full of flash and no substance. It's home to some of the most skilled technical fighters in competitive combat sports.
It encompasses a variety of martial arts disciplines, including the obvious ones such as boxing and kickboxing, but also the more specialist styles such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Wrestling and Judo.
The Rise of MMA
Mixed Martial Arts is the sport, UFC is the leading organisation. Don't get that confused. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is where the best fighters go to battle it out for titles. The brand has done a huge amount for the sport, driving it into the mainstream and breaking down political barriers that have for a long time prevented MMA being legalised in many US States.
A common misconception, like many politicians had, is that MMA is a pure blood-sport. Unadulterated, no-holds-barred violence. This is not the case. Fights adhere to the 'Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts', the most common rule set throughout the world. They are extremely detailed and important to ensure the safety of the fighters. For example there are bans on head-butting and unsportsmanlike conduct to keep a fight fair and as safe as it can be.
Fighters are grouped by weight classes, just like many other Martial Arts and it is most similar to those in boxing. There are three judges sat cage side that judge the fight and award 10 points to the winner of each round, with 9 going to the loser.
What are the mixed martial arts?
MMA takes its influence from a variety of martial arts styles. They allow for exciting and entertaining matches, with some fighters specialising in one area over another.
Boxing – There is a strong boxing influence in MMA, as is obvious when you watch any fight. It's no surprise that Conor McGregor is trying to call out Floyd Mayweather Jnr for a multi-million pound showdown in the boxing ring. Most fights are won by knockout and this often comes via a punch.
Muay Thai – This is a more brutal variation of regular boxing and it focuses on the full body being used as a weapon. It doesn't just focus on punching, it uses the force of the elbows and legs to deliver powerful kicks. Muay Thai is a close quarter combat style and will train you to look for a small opening – often whilst grappling – to strike an opponent.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – BJJ was championed by the Gracie family, one of, if not the most famous MMA family in history. The Brazilian family spans four generations and have designed a fighting style that is perfect for the MMA Octagon. Fights that are not won by knockout are usually won by submission. Grappling, choking, holding and general ground fighting are a big part of BJJ. It also promotes the idea that a smaller person can defend themselves against a larger opponent.
Judo – Judo centralises around the ability to ground an opponent. This is done by throwing, tripping, flipping, or whatever else it takes to get them on the canvas. It is the original judo practices that influenced the newer Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so it is still an extremely prominent and popular style within MMA.
The stars of Mixed Martial Arts
Over the years, there have been a number of icons within the world of MMA that have led it forward into the mainstream.
Currently, the biggest male star in the UFC is Irishman Conor McGregor who recently defeated Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 to become a double champion. He is the first fighter in UFC history to hold to titles in two weight divisions simultaneously. His arrogant and glamorous attitude outside of the ring make him a hugely controversial figure, but one that has projected UFC to a whole new audience.
Ronda Rousey has had a similar effect. Whilst much more down-to-earth and less flashy, Rousey is the most successful female star in UFC history. She is an icon to a whole generation of female fans and has opened the door for a number of new fighters such as Holly Holm and Miesha Tate to make their names. UFC President Dana White even admitted earlier this year that Rousey was “the undisputed no.1 star” of UFC and said “it's not even close” when considering others.
But past the current stars there are a number that helped to form the bedrock of the sport, one of which is Royce Gracie, a member of the founding family of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He was one of the original fighters with the UFC along with the likes of Ken Shamrock, who is also a huge name in the history of competitive mixed martial arts. It is early fighters such as these and the likes of Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture that made the name for the sport.
Find a mixed martial arts class
Many parents may watch MMA and think “this isn't suitable for my children”, but don't worry, a class is very different to competitive fighting.
You'll begin by learning the basic principles and discipline of Martial Arts before beginning to put more individual focus on different styles. Qualified Martial Arts Instructors ensure that this is done in a safe environment.
There are Martial Arts Clubs available all across the UK that offer the wide variety of styles that Mixed Martial Arts covers. So you can either join a mixed martial arts class and learn a bit of everything, or go for classes in one individual style.
To find either, visit the Martial Arts Near You homepage and search using your postcode. This will identify the Martial Arts clubs in your area. You can then talk to the instructor about the classes you're interested in or if you know exactly what you're looking for, you can book a place online or on your mobile phone via the MyNearYou iPhone app.