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Mixed Martial Arts

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) designate a full contact combat sport which allows the use of different techniques (striking, grappling) practiced in martial arts.

The origins of MMA can be found in the Ancient Olympic Games at the Pankration competitions (a fighting style that combined Boxing with Wrestling).

At the end of the 19th century, fights between boxers and wrestlers were already organized in Europe. By 1920s, in Brazil, brothers Carlos and Hélio Gracie promoted the "Gracie challenge", challenging fighters from various style and different modalities.

In 1985, the first organization dedicated to MMA, "Shooto", was founded in Japan.

It was however from the creation of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) in 1993 that MMA began to receive international projection. Initially created by Art Davie and Rorion Gracie (eldest son of Helio Gracie), UFC is since 20001 owned by Zuffa LLC, with headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada. Target of several criticisms in the beginning because of its limited rules, a larger regulation was gradually established. In 2000, the "Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts" were created to regulate MMA events in the different U.S states.

They include:

• Rounds with 5 minutes duration with a one minute rest. Fights regularly have a maximum of 3 rounds, but disputes over title may contain 5 rounds.
• Exclusive use of shorts, without shoes or other footwear, and light gloves that allow the fingers to move. Long shirt or pants are not allowed.
• Use of the "ten-point system" to score, where judges score each round. The winner of a round receives 10 points, while the loser gets 9 points or less (the minimum point a fighter receives depends of the U.S state). If the round ends in a draw, both fighters get 10 points.
• Weight categories.

Weight class name Upper limit in pounds (lb) Upper limit in kilograms (kg)
Flyweight 125 56.7
Bantamweight 135 61.2
Featherweight 145 65.8
Lightweight 155 70.3
Welterweight 170 77.1
Middleweight 185 83.9
Light Heavyweight 205 93.0
Heavyweight 265 120.2
Super Heavyweight No weight limit

UFC actually uses 5 weight categories (from Lightweight to Heavyweight).

UFC competitions occur in an area surrounded by eight sides (named "Octagon"), surrounded by metal railings covered in black vinyl. Fights end by submission or desistence, knockout, technical knockout (interruption by referee) or by decision of the judges.

View of the Octagon.
View of the Octagon.
Photo: Lee Brimelow/Wikimedia Commons

Early fights (in UFC or in MMA previous editions) showed that fighters who did not dominate grappling techniques were in disadvantage. MMA fighters seek currently to combine techniques from various modalities. Most of them train currently Muay Thai as well as Boxing, Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Since 2013, women competitions are organized in UFC. (Female competitions existed in Japan since the mid-1990s.)

UFC controls actually 90% of MMA market, thanks in part to its acquisition of PRIDE in 2007, another MMA organization in Japan, which was since then discontinued.

Other MMA organizations include DREAM, King of the Cage, Bellator Fighting Championships (in the U.S.) or Sengoku (in Japan).

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