The GIST's Guide to MMA
Mixed Martial Arts: slightly less brutal than being left on ‘Read’
“MMA” stands for Mixed Martial Arts. As the name suggests, an MMA fight can include many different fighting styles. When watching a fight, you might see Judo, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, Wrestling, Karate fighting styles and more. Basically these fighting styles have several different forms of striking and grappling - so you’re actually watching lots of sports in one! More bang for your buck, what’s not to love?!
WTF is striking and grappling you ask? Well, striking is where you use your limbs to hit your opponent.
Grappling is basically where you use different techniques like throws, clinches, takedowns, joint locks and chokes in order to control the other person.
How Do You Win an MMA Fight?
You can win an MMA fight several ways. Usually the goal is to win by either knockout or submission. A knockout is when you render your opponent unconscious by punching or kicking them hard enough. Yeesh. A submission is when your opponent either physically taps your body to let you know that they give up or a verbal tap where they say “tap”. If during a fight there is no knockout or submission, the fight will be decided by the judges who will have scored each round. There are only a few things that you can’t do to you opponent during a fight and these are the really harmful stuff like strikes to the back of the head, eye gouging, hair pulling, etc.
How Do They Score?
MMA fights are scored based on a few criteria by judges. The most important criteria in a fight is effective striking and grappling. Second, effective aggression, and third, cage or ring control. Rounds are scored out of 10 points, with the winner of a round scoring 10, and their opponent usually scoring eight or nine, depending on how well they performed. While it’s theoretically possible for both fighters to score 10 in the same round, it’s very rare as they would have had to perform with the exact same effectiveness and impact.
We should also note there are some rules around what these fighters can’t do. They can’t do things like: really harmful stuff like strikes to the back of the head, eye gouging, hair pulling, etc.
How is it organized?
Just like how other professional sports have multiple leagues, so does MMA. For example with football there’s the NFL (which is the most popular), CFL, AFL, AAF and soon to be XFL. It’s basically the same thing with MMA. When people think of MMA most people automatically think of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). However, the UFC is not the only company that runs MMA fights, they’re just the biggest and the richest (like the NFL). There are several other companies like Invicta (which runs exclusively women’s fights… love it), Bellator, and One Championship that also host MMA leagues. That said, UFC is considered the ‘top’ league, so it’s basically every professional fighter’s dream to get signed by them (because there are no teams- players get signed directly with the leagues).
MMA fights are organized into weight classes, so you’ll hear a lot about fighters needing to “make weight” for a fight. Often, fighters will fight in a lower weight class than their average day-to-day weight. Why? Because they can manipulate their water weight just prior to the fight to lose a lot of weight quickly (like Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher). Then, as soon as the athlete weighs in just before the fight at their lower weight (each athlete has to weigh in the day before the fight to make sure they meet the rules), they can immediately rehydrate and fight the next day at their usual higher weight. This gives them a potential size advantage. As they say, the bigger the better.
Fights are typically three or five rounds, depending on the event or title. Rounds are typically five-minutes long with one-minute rest periods between rounds. We know it doesn’t sound like a lot, BUT, these fights are tiring AF.
The Best of the Best
The ‘best of the best’ is whoever is the current champion of their division (aka weight class) at any given time. The winner of a weight class can change any time there’s a title fight, which generally happens every few months. A title fight is a fight that determines who is considered ‘Champion’ of that division. For example, you’ve probably heard of someone being ‘heavyweight champion.’
Some of the best fighters of all time include: Anderson Silva, Fedor Emilianenko, Georges St. Pierre (who’s Canadian - shout out!), and some bad@$$ women that we mention below (keep reading). Some people would argue Jon Jones also deserves to be on this “best of the best list”, but he’s basically failed every drug test he’s done, so -- v debatable.
The women’s division of the UFC is only about six years old (check trivia below for why that is!). One of the most recognizable names in MMA is Ronda Rousey because she was the first woman signed in the UFC and consistently won her fights in spectacular fashion. Ronda was the first American woman to medal in Judo in the Olympics, so it’s not surprising that she dominated fights with her grappling. Rousey is pretty well done with fighting now (she’s now performing in the WWE), so there’s a new Queen in town. At the end of 2018, Amanda Nunes became the first female double champion. She owns the featherweight (118-126 lbs) and the bantamweight (115-118 lbs) title.
Don’t get us wrong - there is still tons of sexism in the fighting world. When asked what advice he would have for women trying to make it in the fighting industry, lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov responded with: “for females, I have very good advice, be fighters at home. And one more advice, all the time, finish your husband.” LIKE, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Georges St. Pierre (GSP) was once quoted saying that while he can watch a men’s fight and admire the technique, he does not watch female fights because he just feels bad for them. We don’t want your empathy, dude.
The next time you’re at a bar and the fights are on, throw one of these facts out and bask in the glory of your MMA wisdom...
The oldest UFC fighter to win a title is Randy Couture who was 45 years old when he won. There is a good chance this record will never be broken.
In 2011, when asked when women would fight in the promotion (main fight that the league is promoting), Dana White, owner of the UFC (who is a man, don’t be confused by the name) responded, “Never.” Ronda Rousey was then signed to the UFC in 2012 after Dana took notice of her skills and athletic accomplishments. Take that!
That’s #thegist of it!
Written by Guest Writer: Kaeli Sweigard
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