What is MMA?

by | Jul 2, 2021


MMA is an abbreviation for Mixed Martial Arts . A term that entered mainstream vernacular in 1993 courtesy of media critic, Howard Rosenberg. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Rosenberg reviewed the first tournament of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC 1). Conceiving the phrase which has become commonplace when describing multiple combat disciplines doing battle. 

Ancient and Mixed Beginnings 

Random online blogs make mention of ancient competition bouts of Greeks and Romans engaging in mixed combat of striking and grappling. True or not? I don’t know. But in much more recent times, the seventies and eighties, there have been numerous contests between fighters of different disciplines. 

A standout favourite in 1988 contested two highly credentialed fighters. Rick Roufus, an American kickboxer, and Changpuek Kiatsongrit, Muay Thai fighter. What a war. Muay Thai took the hard won spoils in a brutal showdown. Kiatsongrit displaying impressive resilience, somehow recovered from a broken jaw to inflict decisive damage. Destroying the kickboxer’s thighs with repeated low roundhouse kicks. Twelve years earlier, a significantly less dramatic encounter pitted the “greatest”, Muhammad against Antonio Inoki. Boxer versus wrestler. The dubious rules for this oddly compelling but ultimately dull contest, allowed Inoki to lie down on the canvas (thereby avoiding Ali’s punches). From the ground the wrestler repeatedly kicked up at the standing boxer’s legs. Ruled a draw and heavily criticised, the fight still played its part in MMA beginnings.

The UFC 

This mixing of the martial arts under the UFC umbrella has enabled the age old question to be answered. Which fighting discipline reigns supreme? Royce Gracie and his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills answered that question in UFC 1. Of course, on another day there may well have been another result. But in the first tournament, Gracie and the “mystical” (mainstream unknown at the time) Jiu Jitsu delivered. 

MMA Becomes Its Own Beast 

Sometime after UFC 1, the respective disciplines were kept separate in training. For example, fighters may have trained boxing one day and grappling the next. So from a training perspective, the disciplines were still separated but when it came to MMA fight time the disciplines were mixed. But nothing stands still — including the fight game. And somewhere along the evolutionary fight path, MMA became its own beast. With trainers identifying the need for training to parallel competition. And when that became the norm, MMA was truly born. 

MMA — It’s Own Discipline 

MMA is now its own discipline. It’s a continually evolving blend of strikes (punches, elbows, knees and kicks), takedowns and ground fighting manoeuvres. Just as you can train purely boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, Karate and so on. You can cross train the disciplines and do MMA. No longer is the cage a place where a pure boxer takes on a Tae Kwon Do exponent. The majority of cage fighters are now well-prepared combat all rounders with a huge collection of mixed skills. Sure, fighters may do extra Jiu Jitsu training to improve her/his ground game or see the need to bring her/his boxing up to speed. But the days of purely training two or three disciplines such as Boxing, Judo and Wrestling and then only bringing them together for fight night are truly gone. 

The Future 

MMA is here to stay. From humble beginnings, the UFC is now the dominant platform for taking MMA to a global audience. It continues to attract the most talented fighters and is super popular with the upcoming generation. Amalgamation is its strength. MMA can pick and choose and take the best moves and fighters from any of the martial arts. According to UFC President, Dana White, “… you take a little something from everything. You take the good things from every different discipline, use what works and throw the rest away.” 


An MMA fighter is a complete fighter. And there’s no limit as to how “complete” a fighter can become. Fighters will continue to push forward and progress. Up-skilling and taking their fitness, strength and flexibility to new levels. 

Yours in MMA,