Many of you might have heard of MMA, or at least of the UFC, and are wondering what’s it all about. Even the complete name of Mixed Martial Arts can only give one a vague idea about the specific of this sport, and that’s how it mixes different martial arts and fighting styles. However, there is a lot to talk about when it comes to this combat sport, from its history and development to the arts and sports involved and international acknowledgement.
While the idea of using different styles in combat sports is far from new, MMA only began being an official combat sport in the late ‘90s, and has gained since then thousands of adepts and spectators, proving that there is always room for new ideas even in sports.
At the beginning of the century’s second decade, the “Gracie challenges” (a sort of “fight club” initiated by the Gracie family) helped shape much of what we nowadays as MMA. The fights they organized were meant to demonstrate that the Brazilian jiu-jitsu was the most efficient combat style out of all of them. It’s kind of ironic, if you think about how this ended up in connecting and combining martial arts and combat sports in general.
Nowadays, the styles are plenty and fighters have a large freedom in choosing the moves and strikes they employ. From the above mentioned Brazilian jiu-jitsu, to Muay Thai, Judo, submission wrestling, western boxing, grappling, taekwondo, karate, and many more. As this type of competition grew in popularity, national sports authorities and federations began shaping the rules and regulations in order to give them a more sports-like allure. This would not only make the competitions easier more accessible to the public, but would also better protect the fighters from suffering major injuries as they did when the fights were completely free of limitations.
However, it seems that injuries still occur at a higher rate than in other combat sports, which is why equipment safety measures have been taken and professional fighters are obliged to wear certain protective items. Head guards and mouthguards are meant to keep the head, mandible and teeth safe during matches, and while the headguards are subject of different opinions regarding their actual effectiveness, the mouthguard is mandatory in official competitions.
Gloves are also an important gear item for MMA fighters, and their design varies greatly from boxing or kickboxing gloves. Because of the large range of movements and strikes allowed in MMA fights, fingers are to be free. So in order to protect the hands and knuckles and still leave the fingers free, the MMA glove was designed to have a thick layer over the knuckles and cover only about an inch of the fingers.
MMA Shin guards are made to cover up and protect the part of the leg beneath the knee. This part of the body is subjected to great stress during a fight, and this often results in hairline fractures, bone bruises and so on. Shin guards are usually covering up the front part of the leg, being strapped to it, but you can also find boot-like guards, that come on the foot like a sleeve.
Aside from these basic gear components, MMA fighters use different clothing to enhance motion and keep the dry during the fights.