Mixed Martial Arts is one of, it not the fastest growing sport in the world.  Its popularity is especially strong in the US and the UK with new MMA gyms opening on a weekly basis and established businesses introducing classes to satisfy the demand.  However, there are still many that hold serious concerns over MMA and see the sport as being overly brutal.   In contrast advocates of MMA claim that it is no worse than boxing and that it is a great way to keep fit.  For those with little or no experience of the sport, it is difficult to know exactly where the truth lies.  Having recently become involved in the sport due to the influence of some friends, I offer my personal view on MMA, addressing the rules, health benefits and MMA gear that beginners should invest in.

MMA Rules

Whilst there are various promotion companies in MMA, the largest in the world is the American based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  Indeed the brand is so well known that many outside of MMA will often incorrectly refer to the sport as UFC.  The set of rules that have been devised by UFC are now pretty much standard across MMA and with this in mind I will focus on them.

MMA bouts take place in an eight sided cage or enclosure that is officially named ‘The Octagon’.  Usually fights are scheduled for 3 rounds lasting 5 minutes each, with 1 minute rest in between.  Where a championship belt is on the line the bout is increased to 5 rounds.  To ensure fights are fair in terms of each fighter’s physical attributes the sport is split into different weights classes.

  • Submission – A fighter taps out or submits verbally
  • Knockout – A Fighter is knocked unconscious by a legal strike
  • Technical knockout – The referee deems the fighter is not fit to defend themselves, the doctor decides it is unsafe for a fighter to continue or a fighter’s corner signals defeat on their fighter’s behalf
  • Judge’s decision – Where a fight is not settled in the scheduled rounds the match will be decided by judge’s scorecards
  • Technical decision – Where a fight is stopped due to injury and the injured fighter is in front according to the scorecards
  • Disqualification – Where an illegal move causes sufficient injury to prevent the wronged fighter to continue
  • Forfeit – When a fighter refuses to begin the fight or retires by means other than tapping out or because of injury
  • Technical draw – Where an injury resulting from an intentional foul means a fighter that is behind or even on the scorecards is unable to continue with the fight
  • No contest – Where an accidental injury prevents a fighter from continuing and an insufficient number of rounds have been completed to allow decision via the scorecards

Personal Wellbeing

On a personal level my initial interest in MMA was based purely on wanting to stay fit due to the fact that at 32 years of age I am finding it a bit more difficult to keep the weight off.  I have a few friends that have always been into various fighting sports, including boxing and kickboxing, and thought that it would be a good idea to start training with them.  Once I spoke to them and found out they were now involved in MMA I was apprehensive and thus put off going training for a few weeks.  I have never had a particularly muscular physique, nor am I aggressive; so was worried about how I would be received at the gym.  However, my friend Shane, who I have known since I was about 5, convinced me that everyone at his gym was very friendly and that I had to go along.  So I did.

When I arrived for my first session I have to admit that I was somewhat intimidated by the rest of the people there, most of whom were pretty ripped.  However, some gentle ribbing aside, I was warmly welcomed and by the end of the class I felt at home.  The great camaraderie was something that really struck and reminded me very much of the togetherness I am used to from playing in a soccer team.  Even though you might be pitted against someone during a training bout; 10 minutes later they will be happily showing you where you went wrong with a grapple, or advising on the benefits of being constantly on the move.

I have only been training for about 3 months, but already I have seen real improvements in my health.  As you would expect my muscles have started to become more defined and I have burnt off some fat.  In addition I have also found that my stamina is greatly improved and I feel a lot stronger when playing soccer at the weekends.

Whilst my friends are looking forwards to their first proper MMA matches, I never intend to take the sport any further than training.  However, I am really enjoying the whole MMA scene at the moment and certainly feel better in not only body, but also in mind.  As strange as it may sound, I actually feel more at peace when I have finished training and am sleeping much better than I have in years.  I suppose that the exertion helps to release stress and as a result I often sleep right through the night, whereas in the past I would always wake up a few times.

MMA Gear For Beginners

Of course MMA is still a full contact sport and as such it is essential to protect yourself from injuries that could occur by getting the right MMA gear.  That said you don’t want to immediately rush out and spend a fortune on clothing and equipment, only to realize that the sport isn’t really to your tastes.  Much of the equipment you will need to train will be supplied by the gym, such as gloves, arm and shin guards and strike pads.  However, there are still some MMA gear items that you should look to pickup before you undertake a training bout.

The first and perhaps most important item is a gum shield, which can be bought for only a few dollars at most sports outlets and which will protect your teeth.  Whilst face blows aren’t allowed in the gym that I attend, unless agreed upon by both fighters, the odd stray fist or forearm will make contact with your face at some point.  If you find that you really like MMA then you can consider paying for a gum shield to be molded at a later date.

The second piece of equipment that you should invest in is a box or cup to protect your unmentionables – especially male participants.  Groin strikes are no longer allowed in MMA, but again there is the chance that a strike could go off target or be deflected; leaving you in some serious pain.

The final piece of equipment you need when starting out is a suitable pair of shorts that are loose and provide a good movement range; tight fitting shorts are going to restrict your ability to train properly.  Specialist MMA shorts are designed with strength and maneuverability in mind and you will eventually need to purchase some.  However, for the first few training sessions when you will only be learning the basics and any old pair should do as long as they aren’t too tight.

Give MMA A Chance

My advice to anyone that is toying with the idea of getting involved in MMA is to give it a try.  It was a real eye-opener for me and I have now become immersed in the sport to the point where I regularly watch it on TV.  I am slowly building up my own MMA gear collection and adding bits and pieces each month as I become more serious.  I have even started eating healthier with the aim of keeping the fat off and adding more muscle!  Overall taking up MMA has had a real positive effect on my life and I have made some great new friends.  So do give MMA a chance before dismissing it completely as it has come a long way since it began to come to prominence about two decades ago.