MMA has become one of the most watched sports in the world. While it still lags far behind such sports as soccer, NFL, MLB and auto-racing, it is becoming one of the fastest growing sports on Earth. Fans anticipate showcase fights and spend millions going to MMA events and watching them on pay-per-view. This should not come as a surprise. People have had a thirst for this type of entertainment for thousands of years.
The formation of the UFC was a turning point in MMA. The UFC worked tirelessly to promote the sport and cultivate a strong following. The UFC is also well versed at creating a lot of hype around their much-anticipated events. They are masters at promoting their fighters as well as their wide array of UFC merchandise.
For many MMA fighters, training is a full-time job. Exercise, diet and focusing on both offensive and defensive techniques are critical. It’s one thing for a fighter to be able to deliver a solid punch and another to be able to absorb one. While the majority may disagree with UFC president Dana White’s claim that MMA “is the safest sport in the world,” many will agree that the UFC has taken many steps towards making it safer than it previously was. While the UFC appears to be doing all it can to protect the safety of their fighters and the integrity of the sport, there should be no doubt that the risks of adverse long-term effects exist.
Here are 13 things you didn’t know about MMA fighting.
13 MMA Has Been Around For a Long Time
Long before we were shelling out big dollars to watch our favourite MMA fights on pay-per-view, the Greeks were filling arenas to watch Pankration which is the forefather to modern MMA. Pankration was a sporting event that combined boxing with wrestling. The only rules were “no biting” and “no eye gouging”. It was pretty much an anything goes free-for-all that sometimes ended with a dead competitor. It was like a version of human cock-fighting that evolved into a Greek Olympic event dating as far back as 648 BC.
Two-thousand years later, MMA is watched by millions of people around the world. Quite often, like in the Greek days, the best seats at the live event are largely occupied by rich celebrities and other well-heeled big wheels.
12 Travis Fulton's Record's
Travis Fulton earned his nickname “The Ironman” by having a long and busy career in MMA. He made his professional debut in 1996 as a nineteen-year-old and was defeated by submission at the hands of Dave Strasser. In March 2016, Fulton fought in his 315th career fight where he lost to Simon Kean by TKO in the second round. The 38-year-old has done a lot of winning during the time between those losses. He has amassed 252 career wins against 52 losses and 10 draws. He has also been disqualified once. He holds career records for most fights and most wins. He also has the distinction of ranking ninth overall in all-time losses.
11 Shannon Ritch's Losses
As of his most recent fight in March 2016, Shannon “The Cannon” Ritch has been in in the ring for 138 professional fights. At the age of 45, The Cannon has lost a bit of his boom. He has lost his last three straight fights. In fact, Ritch holds the record for most losses in a career with 79 to his 55 wins. He has been knocked out or TKO’d 25 times and lost to submissions on 54 occasions. He is a human punching bag and if there ever was a candidate for CTE, Ritch is it. It is uncertain whether or not he will see him get back in action to chase away a possible 80th loss.
10 Kenneth Allen's 25 Consecutive Losses
There comes a time in every athlete’s life when they must face up to the fact that the sport has finally passed them by. Kenneth Allen is an example of an athlete that doesn’t know when to call it quits. Kenneth has compiled an embarrassing 1-37 record, having last fought in 2015. Despite his horrible record, Allen still fights when given the opportunity. Give the guy credit for his tenacity. The only guy who might be more ashamed is Cory Simpson, the only fighter that Allen has beaten.
Since the days of “no biting” and “no eye gouging,” MMA has added a few more rules in an attempt to minimize serious injury. These added ruled include; No strikes to the back of the head, no groin strikes, no kicking a downed opponent in the head and no hair pulling.
As hard as it is to believe, statistics show that MMA competitors are less likely to sustain serious injury than in some of the other major sports such as hockey and football. They train a lot and average between one and three fights per year. The fighters are also closely monitored by doctors and they are trained very well in the art of defense.
Naturally, there are also statistics that suggest MMA competitors incur high incidents of injury. A separate study estimated that about 228.7 out of every 1,000 fighters sustain injury.
8 Super-Duper Heavyweights
Although he died of a heart-attack in 2015 at age 51, Emmanuel Yarbrough will live on in infamy as the heaviest MMA fighter to step foot in the octagon. He stood a towering 6’8” and weighed over 600 pounds. He was actually listed at 880 pounds at one time. It is well known that he was beaten by a much smaller Keith Hackney in his debut. In his second fight, Yarbrough beat Tatsuo Nakano by smothering the smaller fighter with his massive body. In his third and final career fight, Yarbrough took on 183 pound Daiju Takasi. Takasi avoided all confrontation with Yarbrough and was given a yellow card. Being forced to fight, the Japanese fighter managed to get an upper hand and pummeled Yarbrough until the giant tapped out.
7 Not Just for Men
MMA is a male-dominated sport that is predominantly watched by a male viewing audience. There has been a recent shift in the sport as high-profile and talented women enter the octagon. Back in 2011, Dana White stated that the UFC would never have a female fighter. A couple of years later, with the emergence and popularity of women’s MMA on the rise, Dana changed his mind. Ronda Rousey had a particularly fast-growing fan base and the UFC President knew he had to capitalize on the opportunity.
At UFC 157 on February 23rd, 2013, the first female UFC fight took place. Ronda Rousey defended the new UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship by defeating Liz Carmouche. Rousey has since lost her title and she is eager to win it back.
6 Very Lucrative
MMA offers no promise of unlimited riches but those who are successful stand to make a fair living to say the least. The higher level fighters definitely do make a lot more that the plumbers in the lower tiers. With the popularity of pay-per-view, increasing revenues and a growing global fan base, the UFC is also becoming more lucrative for the fighters.
Michael Bisping is the top career earner in the UFC with over $6 million, according to MMA-Manifesto.com. Anderson Silva is about $800,000 behind Bisping. The two fought on February 27th, 2015 in front of 16,734 people. Bisping won with a unanimous decision and added $450,000 to his career earnings.
5 Performance Enhancing Drugs
All sports have been subject to doping and MMA is no different. In 2002, Josh Barnett proved positive for performance enhancing drugs after defeating Randy Couture. He was suspended for six months and forced to give up his UFC heavyweight title. In 2015, the UFC suspended Anderson Silva, who had previously stated that such infractions should result in a lifetime ban, was suspended for one year for his PED use and given a $380,000 fine.
4 Large Audiences
The UFC has done a great job in marketing its product. Not only do their events draw millions of viewers through pay-per-view services, they also attract some pretty large audiences to their venues. UFC 193 was held at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. The stadium was filled with about 56,000 spectators and the event boasted the third most pay-per-view subscriptions for a UFC fight. The gate took in an estimated $6.8 million.
One of the most anticipated fights was Ronda Rousey’s match with Holly Holm. Holm was a big underdog but she managed to stun the MMA world with a kick to Rousey’s head that knocked out the defending champ.
3 Some Fights are Surprisingly Quick
Most fighters train hard for their matches. The fights can sometimes be grueling affairs that go the distance and are decided by the judges. There are also some pretty short fights. In 2008, Cale Grady knocked Ryan Chavarria out in twenty seconds. At WCMMA 14, two fighters by the names of Michael Garrett and Sam Heron went toe-to-toe for just over one second before Garret delivered an opening KO blow.
As far as title fights go, the shortest UFC title fight was contested between Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo at UFC 194. McGregor delivered a knockout punch that dropped Aldo just 13 seconds into the fight.
2 Holding Two Belts Simultaneously
The introduction of weight classes opened up the opportunity for fighters to carry titles in multiple weight classes. While a lot of fighters have lost and gained weight in order to fight in other classes, very few have found success. In fact, there are only two fighters to ever hold belts in two classes at the same time. The first was Randy Couture who held both light heavyweight and heavyweight titles. The other fighter to accomplish this feat was BJ Penn. Penn won the welterweight title in 2004. In 2008, he lost some weight and claimed the middleweight title as well.
The UFC and its fighters are far from the cold blooded and heartless animals that some people would have us believe. Despite showing no mercy in the octagon, UFC fighters rally behind a number of charities and causes and have been known to be very generous with their time and money. The UFC is a strong supporter of the US military and its veterans and they have donated millions to this cause. Many fighters also get deeply involved in other charities. Conor McGregor donated €50,000 to homeless charities, Ronda Rousey supports mental health charities while Brendan Shaub has shown his giving spirit by donating to Doctors without Borders and the SPCA. There are countless other MMA fighters who show a lot of good will as well.