Mixed Martial Arts, while having been around for a number of years, is still in its infancy relative to other major professional sports. There are several semi-professional and professional MMA outfits, with UFC being considered the major league. However, with the meteoric rise in popularity in MMA combat we have seen the rise of other promotions including Elite XC, Bellator, Bodog Fights, M-1 Global and countless others. UFC and its MMA counterpart organizations have gained a following that rivals that of MLB or the NFL.
MMA has earned a great deal of scrutiny and criticism due to its brutal nature. One could argue that MMA has formed a counter-culture of sorts compared to traditional martial arts, wrestling, boxing and other "classical" combat art forms. For many, MMA is still a very new and misunderstood concept. You may hear boxing purists criticize MMA, likening it to bar room brawling. Traditional martial artists might say that MMA lacks the discipline one may find when spectating Taekwondo.
The most pertinent point we're making is that with the expansion of the sport of MMA itself and the growing fan base, that skeptics and critics are also growing at a massive rate. People who fail to research the diverse, artistic nature of MMA or who just don't follow the sport as a whole, seem to have come up with several misplaced notions about the sport.
Bloggers, social media practitioners, and armchair spectators alike, all fall into the category of the misconceived masses. In this piece, we will attempt to deconstruct some of these misconceptions and hopefully promote more of a healthy interest in MMA. Of course, we'd also like to poke a little bit of fun at those who have asinine preconceived notions about things they may or may not understand, naturally. Sit back and enjoy.
14 MMA is Undisciplined
This idea is popular among the boxing purist community, but couldn't be further from the truth. MMA requires a heavy degree of both mental and physical discipline.
Physical discipline is a major part of MMA because these athletes train day and night. MMA fighters must be in great shape because bouts can be excruciating and even if you're the superior fighter, if you have no gas left in the tank, you can become very vulnerable to attacks from an opponent who simply is not as tired out there.
Mental discipline is as much of a part of the whole equation as physical discipline. There are several different fighting styles that each fighter must be an expert in.
Fighters must study their opponents rigorously to understand their style, strengths, and weaknesses.
When it comes to mental and physical discipline, MMA may be one of the most intensive sports on the planet.
13 MMA is a Blood Sport
Yes, the object of a MMA bout is to defeat your opponent using physical force be it in the form of strikes or a submission. No, the goal is not to bludgeon your opponent into a coma. In fact, MMA fights are heavily regulated by state athletics commissions and numerous rules are in place to protect the safety of the fighters.
There is actually a set of rules adopted by all state athletics commissions known as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. Gone are the days of early 90s UFC and PRIDE no-holds barred melees.
Fighters are tested for prohibited substances. Fights are stopped immediately when a combatant is deemed unfit to compete. There are several barred holds and maneuvers, illegal acts that would intentionally incapacitate a fighter if executed. Fighters must pass medical physical tests before being allowed to compete. Protective gear is required to be worn by fighters.
All of these rules are made and enforced with fighter safety in mind.
12 "Why don't they just stand up?"
The intricate styles of ground combat are often misunderstood by spectators. Bystanders are quick to judge ground grappling as "boring". They may also wonder "why don't they just stand up (and bang)"
The fact is that wrestling, grappling, jiu jitsu, and other forms of mat maneuvering are very scientific. The slightest mishap opens the door for your opponent to gain a dominant position and potentially win the fight.
Upon a glance the technical ground wrestling may seem like a bore, but if you look closely you'll understand that vying for a dominant position requires a lot of skill, strength, and conditioning.
Some fighters are suited for ground wrestling and would prefer the fight stay on the mat. Strict stand-up fighters who find themselves getting worked on the ground would love to stand up, but it's not that simple.
11 It's Like Professional Wrestling
Believe it or not, some outsiders liken MMA to professional wrestling. Some conspiracy theorists would have you believe that some, even all, MMA fight outcomes are predetermined. Surely, you've heard someone state that a fight was fixed or that a fighter took a fall for a pay day.
One can speculate as to how these ideas came to be about, but any logical person with half an insight into the world of MMA would know these claims are unfounded.
MMA fighting is as real as it gets. It's a dog eat dog world and you have to win to be successful. If you pay attention to MMA history you will see that if you don't win, your career doesn't last long.
10 MMA Fighters Are Dumb Brutes
As is the stigma with most athletes, MMA fighters are often pegged as the dumb jock type. Let's be clear, there are idiots and meat heads in every sport, every profession, and every walk of life. However, there are a lot of intelligent fighters in MMA.
Rich Franklin has a bachelor's in mathematics and a master's in education. Benson Henderson has degrees in both sociology and criminology. Randy Couture was a Sergeant in the Navy's 101st Airborne. I think you catch my drift.
Many MMA fighters have achieved academic excellence and service awards. Besides, an angry brute simply cannot get by on sheer athleticism. This coincides with the discipline misconception. A meathead jock isn't going to last long in an MMA camp. A fighter must possess a certain level of tact and the ability to learn as MMA isn't a simple art form.
9 It's A Man's Sport
Of course outsiders believe the realm of MMA is exclusive to men. Little do they know, women's MMA has come a very long way and is often one of the more entertaining aspects of a fight card.
Just ask Ronda Rousey, who is considered one of the best fighters in the world, and not just for a girl. She trains with men and disposes of them pretty handily. The former UFC Woman's Bantamweight Champion was actually believed to have a monopolized dominance over woman's MMA until reigning champion Holly Holm proved that theory wrong.
Watch fighters like Meisha Tate and Liz Caramouche. Couple them in with Rousey and Holm and you'll quickly see that it's not just a game for the boys anymore.
8 "Why would they kick them in the legs?"
Believe it or not, we've had first hand experience with this question. Some MMA outsiders have a misconception that punches and kicks to the face and body are the only viable way of striking.
I can share a little bit of empathy, because in my early days of MMA fandom, I too questioned the effectiveness of kicks to the leg. Fighters seem to shake them off, as if they didn't happen in many cases. The truth is, fighters' legs are so well conditioned that the immediate effect of a snap kick to the leg isn't felt. Many of these leg kicks are the equivalent of a hand jab to the face. They're designed to set up future strikes and change the pace of the fight.
Let it be known, the effects of leg kicks can change a fight drastically. After being kicked in the leg a few times, the large muscles of the leg begin to swell and even cramp. A strong enough series of leg kicks, or even one emphatic kick can end a fight. When a fighter is kicked in the legs it has serious effects on their mobility. Last time we checked, mobility is important in an MMA fight.
Ask Rampage Jackson. The legendary striker was favored to defeat relative newcomer Forest Griffin at UFC 86. Forest had an excellent game plan of slowly but surely attacking Rampage's legs with kicks. By the time the final round came around, Rampage couldn't move competently enough to pursue Forrest on his feet. Rampage, considered one of the best Light Heayweights in the world at the time, lost via unanimous decision.
Did we mention the kicks Griffin landed in this fight were largely responsible for him winning the Light Heavyweight Championship?
7 The Judging
Even some of the more devout MMA fans seem to struggle with this misconception. The judging of MMA fights often causes a lot of controversy. Many fans believe that a fighter has won a fight that has gone to a decision, only to find out that isn't the case.
"He hit him way more times! How did he win?" isn't an uncommon sentiment.
The judging of MMA fights is very intricate and no one outside of fight officials and the judges themselves have a full grasp on exactly how it is done.
Being an MMA judge is a daunting task, and thanks to the microscope of social media, the judges fall under more scrutiny than they did in the early days.
I'm not an MMA judge and will never claim to be. There's the factor of strikes landed versus significant strikes landed. One fighter may land more strikes than his opponent, but if his opponent lands more power punches and from a dominant position, he will earn more points. If one fighter holds a dominant position, such as a full mount, he will earn more points because he controlled the fight.
We could go all day about the intricacies of MMA judging, but it's best to leave it to the professionals.
7. "The referee stopped it too early, he wasn't knocked out"
It's common in an MMA fight to see a fighter mounted by his opponent, getting his face pummeled which gives way to the referee stopping the fight. This is either because the fighter is knocked out or deemed unable to intelligently defend himself.
Sometimes a fight is called before a knockout is actually attained. There is, of course, a good reason for this. As we discussed earlier, the referee's job is not to only officiate the fight but to the protect the safety of the fighters. If it is clear that a fighter is in a position so dominant that he has a clear opportunity to pound his opponent into oblivion, a referee may stop the fight before the amount of punches being landed could lead to serious injury.
This is a very "situational" call for officials and not an easy one to make. Many fighters will argue the decision after they have been declared the loser, but their heat of the moment angst should later be eased by video evidence.
6 They're All Millionaires
This is a HUGE misconception. Yes, many of the largely successful UFC fighters with big endorsements are in fact millionaires. But, not every fighter to step into a ring, cage, or octagon is well off.
Professional MMA fighter Jacob Volkmann once took exception to this idea. He claims to have seen many mediocre years, ranging from $45,000 to $50,000 before taxes while still having a wife and three children to support, keeping him just above the poverty line. His gripes also came before the Reebok deal, which has taken even more money out of the pockets of most fighters.
While most fighters won't disclose any information about their payment, it is not safe to assume that they're all living lavish lives poolside in a mansion. Remember, these guys also have to pay dues for training. Their profession itself is expensive considering upkeep on their bodies and travel considerations. These guys require great health insurance, with huge deductibles, as one can imagine.
5 The Term UFC Includes All MMA
"He trains to do UFC fighting" the girl said to her friend as her boyfriend prepared for an upcoming amateur MMA exhibition in a high school gymnasium.
UFC is not an all encompassing term for all MMA related activity as many believe. UFC is simply Ultimate Fighting Championship, the biggest MMA promotion in the world.
This is similar to people who refer to adhesive bandages as Band-Aids or facial tissues as Kleenex. It's the product/brand name association that is common for many different entities.
However, those misconceptions about personal hygiene products probably don't annoy consumers as much as a Strike Force fan whose evening viewing choice is referred to as "UFC".
While most who are serious about making a career of MMA want to be in UFC someday, at their humble beginnings they aren't training to be a UFC fighter. They are training to become a well versed mixed martial artist. There is a difference here.
4 There Are No Pin Falls?
I know this may seem ridiculous, that's because it is. That's why it's on this list. Since Greco-Roman is an art form used by many MMA fighters, one may wonder why there are no pin falls in MMA. I mean, why not? Knockouts and submissions count, right? I digress.
I've asked this question before myself, I sheepishly admit.
I'm not sure why pin fall victories aren't included in MMA rules, but I'm sure there is a good reason. The best reason I can think of, lies inherently in the names of the disciplines. Although mat wrestling may be the background for many fighters, MMA and wrestling are still separate entities. The jiu jitsu aspect of MMA probably wouldn't allow for a great number of pin fall victories anyway. A German Suplex into a bridge would probably backfire into a rear naked choke.
Look, I know this one seems ridiculous, but it is a misconception floating around out there.
3 It's Homoerotic
This may seem like a common sense thing, but it's not. MMA haters often bust out this line. They see the fighters grappling on the ground in close quarters and immediately jump to gay jokes and romantic intimacy euphemisms. This is more of a juvenile insult than a misconception, but it breeds and fuels a silly notion.
Grow up guys. Similar forms of combat are taught in the military. I doubt you'd say any of these things during a boot camp sparring session. I also highly doubt you'd walk into an MMA camp spatting these sentiments.
2 There Are Weight Classes?
Here's another not-so-surprising misconception that may still yet surprise some people. Yes, there was once a time where weight classes didn't exist or they were very broad. This comes from the "dark ages" of MMA where many of the negative associations with the sport were generated. There actually used to be what were considered David versus Goliath fights where a small competitor would face a much larger one. Often, the larger fighter was grossly under-qualified to fight in MMA, giving the advantage to the smaller fighter. This also promoted the idea that MMA was a sideshow likened to pro-wrestling.
Regardless, weight classes exist and are very stringent. This purpose is to create competitive fights in every weight class and also a measure taken to protect fighters.Let's face it, if Clay Guide got into the Octagon with Brock Lesnar, Clay may need to be treated for serious internal injuries afterward.
Here's for the purely educational portion of this article. These are the current UFC weight classes which bare as a standard and a measure for other fighting promotions.
Flyweight up to 125 lbsBantamweight over 125 to 135 lbsFeatherweight over 135 to 145 lbsLightweight over 145 to 155 lbsWelterweight over 155 to 170 lbsMiddleweight over 170 to 185 lbsLight Heavyweight over 185 to 205 lbsHeavyweight over 205 to 265 lbs
1 Professional MMA fighters Are Normal Human Beings?
This is not to say that MMA fighters are weird, emotionless, or alien for that matter. No, they're just like you and I. They have families, hobbies, interests, passions, concerns, and all of the other emotional components that exist within human nature.
What makes these guys different from ordinary human beings is that they are the hardest training athletes on the planet. They train year round, having only a few fights per year. They must be at the very top of their game at all times as the sport of MMA evolves.
Watch a training session video from an MMA training camp and you will see that these guys have to have a special kind of devotion to their craft, not found in even the most passionate working adults. It takes a special mentality to want to fight for a living. It takes a special dedication to not only learn the various forms of martial arts incorporated within MMA but to build a body and a skill set capable of delivering these amazing skills.
These aren't just chumps off the street. These are professional fighters who have this sport in their blood. You have to want it, eat it, breathe it, sleep it, and live it. These fighters are super human.