The rules are: There ain’t no rules…right?
Wrong. Modern MMA has rules, and the bouts are regulated by the athletic commission in the state where the event is taking place. These are the same athletic commissions that regulate other combat sports like boxing and kickboxing. The sport has truly come a long way since the early 90s, when the rules really were nonexistent or exceedingly spare. The athletic commissions have all agreed to the following basic rules in an MMA contest:
Butting with the head.
Eye gouging of any kind.
Striking to the spine.
Kicking or kneeing the head of a grounded opponent.
Stomping a grounded opponent.
Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his head or neck.
As can be seen from the above rule set, modern MMA has many rules designed to prevent serious injury to the contestants. A far cry from the early days of ‘No Holds Barred’ combat!
Big Guy vs Little Guy can’t be fair!
You’re right, it’s not fair and for the past decade it has not been allowed by the various athletic commissions. Today’s mixed martial arts requires each bout to occur in a defined weight class:
Flyweight: up to 125 lbs.
Bantamweight: over 125 to 135 lbs.
Featherweight: over 135 to 145 lbs.
Lightweight: over 145 to 155 lbs.
Welterweight: over 155 to 170 lbs.
Middleweight: over 170 to 185 lbs.
Light Heavyweight: over 185 to 205 lbs.
Heavyweight: over 205 to 265 lbs.
Gone are the freak shows between an enormous Sumo Wrestler and a tiny Karate Black Belt. Today’s mixed martial artists are athletes who train day in and day out in order to triumph over their similarly-sized opponent.
Holy crap, this must be dangerous right?
Today’s MMA is as safe as boxing, and many believe that it’s even safer since there are no standing eight counts or three-knockdown rules which contribute to the latent brain injuries seen in older boxers. A typical boxing match sees both fighters absorbing a couple hundred punches to the head, whereas a typical MMA match might see both fighters absorbing only 30-50 strikes to the head with most of them glancing or blocked. Furthermore, an MMA bout may end from a joint submission or choke; While there is the risk of a broken limb or torn joint, these types of injuries are fairly rare and recoverable. The brain injuries and ‘punch drunk’ symptoms exhibited by boxers like Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Frazier, and Muhammad Ali are not recoverable.
Aren’t these guys just rough bar brawlers?
Not anymore. Many top-level mixed martial artists are actually college graduates and former Olympians. Some, like Randy Couture, are actually both. Others, like Lyoto Machida and Georges St Pierre, are lifelong martial artists. Chuck Liddell, the big scary KO artist with the mohawk, has a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Rashad Evans, the former (as of this writing) light heavyweight champion of the UFC, graduated with a degree in psychology. The glory days of Tank Abbott and John Matua are gone. To illustrate the point, Tank Abbott has gone 2-8 in his last 10 fights. And John Matua…wait, did he ever have any glory days?
You can see that today’s MMA is not your grandmother’s Ultimate Fighting. Comparing the two would be like comparing the boxing of the 1910s to the boxing of the 1980s. Completely different rules and completely different competitors. So go out and watch some good MMA; check out StrikeForce on Showtime, Bellator on MTV2, and the UFC on SpikeTV. You won’t be disappointed.
Source for rules and weight-classes:
Source for Tank Abbott’s record: