MMA- The Past, Present and New Future
Physical violence is often frowned upon. Nothing good ever comes out of wars and physical altercations. In fact, what separates humans from animals is our ability to reason and solve problems mentally instead of physical fights. But throughout centuries of living on this planet various forms of martial arts have been developed for self-defence and other aspects. These martial arts have become traditions in various countries. People do not use it as an act of violence but focuses on the ‘art’ part of martial arts. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai from Thailand, Judo from Japan and so many other forms of martial arts is the pride of a country and is celebrated.
Most of these forms of martial arts are even present in the Olympics and has produced some of the greatest stars in the world. Now imagine all these forms of martial arts brought together to decide who is the greatest fighter in the world. That is essentially what mixed martial arts or MMA is. Individuals train in various different forms of martial arts and battle it out to decide who is the best at what they do.
The concept of MMA was first introduced in ancient Greece in the Olympics but later never found a home in the big stage. In the 1900’s wrestling became a popular sport amongst individuals. But at times the athletes used to throw actual punches and kicks that brought a huge audience to the sport. Promoters used this opportunity to introduced more action but without actual fighting which led to the emergence of Pro Wrestling. Companies like World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Non-Stop Impact which are still some of the biggest Pro Wrestling entertainers do this day.
The migration of Japanese people during World War 1 lead to the introduction of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil. Some of the locals who learned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the Gracie family who set up the Gracie institute in 1925. They introduced ‘The Gracie Challenge’ which allowed any individual to get a chance to compete with a Gracie and beat them. There were no rules and the only way to win was through knockout or submission. The event was a huge success and started being televised in Brazil. The competition was soon known as Vale Tudo and people from around the world competed. But after a few gruesome injuries the sport was not televised anymore.
The second-generation Gracie family decided to shift to the United States of America and set up their academy in California. Even though in America the Gracie challenge was present, there wasn’t enough participation. This was when Ronon Gracie met with a few Hollywood producers and pitched the idea of having a competition where individuals from different martial arts backgrounds would compete to become the Ultimate Fighter. The even would be a pay-per-view event and had the potential to become a regular competition. The term Vale Tudo was too foreign for locals to understand so they decided to call the competition ‘The Ultimate Fighting Championship’ also known as the UFC.
Just like that the first UFC event was held and Joyce Gracie was chosen as the representative for the Gracie academy due to his small build and weak physique. Yet the man from Brazil won the tournament and wrote history forever. The spectacle of various combat sports finally meeting together was an overnight success. But again, due to the graphic violence, the sport was banned in numerous states. The company looked for any place to host their competition without restrictions. This led to the company almost going bankrupt.
At the same time their competition was rising in Japan where restrictions did not exist. The emergence of Shootfighting changed the MMA scene. The UFC realized that they need to make changes and started banning acts like biting and eye gouging but this wasn’t enough. In the year 1996, Senator John McCain decided to put an end to the UFC and launched a campaign against it, deeming it ‘Human Cockfighting.’ The UFC was banned in numerous sates but started cooperating with State Athletic Commissions. On September 30th 2000 the UFC held secured the first US sanctioned, mixed-martial arts event. The UFC later adopted the ‘Unified Rules’ which is still used to this day.
The UFC has grown to become one of the biggest MMA promotions in the world. Stars like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey have become house hold names. But even with so many restrictions the organization still faces a lot of problems. The main problem here being the fact that each state has a different set of rules and regulations. Unlike other major league sports, there is no nation-wide set of rules. This causes a huge number of problems not only to the fighters but even the referees and judges. Judging too has often been a huge problem.
As MMA includes such a huge variety of martial arts, it becomes very difficult for 3 judges to score a fighter based on 3 or 5 rounds. MMA uses boxing rules and regulation but it simply isn’t the same sport as that. In April of 2000 the California State Athletic Commission adopted the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. This includes how the judges are supposed to judge the round, what an athlete can and cannot do in the octagon, what attire they are supposed to where and the different weight classes that are present.
Even though there are certain rules and regulations they do not often comply with each other. For example, the Nevada State Athletic Commission has adopted the ‘new Unified Rules’ which prevents a fighter from kneeing a downed opponent in the head. But Nevada is only one of the few states to adopt this rule. So, when UFC 235 took place in Las Vegas, Jon Jones had a point deducted for doing this exact act and he simply forgot that he was in a place with the new Unified Rules.
MMA is a sport that is evolving everyday there is no point in trying to adopt the features of other major league sports because MMA is not that simple. There must first be nationwide athletic commission that looks over every aspect of MMA. So, there are specific rules and regulation everywhere in the U.S.A. The reason U.S.A. needs a national athletic commission is because it houses some of the biggest MMA promotions. Also, its competitors overseas do not have a lot of strict regulations which is a serious problem.
In India, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation recognizes MMA India- National Sports Federation as the governing body of MMA in India. This shows that unlike its competitors. India is already ahead of the curb with a Nationwide governing body. The IMMAF has their own rule book for amateurs which is used worldwide. MMA is sport that celebrates the different forms of combat sports. We need to focus on the ‘art ‘of Mixed Martial Arts and appreciate the beauty of the sport.
Author: Ben Jose Jose,
IFIM Law School. 1st year