With the emergence of UFC, ONE Championship and Angela Lee, there’s been a sudden increase in interest in the sport. Just like in E-sports, we’ve come to realise that we as Singaporeans are pretty good at these things.
You may not be privy to what’s going on or understand why there’s so much hype centred around it. A number of people in fact frown upon the sport and look at it as a violent waste of time. But take a read, and perhaps you’ll come to understand why it’s a growing phenomenon.
So here’re 6 things that you should know about Mixed Martial Arts before you start asking questions during a live event, because nobody likes to be disturbed during live events.
Asia has been home to an entire host of Martial Arts spanning millenniums. There’s Kung Fu, Judo, Tae Kwan Do, Muay Thai, Lethwei, Silat, Kali and more. The diversity is intense and it proves a perfect environment for Mixed Martial Arts to thrive, which is what MMA stands for.
MMA isn’t UFC. Ultimate Fighting Champion (UFC) is a competition very much like ONE Championship or Pride. So if you’re someone who likes the sport, you like MMA and not UFC. There is a difference.
As its name suggests, MMA is a mix of disciplines that an athlete incorporates. Common disciplines include quick strikes from Muay Thai, Grappling and submission manoeuvres from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and jabs straight out of Boxing.
Athletes are usually a master in at least one discipline who train further in a number of others to hone their craft and add to their arsenal. This results in explosive bouts and intense action, even if they just seem to be cuddling on the ground for periods of time.
You’ll see this often, and because you see it often you should know it’s important. The ground and pound is a product of Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Sambo. So obviously, in a situation such as this, being on top is where you want to be.
Staying on top gives you the offensive advantage, that’s not to say that the person on his back is limited to receiving a rain of blows. The ground game, although not visually exciting, is a very technical aspect of MMA, and is very similar to playing chess with a lot of muscle and pain.
Quite a number of fans disregard the importance of the technique that’s involved when going to ground. There are many basic techniques to this, and out of those techniques, thousands of variations. An athlete with no knowledge of this is an incomplete exponent.
KO – A knock out, probably the most common of all decisions. This happens when an athlete loses consciousness thanks to a strike from another.
Submission – The submission is awarded only when the athlete that is under the submission (getting his arm ripped out of his socket, or choked to oblivion) taps his opponent’s body, the mat or by verbally announcing it. Some athletes might refuse to tap, and eventually end up incapacitated, in this case, the referee will award a submission.
TKO – Technical Knockout, this is similar to a knockout, however this decision is usually made without an athlete losing consciousness. A technical knockout can be called by the referee, a fighter’s corner or by a doctor. Technical knockouts can happen when one is visibly delirious, such as not knowing where he is or when a doctor or his corner deems his injuries as threatening.
Decision – Also the last thing most fans would like to see. Decisions are made if a bout ends without any of the above happening. This decision is then made by a panel of judges sitting cage side. In ONE Championship, the judges appraise the bout not by each round but as an entirety, separating it from popular outfit UFC.
Disqualification – Finally, a match can end if any of the athletes are thought to have infringed the rules. Contrary to belief, there are a lot of rules in a bout. Here are some rules: groin strikes are a foul, so are head-butts, striking the back of an opponent’s head or spine, no fingers in any orifice and no biting (Luis Suarez would be disappointed) amongst others.
Similar to most Olympic bouts, MMA fighters are sorted into weight classes. There are a host of classes. Singapore’s own, Angela Lee is the Champion of the Atom Weight class.
Here’s an image that shows you the various weight classes and their weights. Easy, yeah?
ONE Championship’s classes differs from others in its respect that it bans fighters from “cutting” weight by dehydration. There are no weigh-ins so none of the drama that comes along with weigh-ins either.
Athletes from ONE Championship fight at their walk-around weight. That means that they aren’t allowed to shed their weight just before an official weigh-in. Fighters tend to “cut” their weight through dehydration before their official weight is taken, and then put it back on after. It’s both unhealthy and can prove to be dangerous.
The cage makes for a great sight for the fans. It makes it look like a reckless blood sport with non-stop violence promised. In fact, it’s one of the reasons most people have a bad perception of the sport, because it makes it look like prized animals pitted against their will.
That perception however, could not be any more further from the truth. “Cage fighting” is not what MMA is about. The Octagon, as it is properly called, is in fact there to protect the athletes from sustaining serious injuries.
Boxing rings are usually elevated and bordered with rope. The rope in this instance would be a detriment to the athletes. One could be thrown out of or fall when unconscious from a traditional ring and land amongst the fans or onto the hard floor.
Despite the punches, the chokes and the trash talk, these athletes understand the sacrifice and punishment it takes to make it as a professional in the sport. They may not necessarily like each other at times, but a lot of mutual respect is shared amongst fighters.
It’s still an entertainment sport after all, and certain events are billed with their own drama. So it may be a little hard for someone who doesn’t watch the sport to understand how one can hug or shake hands with another who’s just rained hell on him or her.
The sport is a heavy contact sport and it comes with its injuries, but it isn’t a blood sport or a cage fight where violence is promoted. These professionals put in a lot of work to be where they are. And it’s a fantastic sign to see our own Singaporeans competing in the Octagon.
So don’t be too quick to judge, try watching a few bouts and perhaps with a new found knowledge of the sport, you’ll find you appreciate it more.