MMA’s Evolution as a Modern Sport
When UFC first introduced MMA fights into the mainstream audience, MMA was branded as a very violent game with very few rules. This drew the attention of some lawmakers who lobbied to have MMA events banned because of the violent nature of the game. UFC responded by adopting a number of rules to better protect the fighters and ensure fair play. Today, MMA is now recognized as an official sport and has grown in influence and popularity across the globe.
Although it was the UFC that first popularized MMA fights, it was actually preceded by Shooto in Japan and Vale Tudo in Brazil. These inspired the creation of the UFC and Pride which skyrocketed the MMA sport popularity around the world. With the growing number of MMA promoters, a neutral sanctioning body was needed to develop and enforce a standard set of rules and regulations. In this regard, the International Sport Combat Federation (ISCF) was established and is now the largest MMA sanctioning body in the world with headquarters in California, USA. The ISCF helps ensure that MMA fights adhere to fair rules. The ISCF Rules and Regulations adapt to the requirements of a jurisdiction’s athletic commission. It is not a promotional company but provides a neutral support for all MMA promoters all over the world. It helps promoters of MMA fights to gain worldwide exposure and credibility. ISCF oversees events from the official weigh-in up to the end of the fight. All fights and fighters are recorded in the ISCF database as to their proper weightclass and ranking system based on ISCF standards. The contact information of fighters is also stored to help promoters contact them for future events.
Perhaps the greatest validation of MMA as a sport is its inclusion in the Olympics. Currently, contact sports such as wrestling, judo, and boxing are already Olympic events so MMA enthusiasts hope to have MMA included as well. While no formal move is underway, it has been argued that MMA would find difficulty in entering the Olympics. Perhaps the biggest difficulty is the elimination process. Participants in other sports usually compete a number of times a day for a couple of days. If this was translated in MMA, this would result in fighters that are seriously injured after a series of fights while going up the rank. Clearly, serious thought must be made in modifying MMA rules to make it suitable for the Olympics.
UFC president Dana White expressed that he is more concerned in promoting MMA to more countries in the future. Unlike the Olympics which is only staged every four years, the envisioned international version of “The Ultimate Fighter” can be done every year. White believed that UFC and MMA will continue to evolve as more countries participate in these events. New weightclasses to cater for a larger number of fighters will have to be developed. It is hoped that bigger and better fights can be made as more varied talents are discovered around the world.
The MMA fighting style has also been recognized as an effective training program in the United States Army. The US Army Field Manual (FM 3-25.150) was released in 2002 which was written by Matt Larsen who is the director of the Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) at Fort Benning, Georgia. This program taught soldiers hand-to-hand close combat techniques. A number of the concepts introduced in this program involve components of the Brazilian jiujitsu developed by the Gracie family. It focused on techniques in ground-fighting, throws, and takedowns. To motivate soldiers to pursue continual training, competitions are held in four categories, namely, basic, standard, intermediate, and advanced, depending upon the skill and level of the soldier. What is most notable is that the advanced competitions follow the standard rules following in mixed martial arts tournaments.