Decorousness of Mixed Martial Arts

| November 29, 2010

Luke R. Regard



Decorousness of Mixed Martial Arts

Sports, as well as athletes, have always been well-respected in America; however, one sport in particular, mixed martial arts, is having trouble gaining the same respect. By simply clarifying misconceptions, informing the uneducated and redirecting opposition, mixed martial arts can acquire the mainstream acceptance and seemliness it deserves.

In America, sports play a large role in traditions, politics, media, as well as activities of interest at some point in nearly every human’s life. The attention the American population pays to sports and the extensive amounts of money professional athletes receive only serves to reinforce the importance of athletics in this country; so why is it that the respectability, and even existence of mixed martial arts (MMA) is viewed in the way that it currently is by a large percent of the population?

Ever since the introduction of MMA to the United States in 1993, it has been the subject of numerous heated debates and arguments (Walter). Claims such as, “MMA is barbaric,” or “too brutal,” have been made although these statements may have been true, and it is reasonable to form this opinion, the sport of mixed martial arts has changed drastically, but the negative stigma has remained.

Televised professional mixed martial arts or Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) carry a negative stigma by those who don’t understand the changes that have been made since the emergence of mixed martial arts.  Many people view MMA as a sport with “no rules,” and where “anything goes.” Though this was true at one time, as can be seen by observing, the unruly and aimlessly violent acts during bouts in the early stages of the sport, UFC has been totally reinvented since, yet people still associate the sport with an unruly nature. Arizona Senator John McCain led the four-year hiatus MMA              experienced from 1997 until 2001, and the reemergence of the sport to pay-per-view was a direct result of the utilization of a new set of rules, but the negative opinions have lingered (Walter). The sport that previously had two methods of victory and three fouls, now welcomes five weight classes to eliminate size and strength advantages, rounds and time limits to cut back on allotted time each fighter has to receive or usher bodily damage, a list of thirty-one fouls to eliminate all unsportsmanlike-like conduct, and eight possible ways for the fight to end, permitting victory or defeat by way other than the commonly believed “inevitable knockout” (UFCRULES). The incorporation of these regulations completely changed the sport from what it originally was. Though at one time it could have been reasonable to think negatively about or dislike MMA, what it has become is far more similar to the respectable sports than people see.

Though MMA is different in many ways from the “respected sports,” most people fail to notice or refuse to accept the similarities between MMA and many other sports. Congruent with the “keys to success” in many sports, “MMA requires hard work dedication, practice, conditioning, and coaching,” (Mason). There is no denying that similar requirements are found in nearly all popular sports in America; however, people will find other reasons to support their opposition towards mixed martial arts.

Of the many reasons people oppose MMA and not other sports, one of the most popular is the injury factor. It is obvious that a participant in an MMA can get hurt; however, this reason is not enough to dislike or consider the banishment of the sport. Though it is likely that the intentions of one opponent may involve hurting the other, these intentions do not mean MMA is any less safe than some of the mainstream sports that people do appreciate. Even other fighting sports such as boxing are far more dangerous than MMA (Russell). Aside from over 1,000 recorded deaths in a little over 100 years in the sport of boxing, and the single death that has happened with concerns to MMA over the last sixteen years, people continue to believe since the size of the gloves used in boxing are bigger than those used in MMA, that boxing is the safer sport (Walter). However, though professional boxing uses 10 oz. gloves and UFC uses 4 oz., the thickness of the part of the glove that provides impact resistance is nearly the same. Gloves are worn by fighters in both sports to provide padding for fighter-safety in attempt to cut back on serious injury and the stopping of the fight before viewers are pleased; however, the shape of a boxing glove is designed to protect the entire hand of the boxer, while that of an MMA glove is to allow use and dexterity of opposable fingers, allowing contestants to grasp appendages to utilize techniques. Also, thousands of cases of Parkinson’s disease are found in many former boxers but there are no known cases of this disease in MMA fighters. This is because boxing rules permit an eight-second recovery to a strike that would have been considered a “technical knockout” in an MMA bout, which the referee would have stopped the fight. In these cases, numerous blows to the head cause after a concussion has been received is what seems to be causing Parkinson’s disease. Whether it is the shape or statistics that one bases their opinion on, MMA is safer than boxing and even some of the respectable sports.

Though a fighter is likely to have more damage done to his body during an MMA bout than a soccer or football player is to under go during a game, does not mean participating in soccer, football, or many other sports makes you any less liable to serious injury than fighting MMA. Changes in sports should be made according to what can happen, not what does happen, and if injury or death proves to be a factor, nearly all sports would have been banished long before attempts were made to banish MMA. “Of the thousands of sports-related deaths that have happened in North America, only one has occurred with concerns to mixed martial arts,” (Kodi). Reasons behind the low number of deaths in what some people call the “most dangerous sport” are simply because MMA is undoubtedly far more safe than many of the sports that Americans find perfectly acceptable. In fact, in many cases, the difference between MMA and other sports is what makes the other sports more dangerous.

Sports that involve moving fast, heavy machinery, objects, and interaction with water, air, or dirt can be far more harmful than being enclosed in a cage with another person who uses nothing but his or her own appendages to overcome his or her opponent. In an MMA bout there is no chance of colliding with or being smashed by something heavy, being impaled by an object, drowning, falling from high places, or having any other interaction with harmful objects and scenarios. The possibilities are very low that a human, using only his or her body, can create a deadly threat in a padded, enclosed area before the opponent, time, or referee puts a stop to the fight. However, some people believe that since harm is intended, the sport is less acceptable than others.

People who oppose the sport for safety reasons are basing their ideas on what they believe happens during an MMA bout. Contrary to what many people believe, the intentions of each fighter are not to inflict pain on their opponent, but to win the fight, whether it be by submission, knockout, technical knockout, decision via scorecard, technical decision, forfeit, disqualification, or no contest (UFC Rules). Though causing your opponent pain may help you win a fight, it is not the necessarily the person who does so the most that wins. Understanding the correct concept of MMA will serve to diminish nearly all opposition of the sport and allow people to view “fighting” in an entirely different way.

During an MMA bout, there are two fighters and one referee inside the cage, and three judges outside the cage. The fighting portion of mixed martial arts is exactly what it appears to be, a mixture of techniques derived from different forms and martial arts such as Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, kickboxing, boxing, wrestling, and more. Contestants are allowed to use these techniques in attempt to knockout, submit, or out-point his or her opponent before the fight comes to an end as well as follow all the rules and regulations. If one of the fighters is to make a foul, the referee is to call it, vital points may be deducted and fighters may even be disqualified. Of the millions of people who watch UFC but do no participate in MMA training or fighting themselves, many of them will form negative opinions about the sport and believe it is unethical because they are not aware of the thirty-one rules that must be followed.

When a viewer sees two grounded opponents throwing punches, many times they will interpret this as “unethical,” and assume there are no boundaries on rules or “anything goes,” inside the cage. “Unethical” may be the correct word to use when watching this event take place in a boxing match; however, “ethics” were taken into consideration when developing rules to follow inside the cage. There is an art behind ground-and-pound (striking a grounded opponent) and though it may be hard for the average viewer to understand, there is a large amount of technique behind doing it efficiently. Even Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the form of ground-fighting used in MMA, aside from striking, is very technical. It takes an average ten years to acquire a black-belt, such as the ones many UFC fighters have and many are nearing (Votaw). The people who created the rules for MMA took many things into consideration, ethics being one of them. For the few people who do decide to step into the cage, their biggest fear is losing and being embarrassed; not falling victim to the unimaginable number of unethical acts one person can do to another. Each contestant, as well as the referee, are very familiar with the options they have, all of which are “ethical,” similar to the sports that are appreciated.

One of the main reasons people do appreciate sports is that there is an opportunity for athletes to portray their abilities to successfully complete a task in a manner that exceeds the efficiency or performance of an opponent and the average person. Sports fans appreciate watching the abilities of one person or team clash with the abilities of another. So why is it that the same appreciation cannot be found watching UFC? Many people are not aware of what it takes to be a successful fighter and do not want to find athletic significance in a sport that involves “fighting.” Whatever the reasons may be, MMA, if understood fully, would be appreciated by a much larger percent of the population.

Those who have trained/fought MMA see some people who don’t appreciate MMA as having a sense of cognition immaturity. An example of this phenomenon takes place when a mixed martial artist notices a sports fan being completely content watching only golf, football, or soccer. Someone who knows MMA and the many different concepts within it, understands the many reasons as to why the sport should be respected. To see someone lack the ability, or refuse to notice the technical aspects of what is “going on” is nearly frustrating. Any sports fan that appreciates watching another person display their abilities in a competitive manner would be absolutely enthralled by what there is to be seen in a successful MMA fighter.

Though being successful in any sport takes vast amounts of abilities and effort, there is a difference in what it takes to be successful in mixed martial arts and what it takes to be successful in other sports. There is no demeaning of other sports when coming to an understanding of MMA. Those who train MMA discover a newfound insight to the term “athleticism.”

Though success in all sports takes a combination of ability and effort, success in MMA requires something more. MMA expands “athleticism” beyond the scope of merely having physical prowess, but also using mental ability to coordinate effective use of one’s physical ability. Many people believe the size of a person’s arms determines how efficiently he or she can fight; however, this is far from the truth. If people were to understand what it takes to be a good fighter, it’s possible that more sports fans would watch as well as appreciate MMA.

When looking at a successful fighter, many people do not see what his or her abilities consist of. There are many different martial arts that exist, and each one of them is unique in consideration to the rules that are set and the physical options fighters can choose from in attempt to overcome their opponent; therefore, since MMA is a “mixture” of martial arts, there is far more to keep into consideration when your opponent is allowed to use a countless number of techniques when trying to overcome you. Nevertheless, in order to be successful, a fighter must have a readily accessible combination of athletic abilities that are both mental and physical. This is where a respectable difference can be seen in what is known as “fighting,” and mixed martial arts.

The term “athleticism” is more commonly used when referring to physical abilities; however, a cognitive form of athleticism, as well as physical athletic abilities is needed to succeed in MMA. At Elite Combat Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana, this “cognitive athleticism” is known as “brain-speed,” and though this term does not appear in the dictionary, “brain-speed” can be best defined as “the instinctive ability to accurately determine and execute an appropriate action or response to one or more visual or physical stimuli, with regards to timing, instructions from your corner men, position of yourself and opponent in relation to the cage, self vulnerability, potential counter-actions based on training background and skill level of specific opponent, physiological attributes of opponent such as reach, agility, flexibility, strength, and height, and maintain appropriate breathing pattern according to exertion of energy, previously learned techniques, kinesthetic sense, and ignoring distractions such as physical pain, noises from the crowd, and even the flashing of cameras.” Every component of brains-speed is important, the lack of even one can be easily detected and capitalized on; to your advantage or disadvantage, and will ultimately determine the outcome of the fight. It is the technical aspects such as these that differentiate MMA from what is known as “fighting.”

Of the many misconceptions about MMA, “the most popular are UFC is an organization of unskilled fighters, controlled street fighting, and that it’s the same as dog fighting or cock fighting, except with humans,” (Mason). Absurd opinions such as these are held both by people who actively oppose the sport and are those who are neutral toward the existence of MMA. For those who hold no respect for MMA fighters, it is apparent they have never witnessed the intensity, frequency, or even technicalities behind an MMA training session. In consideration to the previous paragraphs, there is no denying UFC fighters are very talented and possess vast amounts of skill; however, those who think UFC  is “controlled street fighting,”  should not be punished for their extremely inaccurate opinion. If people were to understand the difference between street fighting and mixed martial arts, the negative stigma that is currently attached to the sport of MMA would fade.

Those who believe MMA and street fighting are the same thing, though their speculations are remarkably distant from actuality, do deserve some appraisal for their ability to notice the two similarities: there is opposition and there is punching. However, aside from these, believing to have noticed additional similarities in current competition could only be the result of low-level cognitive ability and or effort.

The sport of MMA was similar to what people know as “street fighting,” but MMA as a sport has changed with an ultimate goal in mind, to differentiate from street fighting and the negativity that is associated with it. In fact, mixed martial arts hardly is any more concerned with what many know as “fighting” than any other sport. Many people associate the word “fighting” with thoughts of hair-pulling, biting, spitting, punching, hatred, losing teeth, scratching, and other terms of nonsensical, violent chaos. Of the many differences between MMA and street fighting, the largest is the factor of motivation. People fight on the street, at parties, and many other places outside of a cage to settle differences between another person or group of people. Any form of disagreement, opposition, and even misunderstanding can serve as motivation to engage in a fight with another person on the street; however, pairing of fighters in MMA comes by way of selection by the promoter, according to weight class and skill level. Often times, opponents in an MMA bout are acquaintances and their motivation to oppose each other comes strictly from their aspirations in the sport. Rarely does one, much less both fighters, have any form of hatred towards the other. Rules were incorporated into MMA to eliminate all other unethical factors associated with street fighting, and in turn, is how MMA became a sport.

Mixed martial arts, though it may always be viewed as “fighting,” should remain in America, as well as become legal in the states that it is currently banned in: for it has been the large number of misconceptions, unprecedented aspects, and inaccurate comparisons that has rendered people unconscious to the respectability that can be seen in such a sport. Though MMA has a fast growing fan base and the potential to gain the mainstream acceptance it deserves, people will continue to associate MMA with the unruly nature of  “fighting” because they are uneducated. Even the people who silently oppose and those who have neutral feelings towards the sport are among the percent of the population that are responsible for MMA not having the acceptance it deserves. Reasons behind the fast growing fan base are because everyday, more people are realizing the decorum of the sport and all of its aspects. Fans, as well as participants can be found in all walks of life throughout the country, and these people- police officers, salesmen, T-shirt printers, firemen, waiters, students, teachers, soldiers, family members, doctors and many more- are not any more barbaric or socially unacceptable than fans and participants of other sports.

Though MMA has been the basis of countless altercations, controversies, and debates in America, association of MMA to any sort of negativity has been exceptionally uncommon. However, it is the delusion of mixed martial arts that receives opposition, disrespect, and rejection.


Donald F. Walter, Jr.,”Mixed Martial Arts: Ultimate Sport, or Ultimately Illegal?” GrappleArts. 8 December 2003


Donald F. Walter graduated from Hampden-Sydney College and attended law school in Baltimore, Maryland. Wanting Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) to gain the same respect America has towards mainstream sports, Donald promotes the enlightening of concepts so that there will no longer be the negative stigma associated with MMA. This source in particular, describes the many different lights MMA has seen since it was first introduced into the United States. This material however is limited to the changes that have been made and does not discuss changes that need to be made.


Mason D. Brent. Personal Interview. 2 November 2009

Brent Mason is a Shreveport Police officer as well as a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter. Brent has provided information ad feedback from a stand-point that has been affected by many years of leading himself as well as other into the world of MMA. He has had a major influence on MMA throughout Shreveport, Louisiana by playing his role as a fighter and a well respected law-enforcer. The information from this source is limited to one persons opinion based on his personal experiences.


Russell, J.S. “The Values of Dangerous Sport” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport; 2005, vol.32 Issue 1,p1,19p


J.S. Russell is affiliated with the Department of Philosophy at Langara College in Vancouver, Canada. Russell has had a large amount of input regarding ethics, morals, values, and understandings of sports in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. Russell argues that noncontact sports are just as dangerous as contact sports. This source is limited to statistics that are four or more years old.


Kodi,Brian. “Death & MMA.” BJJ. 20 April 1998

Brian Kodi is the author of the online editorials about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well as a Jiu Jitsu practitioner himself. Kodi claims MMA is a “niche sport,” and is far more dangerous than other sports, such as boxing. The ideals supported in this source are opposite from those ideals supported in Decorousness of Mixed Martial Arts. This source gives typical examples of the misconceptions that are formed by those who opinionate based on the early stages of the sport. This source is limited to information gathered prior to 1999.


Votaw, John. Personal interview. 5 December 2009

John Votaw is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu purple-belt under Carlos Machado along with being a well-rounded Mixed Martial Artist. John’s claim supports the respectability there is to be seen in a Jiu Jitsu black-belt as well as the respect of many UFC fighters. This source permits the incorporation of an opinion from a highly-experienced Jiu Jitsu practitioner. Because he is currently active in the world of Jiu Jitsu, John’s input is new and congruent with current events and opinions; however, John’s feedback is comprised of opinions based on his personal encounters and experiences.


UFC Rules,”UFC.2009.UFC. 2 November 2009

The author of this article is unknown but the content must be accurate for the information I found on the official UFC website. This internet page consists of the rules and regulation which are thoroughly understood by all wo are involced with a Mixed Martial Arts bout. This source is limited to professional and does not mention the altered set of rules amateur fighters must abide by.




I have been training MMA for the past 3 years in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. I am a student at Louisiana State University Shreveport, majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology.

Article from

More Mixed Martial Arts Articles

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: MMA News

Comments are closed.