Is MMA A Sport?

By Logan •  Updated: 11/15/21 •  6 min read

Although there may be disagreement among sports fans on the topic – is MMA a sport?, in short, Yes MMA is technically a sport as it qualifies under the realm of being a physical competition between two parties with a unique set of skills in which a winner can be determined.

MMA is a full-contact combat sport consisting of both striking and grappling. MMA is one of the most popular sports in the world with many different backgrounds, including karate, boxing, wrestling, judo, jiu-jitsu, muay thai and more. The goal of mixed martial arts is to defeat an opponent using all aspects of combat, whether it be on their feet or on the ground. Mixed martial arts competition dates back to 1887.

In this article, we will expand on how MMA is a legitimate sport according to the definition of the word, why MMA may be considered too violent to qualify as an Olympic sport, and what the future holds for this popular hybridized martial art.

Is MMA A Sport?

What is a Sport?

A sport includes any physical activity that requires a unique skill in which individuals or teams compete against each other to determine who possesses the best skillset. Sports usually include specialized equipment including balls, apparatuses, goal structures, and sometimes padding for the participants’ protection.

The word “Sport” has become synonymous with organized physical activity for competition. Sports can take many forms and can be categorized as physical, such as Basketball, or as mental such as Chess. One need not be a professional athlete to enjoy the benefits of sports. People of all ages and abilities can partake in sports to meet their needs through games or practice.

Some sports games or competitions are timed to determine who performs best in the least amount of time. While the determination of the winner in other sports depends on a point system with the individual or team achieving the most (or occasionally, the least) number of points declared the winner.

In the Oxford English Dictionary a sport is defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”

Is MMA A Sport?

Mixed martial arts, commonly known as MMA, is a unique sport in that it combines the disciplines of multiple combat sports including Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu jitsu, wrestling, judo, karate, boxing, and much more.

This art qualifies as a sport because it is practiced as competition between two individuals. There are several ways to determine the winner of an MMA match. Each MMA match consists of up to five rounds at five minutes each.

In order to win, a competitor must use a legitimate fighting technique to knock out his or her opponent or perform a successful submission which leaves the opponent unable to counter the attack.

If all five rounds are completed without a successful knockout or submission, points awarded throughout the match by judges who score for technique performed by the competitors are totaled and the competitor with the highest score wins.

Finally, MMA also requires special equipment including sparring gloves and a ring or cage in which to perform a match so as to keep boundaries for the fighters.

Why Is MMA Not In The Olympics?

While MMA is a legitimate sport, the Olympics committee is not inclined to consider hosting it in the Olympics games anytime soon. It is a very violent sport that is extremely challenging physically and can take a serious toll on competitors’ bodies.

To offer MMA as an Olympic sport would require competitors to endure multiple rounds of fighting within the narrow two and a half week window in which the Olympics take place. In order to mitigate injury to fighters, the Olympic committee may require more protective gear for competitors which would actively hinder the ability to effectively compete.

Although the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation was established as an overarching governing body for the sport – a requirement for the Olympics – MMA may also not qualify if it does not have the required number of countries represented by both men and women for the sport.

The Future of MMA As A Sport

Mixed martial arts have become very popular especially in light of the professional competition established under the Ultimate Fighting Championship, also known as the UFC. Much like boxing, there are different weight divisions in which fighters may qualify to compete as well as championship belts to be won.

These televised fights can net over one million viewers in pay per view events and have established fighters as admired celebrities such as Rhonda Rousey and Colin McGregor. UFC fights will only continue to gain popularity for the sport as new talent comes on to the scene.

The sport itself outside of the professional realm is also evolving. MMA fighters can trace their “lineage” back to a few original teachers such as Royce Gracie who was a master of Brazilian jiu jitsu and passed his art on through the family line.

Most MMA fighters began by solely focusing on one art as a specialty, usually either a stand up or a ground fighting art, and dabbling in a few others. In today’s world of mixed martial arts fighting, competitors are taking the hybrid approach and becoming equally skilled in multiple disciplines such as Brazilian jiu jitsu for their ground game and Muay Thai for stand up.

The sport of MMA is so versatile that it is nearly impossible to create the “perfect” combination of fighting techniques pulled from a plethora of arts. Every fighter’s body structure and physiological makeup is unique and therefore performs differently with every art.

There is no telling what MMA holds for the future, but it is guaranteed that there is no end in sight for the outstanding performances and abilities of this sport’s competitors to surprise fans and fighters alike.

Is MMA A Sport? – Final Thoughts

From the definition of a sport you can conclude that MMA fighting is a sport. It involves two fighters going head to head to defeat the other, for entertainment. It’s not just a brutal combat sport as it combines various other martial arts and the fighters need to have the skill and strategy to beat their opponent.


Hi, I've been an avid MMA fan all my life. I've been training in martial arts for the last 5 years and wanted to share some of the tips and tricks that I've picked up along the way to help to aspiring martial artists get started.

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