What Is MMA? [Ultimate Guide to MMA]

By Logan •  Updated: 10/04/21 •  15 min read

Mixed martial arts, also known as MMA is a combat sport that involves the use of both striking and grappling techniques. The goal of an MMA fight is to take your opponent to the ground and then force them into submission through uncontrolled means, such as chokes, holds, locks or strikes.

Mixed Martial Arts originated in ancient Greece and was included in the Olympic Games, the only rules were no eye gouging and biting allowed. 

MMA has come a long way since ancient Greece and has evolved into a sport with its own set of rules and regulations to give fighters protection during competition. It is today one of the fastest growing sports in the United States.

Let’s dive into a bit more detail about MMA.

What is MMA

What Is MMA?

Mixed Martial Arts, commonly shortened to MMA, is a full-contact combat sport that allows for both striking and grappling. 

It involves techniques from all martial arts including boxing, wrestling, judo, jiu-jitsu, sambo, karate, taekwondo and others. This allows for a lot of different techniques like punches, kicks, joint-locks, chokes, takedowns and throws.

MMA has evolved a lot over a short period of time, in 1993 when the UFC first started the only rules were no biting, eye gouging and fish hooking. Because of this, MMA used to be called NHB (No Holds Barred), this phrase is no longer used as modern competitions now have more rules.

The types of martial arts used in modern MMA fights have also changed. Back in the early days there was a wild variety of disciplines used in a fight from Boxing to Karate to Sumo. Now fighters concentrate on three main styles:

Amateur wrestling – this style has a focus on grappling which means to grip or seize the opponent. 

Submission Wrestling  –  this style focuses on clinches and ground fighting with the aim of submitting your opponent using submission holds.

Kickboxing – this style focuses on striking the opponent.

The fighter must use these styles of fighting to their advantage during the fight to dominate over their opponent.


What Fighting Styles Are In MMA?

Fighting in Mixed Martial Arts is a full-contact combat sport involving two people in a duel. It is not uncommon for mixed martial arts fighters to have more than one fighting style, as many consider it an advantage. 

Fighters are able to use different techniques based on the situation, but they are also able to adapt to the game if their opponent has a better match up.

The sport is divided into three different disciplines, stand up fighting, clinch fighting and the other being ground fighting. 

Stand up fighting features punches, kicks, knees and elbows from a standing position which includes martial arts like Muay Thai, Karate, and Boxing.

Clinch fighting is part of stand up fighting where the fighters have each other in clinch holds and are grappling. Martial arts that focus on clinch fighting are Amateur Wrestling, Sambo and Lethwei.

Ground fighting is where the combatants are on the ground and using holds to force the opponent into submission. The martial arts that focus on ground fighting are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, Judo & Wrestling.

What Disciplines Are In MMA?

At its core, MMA involves many disciplines including: Wrestling, Judo, Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Thai. These disciplines are essential to an MMA fighter’s arsenal because each one can dictate the outcome of a fight.

Lets run through some of the most popular disciplines of MMA in more detail:

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

In the last 20 years, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has grown exponentially as a martial art. This style of fighting is different from other types of fighting as it focuses on grappling and ground fighting which makes it perfect for MMA fights. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, fighters use their opponent’s momentum against them to control their movements and defeat them by using chokes, joint locks and ground and pound techniques.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, is a martial art that was designed for the average person to be able to practice it. Created in the early 1900s by Japanese Brazilian Carlos Gracie Jr., it is often thought of as one of the most effective self-defense styles. It focuses on using leverage and technique rather than power making it perfect for people who want to defend themselves without getting injured.

The ground fighting techniques of BJJ include numerous chokes, holds, locks and joint manipulation to defeat your opponent.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is a martial art that originated in Thailand. The word Muay in Thai means to kick and the word Thai refers to the people of Thailand. Muay Thai is considered one of the most complete fighting systems, which includes standing kicks, punches, elbows, knees and clinching techniques. Muay Thai can be traced back to Thailand’s history when it was used as a military technique for self-defense and attacking life-threatening situations.

It is considered to be the national sport of Thailand and has grown in popularity around the world since the 1970s, with people studying it for self-defense, fitness, and even competitive fighting. Muay Thai is also popularly known as “Thai Boxing,” and while there are many different types of Muay Thai, the more traditional style is called Krabi Krabong.


The word “sambo” comes from the Russian phrase “self-defense without weapons”.

Sambo is a martial art developed in the Soviet Union with a focus on throws, grappling and striking. It was developed in the early 20th century in response to the use of Judo in professional wrestling.

It is primarily an unarmed combat system that relies on grappling and throwing techniques, but it can also include punches, kicks, strikes, joint locks, chokes and other forms of submission holds. Sambo does not rely on physical strength alone – it is primarily based on technique.

Sambo can also be spelled with an o i.e Sombo, these can be used interchangeably to describe the sport.


Judo is a form of self-defense that originated in Japan. Judo, which translates to “gentle way”, emphasizes throwing one’s opponent to the ground. The sport can be practiced either as individual combat or as a team sport, and it  is a highly contested Olympic sport.

The idea of judo was first introduced by a professor named Jigoro Kano in the late 1800s. Kano used his knowledge from different fighting styles to create a new sport that would be easy for anyone to perform. In 1886, he founded the Kodokan school where he taught judo and other martial arts techniques to students.

The objective of judo is to throw your opponent or cause them to submit. 

Judo is more than just a sport. It’s more than just throwing your opponent on his back for points. Judo is about cultivating the spirit of self-defence and self-control, setting an example by sharing values of respect and appreciation for all people.

Filipino Martial Arts

Filipino martial arts was first practiced by the people of the Philippines. There are three main types that are practiced, these are arnis, eskrima, and kali. Each style has its own way of fighting. The Filipino Martial Arts Association is an organization that teaches the basics of these arts to beginners.

Filipino Martial Arts is a unique martial art that combines the use of different weapons, which originated from Filipino cultures. In order to become a practitioner of this art, one must first learn the basics of weaponry through drills and exercises that will then be applied in self-defense situations. Weapons used in Filipino Martial Arts include but are not limited to sticks, swords and knives.



Wrestling is a sport that can be traced back to Ancient Greece. It is one of the oldest Olympic sports and today, wrestling has been separated into two categories: Greco-Roman and Freestyle. 

The objective of Wrestling is to take down your opponent by using their weight against them, then pinning or choking them in such a way that they cannot escape. It includes techniques including clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds. 


Boxing is one of the oldest and most exciting sports in the modern world. It’s an activity that has been practiced for many centuries, with evidence suggesting it can be traced back to Ancient Greece.

The sport has gone through a number of changes over the years, but it is still enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. There are a few rules which govern how boxing takes place, with bouts taking place inside a ring and lasting a fixed number of rounds.

Boxing is a martial art that usually has two fighters wearing protective gloves, points are won by punching your opponent. A boxing match is split into a series of three minute intervals called rounds.

American Kenpo

American Kenpo is a martial arts system that was founded by Ed Parker in the 1950s. Parker felt that in order to compete in the world of martial arts, Americans needed an art that represented themselves. He created American Kenpo as a way of uniting both Eastern and Western ideas about fighting and making it more modernized for his country. Parker combined traditional moves with techniques from the West such as boxing and wrestling.

This system of self-defense was developed for civilians and police officers, so they would be able to defend themselves against armed assailants. American Kenpo differs from other martial arts systems because it includes strikes, blocks, and kicks that are not used in other traditional Eastern martial arts.

The United States Martial Arts Association defines American Kenpo as “the martial art in which the student is taught in a progressive manner, beginning with basic techniques and progressing to more advanced phases of the art”. 


Jiu-jitsu is a martial arts discipline that emphasizes joint locks and grappling techniques. Developed in Japan in the early 20th century, Jiu-jitsu is typically practiced in either a standing or ground position, with limited use of strikes to avoid injury.

Jiu-jitsu is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. It has its roots in Japan and Europe and has been for centuries for use in law enforcement, the military, and even as a form of self-defense. It also continues to be popular in MMA competitions.


Karate is a martial art that originated in Japan. Karate utilizes punches, kicks and blocks to defend itself and its practitioners. Karate comes from the Japanese words for “empty” and “hand”. It is often thought of as one of the most popular martial arts in the world.

Karate is an art that originated in Japan. It has become popular all over the world for its self-defense abilities, but also for its emphasis on physical, mental, and spiritual development. 

Karate is a sport that requires the mastery of kata (formal patterns of movements) and kumite (sparring). When someone learns Karate, they learn to defend themselves against an aggressor with punches, kicks, blocks, and throws.



There are many different forms of martial arts in the world, but kickboxing is one of the most popular and competitive sports in America. Kickboxing can be traced all the way back to ancient Japan when it was developed as a form of self-defense that was different from traditional martial arts such as karate and judo.

Anyone who has ever seen a professional kickboxing match can attest to the brutality of this contact sport. The two opponents face off in a ring while the audience cheers them on, endeavoring to see which adversary will be knocked down first. The object of the game is to knock out your opponent with one punch or kick to the head, neck or torso.

It can be traced to the Far East in the 1700s in what is now Thailand. The name “kickboxing” was coined in America in the 1960’s and it has been growing ever since. Kickboxing generally includes a variety of punching techniques such as jabs, crosses, hooks and uppercuts.

Kung Fu 

Kung Fu is a martial art that has been practiced for thousands of years. Although its exact origins are unknown, it grew out of the Shaolin Temple in China. The temple was founded in AD 495 and many masters practiced Kung Fu by practicing Tai Chi, Buddhism, and Qi Gong. Kung Fu was originally developed to teach monks how to defend themselves against attackers. It later became popular in other parts of China.

Many people choose to learn Kung fu because it incorporates both physical conditioning and meditation skills. These skills are said to help relieve stress and promote focus.

It is known to be the “mother art” of all Chinese martial arts, due to its close relation with other martial arts.


Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that originated in the 1940s. It is known for it’s powerful kicking techniques and ability to fight multiple opponents at once. Taekwondo was introduced in the Olympics in 1988, with over 205 countries participating, making it the most popular martial art in the Olympic Games. The categories of Taekwondo competition are sparring, breaking, and forms.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that originated in the 1940s. It was developed by General Choi Hong-Hi, who later became the leader of South Korea.

Taekwondo emphasizes agility, power, and self-defense. It combines combat techniques and self-defense techniques with a strong emphasis on kicks. The word Taekwondo translates to “the way of kicking and punching” in English. Taekwondo is characterized by various kicks, punches, blocks, throws, and elbow strikes. The goal is to paralyze or knock out the opponent without using deadly force.

What Are The Rules In MMA?

When most people think of MMA, they may only picture the brutal and intense fighting in the ring. However, many people forget about all of the sportsmanship and respect that go into this sport. 

MMA is a combination of martial arts, predominantly kickboxing and wrestling and there are certain rules in place to keep fighters safe. 

For example, in order to win by knock-out or when the referee stops the match, you need at least one punch or kick to land on your opponent’s head or body.

MMA Methods of Victory

Knockout (KO): 

Knockouts occur when one combatant hits the other with such force that they fall to the ground and are rendered unconscious.

Technical Knockout (TKO): 

Technical knockouts occur when the referee stops combat due to strikes or impact.

Submission (SUB)

Submission wins occur when one combatant physically or verbally taps out, usually whilst in a submission hold.

Judges’ Decision (U-Dec, S-Dec)

If none of the above methods of victory are obtained during the fight, then the judges will decide who the winner is.

Rules and regulations

As MMA evolves as a sport, so do the rules. The unified rules of MMA provides a clear set of rules for the sport.

There are quite a few no-no’s in MMA, the fouls as defined in the unified rules of MMA are:

  1. Butting with the head
  2. Eye gouging of any kind
  3. Biting or spitting at an opponent
  4. Fish Hooking
  5. Hair pulling
  6. Spiking the opponent to the canvas onto the head or neck (pile-driving)
  7. Strikes to the spine or the back of the head
  8. Throat strikes of any kind and/or grabbing the trachea
  9. Fingers outstretched toward an opponent’s face/eyes
  10. Downward pointing elbow strike (12 to 6)
  11. Groin attacks of any kind
  12. Kneeing and/or Kicking the head of a grounded opponent
  13. Stomping of a grounded fighter
  14. Holding opponent’s gloves or shorts
  15. Holding or grabbing the fence or ropes with fingers or toes
  16. Small joint manipulation
  17. Throwing an opponent out of the ring or caged area
  18. Intentionally placing a finger into any orifice, or into any cut or laceration of your  opponent
  19. Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh
  20. Timidity (avoiding contact, or consistently dropping the mouthpiece, or faking an  injury
  21. Use of abusive language in the fighting area
  22. Flagrant disregard of the referee’s instructions
  23. Unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to the opponent
  24. Attacking an opponent after the bell has sounded the end of the period of unarmed combat
  25. Attacking an opponent on or during the break
  26. Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee
  27. Interference from a mixed martial artist’s corner or seconds

MMA Weight Classes

There are many weight classes in MMA so it is possible for people of all different body types to find their perfect fit.

The most popular weight classes are the lightweight division under 155 lbs, welterweight division between 155-179 lbs, middleweight division between 170-185 lbs, light heavyweight division between 185-205 lbs, heavy weight division above 205 lbs. 

Here is a table showing the Unified Weight Classes in MMA from the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports.

Weight ClassWeightAllowance
Straw weightup to and including 115 lbs.3 lbs.
Flyweightover 115 to 125 lbs.3 lbs.
Bantamweightover 125 to 135 lbs.3 lbs.
Featherweightover 135 to 145 lbs.5 lbs.
Lightweightover 145 to 155 lbs.5 lbs.
Super Lightweightover 155 to 165 lbs.5 lbs.
Welterweightover 165 to 170 lbs.5 lbs.
Super Welterweightover 170 to 175 lbs7 lbs.
Middleweightover 175 to 185 lbs.7 lbs.
Super Middleweightover 185 to 195 lbs.7 lbs
Light Heavyweightover 195 to 205 lbs.7 lbs.
Cruiserweightover 205 to 225 lbs.7 lbs.
Heavyweightover 225 to 265 lbs.7 lbs.
Super Heavyweightover 265 lbs. 

What Is MMA – Final Thoughts

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full contact combat sport. It is a mixture of disciplines including wrestling, boxing, and martial arts such as judo, jiu-jitsu, and karate. Fighters need to know how to do more than one discipline in order to be successful.

A common misconception about the sport is that it consists only of punching and kicking, while there are many other elements such as arm bars, triangles locks and submission holds which can be found in an MMA bout.

Here at TheMMANinja.com we love everything MMA, so if you want to learn more this is the place to be.


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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