The debate surrounding MMA and especially the UFC among other fighting championships has been ongoing since its inception. Some argue that mixed martial arts competitions are essentially legalized violence. When you look at the incidents which have led to hospitalizations and sometimes death, this point may be valid. However, these situations are very rare. There is, in fact, much more to MMA than just beating up your opponent, be it for pros or amateurs.
One of the main factors which dictates a fighter’s level of skill is their state of mind. In order to practice MMA, or any martial art for that matter, athletes must endure injury after injury, most of which often happen in the middle of a fight. Here, the “never give up” mentality is crucial to success. Cliché, I know -- but when two fighters are of the same physical capacity, it becomes a battle of the minds. Practicing MMA gives you one of the most important skills in life: resilience. This doesn’t only come in the form of endurance (like jogging, for example). Fighters have been known to fight through collapsed organs, broken bones and torn ligaments, and still win the bout. Of course, that really only applies to professionals who do this for a living, but the more us amateurs or fanatics experience this mindset, the more likely we are to find solutions to problems, or simply to fight through them.
Just like any other sport, fighting takes years to master. This obviously depends on why you’re practicing a given martial art. There’s usually three main reasons: recreation, sport, and/or real life applications. It is also safe to assume that there is a balance between each reason, and in fact sometimes they overlap into each other. This brings us to the following point: how useful is MMA, actually? And how effectively could I use it if my being were threatened? In this area, the debate becomes even hotter. From a logical standpoint, an experienced practitioner would have a much higher chance of overpowering someone who has never taken a punch before, given that they are unarmed. In reality, though, just because you are skilled doesn’t mean you should go around picking fights with everyone, since legal issues could ensue. MMA also doesn’t translate well to real life scenarios because of the latter being much more chaotic and completely unregulated. For example, pro UFC fighter Andy Smith had the “hardest fight of his life” when his home was invaded by a drunk man in early morning hours. While being able to deter the intruder, he said he was scared for life at the thought of having his wife and two daughters hurt, which made the fight that much harder. Naturally, one (relatively) rarely finds oneself in such an extreme situation. However, in this case, even a little self defense knowledge could be the difference between life and death.
Aside from the numerous psychological and some practical advantages, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the sheer physical prowess of basically every fighter. Whether intimidating or not, their physical capabilities largely surpass those of the average person. Fighting involves both aerobic and anaerobic exercises, which makes MMA training a two-in-one experience. Even those who take it for recreational purposes should expect an intense session. It comes hand in hand with the aforementioned mentality: training with dedication creates discipline and respect for superiors and peers. In the UFC, this whole practice is publicized and sometimes essentially undermined, nonetheless.
As we have discussed, it is possible to say that the practice of MMA is more than just an excuse to punch your friends in the face: it is a sport with a deep philosophy which will most likely grow on the practitioner for years to come.