Combat Sports

The Art of MMA – Thrilling Brawl or Impressive Artistry?

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The art of MMA is probably difficult for outsiders to observe, but for MMA fans, it’s there to see. Boxing has seen a resurgent rise over the recent years, and although mixed martial arts has risen to extraordinary heights, many combat sports fans don’t see MMA as art but rather a brutal fist fest in a cage. Jake Paul’s recent absurd comments on the Ariel Helwani show displayed that ignorance and has unsurprisingly upset a lot of die-hard MMA fans.

Jake Paul in the boxing ring.
MIAMI, FLORIDA – JANUARY 30: Jake Paul celebrates after defeating AnEsonGib in a first round knockout during their fight at Meridian at Island Gardens on January 30, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The debate between boxing and MMA can go on for ages. We can put boxers in a cage (we did), and put a martial artist in a boxing ring (we did). Both outcomes are unfavorable and unjust, to say the least. To those that don’t really understand the intricate art of martial arts, this is for you. Here we go, the art of MMA.

The Art of MMA – Combining a Variety of Disciplines

The first real discussion is what is martial arts? Is it some woo-woo from the east, made for films and entertainment? Or is there real hard evidence of its effectiveness? There are essentially two ingredients into the effectiveness of martial arts, putting them together to form the art of MMA comes after.

We focus on two aspects when considering martial arts: self-defense and self-improvement. Self-defense has become a multi-million dollar industry and there are a number of fake practitioners that focus on making money instead of teaching self-defense techniques that really work in life-threatening situations. This is where we can focus on the variety of martial arts at your disposal.

  • Karate
  • Jiu-Jitsu
  • Boxing
  • Wrestling
  • Kickboxing
  • Krav Maga
  • Judo
  • Taekwondo
  • Muay Thai
  • Sambo

These are just some of the most popular martial arts throughout the world. Each discipline has its own lineage and dynamism to its art. Each focuses on a specific form of martial arts, using the body, stance, breathing, and attacking/defense in individual ways. Self-improvement is what traditional martial arts is based in, and underlies the ethos of most modern martial arts as well.

Some of the benefits of martial arts are listed below:

  • Instills confidence.
  • Full body workout and flexibility.
  • Self-control and discipline in life.
  • Stress relief and balances breathing and pressure.

These are some benefits that many MMA practitioners can personally attest to, and it should be noted that there are many more benefits to martial arts, including the positive effects it has on business and other decisions.

The art of MMA combines more than one discipline to create the ultimate sport. A person can combine wrestling with boxing and you have a fighter equally great on the ground and in stand-up, which are keys to winning a fight in the cage.

The Intricate Art of MMA – How a Variety of Disciplines Work Effectively

Antonio Inoki and Muhammad Ali. The Art of MMA
JAPAN – JUNE 26: Boxing & Professional Wrestling: Japan Kanji Antonio Inoki in action vs heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali during exhibition match at Nippon Budokan, Fight ended as draw, Tokyo, Japan 6/26/1976 (Photo by Takeo Tanuma/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (SetNumber: X20645)

Antonio Inoki is probably not a name many people know, but boxing purists from yesteryears might vaguely remember the name. Inoki defeated one of the boxing greats when Muhammad Ali stepped in to face the Japanese wrestler in Tokyo on June 26th, 1976. There was a lot of hype at the time as Inoki staged various exhibitions against various disciplines to prove the superiority of wrestling.

The fight took place under special rules, arguably the blueprint for modern MMA rules. Although Inoki fought from the ground to avoid Ali’s punches, he devastatingly beat up Ali’s legs. The match ultimately ended in a draw much to the disappointment of the fans in attendance. The art of MMA was vaguely on display in that fight, as Inoki displayed the strategy of utilizing his wrestling and groundwork to avoid the superior fighter on the feet. He also targeted Ali’s legs which would take away his movement and power.

Antonio Inoki and Muhammad Ali
Boxing and Professional Wrestling: Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in action vs Japan Kanji Antonio Inoki during exhibition match at Nippon Budokan. Fight ended in a draw. Tokyo, Japan 6/26/1976 CREDIT: Takeo Tanuma (Photo by Takeo Tanuma /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Set Number: X20645 )

The UFC started out in similar circumstances. It was the ultimate platform for fighters from various disciplines to step into a cage and battle to see which discipline is superior. Jiu-Jitsu won on that night, but since then it has evolved. Fighters began to understand the importance of being effective standing up, on the ground, and in the clinch. With this, the brutal sport of fighting in the cage turned into art and fighters turned into artists blessing fans with the art of MMA.

MMA has since evolved and now fighters from all over the world, including practitioners in various disciplines, all dream of performing against the best in the world. The UFC, Bellator, and ONE FC are currently the leaders in MMA promotion worldwide, but there are countless other organizations all over the world with talented individuals applying their craft.

the art of mma on display for all to see at UFC 1
DENVER, CO – NOVEMBER 12: Royce Gracie in action during the Ultimate Fighter Championships UFC 1 on November 12, 1993 at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Holly Stein/Getty Images)

Every champion in every organization displays proficiency in more than one martial art. It is highly improbable that any fighter with a proficiency in only one form of martial art can compete with some of the best in the world. The art of utilizing impressive footwork, using a jab, dropping the hips, and grabbing hold of the opponent’s legs whilst they’re trying to block your jab or swing for the overhand right, and then seeing them getting tossed on to their back is much more satisfying than watching a boxer connect with a clean hook.

Not only does MMA provide fans with dream matchups – elite kickboxers facing elite wrestlers – but it also allows fans to witness just how incredible these athletes are. The work they put in to perfect the smallest details and working on intricate game plans to combat their opponents’ strengths is something casual fans would never grasp, but it is a purist’s wet dream.

When Anderson Silva utilized his grappling to set up a triangle choke on Chael Sonnen after the wrestler took him down and beat him up for four rounds is something chaotic and unseen in the sport of boxing. When Stipe Miocic got beat up by Daniel Cormier for 2 rounds and switched plans to attacking the body of DC, ultimately resulting in a TKO victory, fans applauded Miocic’s IQ.

Chael Sonnen punching Anderson Silva
OAKLAND, CA – AUGUST 07: Chael Sonnen punches Anderson Silva while on the ground during the UFC Middleweight Championship bout at Oracle Arena on August 7, 2010 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The art of MMA merely isn’t about attacking or defending certain moves and styles, but also having the awareness of where your opponent’s limbs are, understanding how to leverage your strength and stamina, utilizing the cage to your advantage, planning your moves three to four steps ahead to set up submissions or strikes, and having the heart to push through even when you’re losing on paper.

Boxing may have the history, but in terms of pushing through entertaining, fascinating, and challenging matchups, the art of MMA takes the win. It’s no longer about two fighters getting locked into a cage and swinging for five minutes until someone gasses out or gets knocked out cold, but rather having the discipline, technique, and ability to display a wide array of arsenals at your disposal and pushing to face the best fighters around.

Next time you watch an MMA fight, watch how each fighter tries to gain the upper hand in various stances, positions in the clinch, using groundwork offense and defenses to set up finishing moves, and working the cage to gain an advantage and mental superiority. If applying all that was equated to a painting on a canvas, Van Gogh would stare in marvel. This is what the art of MMA is all about, appreciate the artistry and enjoy the brawl!

Do you think MMA should be considered as art? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Follow me on Twitter @zaheeradam or follow my Facebook Page @ZaheerAdamOTH Also, make sure to follow @OT_Heroics for all of your sporting needs. Don’t forget OTHeroicsMMA for all things MMA.

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A martial arts enthusiasts as well as practitioner of traditional chinese martial arts. I'm an avid mma fan and love writing. I also love football and have great insight into behavior and psychology of athletes.

1 comment

  • Saleem Adam says:

    Thank you Mr Adam for this refreshing perspective. I never knew the detail about Muhammad Ali whom I respect and love. Would love to see a video of that matchup. Great that you writing.
    Regards Saleem
    Durban, South Africa

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