What is an MMA fight? MMA stands for mixed martial arts, but what does that mean?
It means that there is a fight, and there will be a variety of martial arts techniques used by both fighters. But before we get into the specifics of fighting styles and martial arts disciplines, we need to look over how the fight is set up and what happens.
After reading this page, you will understand how and why things are happening during the fight.
The Setting: People and Place
As I’m sure you know, the fights are one on one affairs. There aren’t any tag team bouts in MMA! So you’ll see two fighters in the cage.
Never far from the action is the referee. This man or woman is usually dressed in all black and is in charge of everything that happens in the cage. They have the power to stop and restart the action, deduct points, etc. (If you want to watch a great ref in action, keep your eyes peeled for John McCarthy or Herb Dean.)
Outside the cage, at each corner, are 2-3 cornermen (teammates, coaches, etc.) plus a cutman. The cornermen give the fighter instruction between rounds as well as yell to them during the round. The cutman tends to a fighter’s wounds between rounds; his goal is to stop/slow any bleeding and prevent swelling so the fighter can continue to fight. (There is also a doctor nearby who will inspect injured fighters to make sure it’s safe for them to continue.)
The judges and commentators have their own tables on the floor outside the cage. In the UFC, you usually see three judges and two commentators (the duo of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg.)
Also seated outside the cage are the Octagon girls (in the UFC, that’s usually Brittney Palmer, Arianny Celeste, and Chandella Powell.) You see these girls walking around the cage at the start of each round, holding a sign to signal which round it is.
What Happens In The Fight
This is most of what you’ll see during the fight…
The basic setup
Fights are typically scheduled for three, 5-minute rounds. Title fights are scheduled for five, 5-minute rounds. There is a one minute break between rounds, which is when the fighter rests and regroups in their corner, with coaches telling them what to do to win.
(Note: It was announced that in fall 2011, all UFC main events will be five round fights, even if there is not a title on the line.)
Many fighters choose to touch gloves at the beginning of each round, or at least at the beginning of the fight. This is a tradition of showing respect/sportsmanship.
Not everyone does it, but when it happens, it goes something like this: the fighters will move to the center of the cage, touch gloves, and move so they are each facing in neutral corners.
This is, of course, after the ref talks to them pre-fight and says “if you want to touch gloves, do it now.” Once the bell rings, the “protect yourself at all times” comes into play, so the fighters touch gloves at their own risk. It’s doubtful you’d see a suckerpunch in the UFC when someone offers to touch gloves, but it could happen.
Sometimes fighters will elect not to touch gloves, and instead, rush across the cage at the opening bell and launch an attack such as a flying knee.
The fighters will fight each other, competing to win. That’s pretty much self-explanatory. For details of what you will see, continue reading…
Separations and stand-ups
If the fighters are against the cage or on the ground, and neither is doing anything significant, the ref will separate them and restart them standing in the center of the cage.
You may hear the ref say “improve your position” a couple times, then if the fighters don’t react, he’ll step in.
Sometimes fighters who are on the bottom but aren’t great Jiu Jitsu fighters will simply hold onto their opponent as tightly as possible, attempting to neutralize their attacks, and just wait for the ref to stand them up.
Now that you know the fight setup, you can continue on with the guide:
MMA Fan Guide Navigation:
- Part 1: An Introduction
- Part 2: The Fight Setup
- Part 3: Fighting Styles and Disciplines
- Part 4: Rules of the Game
- Part 5: Judging and Scoring Systems
- Part 6: Weight Classes and Cutting Weight
- Part 7: How Fighters Train
- Part 8: Final Thoughts