NASCAR, football, and ice hockey are three of the top five most watched sports in the United States. What do all of these sports have in common? Violence. If NASCAR didn’t have any wrecks and was only a bunch of cars driving in a circle 200 times, would it still draw an average of eight million viewers per race?
Football and ice hockey are both known to be hard-hitting sports, and hockey even has fights occasionally. It is no wonder, then, that one of the fastest-growing sports in both the U.S. and the world is based on the theme of violence.
That sport is mixed martial arts. But what is it? Mixed martial arts, or MMA for short, is exactly that; different forms of martial arts combined to create a vicious fighting style.
“There are two different forms of MMA,” explains new EHS wrestling coach and mixed martial artist Charles McTorry. “There are grapplers and strikers.” Strikers use attacking forms of mixed martial arts such as muay thai, a form of Thai kickboxing, boxing, and karate.
Grapplers, on the other hand, use mainly judo and wrestling. McTorry generally fights as a grappler.
"I’ve been doing wrestling since I was seven, whereas I just picked up jiu-jitsu and muay thai in the last three years,” he said.
Certain elements of MMA are similar to boxing. The fighters have to wear gloves during the fights, but the gloves are much smaller than boxing gloves. Another similarity is that mixed martial arts is split up into weight classes ranging from super-heavyweight (265 lbs and up) to flyweight (125 lbs or less). However, Coach McTorry explains that the rules are really varied.
“Each discipline or arena really has its own rules. Jiu-jitsu has its rules and muay thai has its [rules] and so on,” McTorry said.
According to a Wikipedia article on MMA, “Victory in a match is normally gained either by the judges’ decision after an allotted amount of time has elapsed, a stoppage by the referee (for example, if a competitor cannot defend himself intelligently) or the fight doctor (due to an injury), a submission, by a competitor’s corner man throwing in the towel, or by knockout.”
A sport combining the most combative and violent forms of martial arts on the planet is bound to have some dangers. A science team for National Geographic tested one punch from MMA fighter Randy Couture and found it to register 941 pounds of force. The knockout rate, though, is actually about the same as that of boxing, and in fact, while boxing averages roughly 11 deaths per year, there have only been three recorded MMA deaths. Football causes more deaths per year than MMA does.
But even though MMA is relatively safe, it is still both simple and violent—a perfect recipe for a popular sport in America. So, it is not hard to see why it is both one of the fastest growing U.S. sports and the Ensider’s Obscure Sport of the Month.