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Mixed Martial Arts is a combat sport that incorporates techniques from a wide range of other combat sports and martial arts styles, with the three basic pillars of the sport being striking, wrestling and submission grappling. Thus, the name "mixed martial arts" refers to the mix of techniques used in competition. It is a relatively new sport, still suffering from growing pains, and currently haunted by a great deal of misconception. In spite of popular perception, the sport is no more dangerous or violent than other combat sports involving striking, and is arguably safer due to the importance of grappling.
Though similar sports have existed at certain points throughout history, most notably in the Greek Olympic sport Pankration, modern mixed martial arts began with the creation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship by Rorion Gracie and Art Davie in 1993. The event was billed as a no-holds-barred tournament straight out of Bloodsport to determine which martial art style was "the best." Could Kung Fu beat Karate? Could boxing beat wrestling? These questions would be answered inside a chain-link enclosed "Octagon". Behind the scenes, however, the event was masterminded by the Gracies, part of a clan of martial artists who had developed a style of submission grappling called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) that they believed could defeat any style. The event was intended to showcase the effectiveness of BJJ.
The Gracies entered their youngest adult member, 27 year old Royce, into the tournament. He was not the most decorated BJJ practitioner of the family, and was also the smallest fighter in the competition. The family intended to prove that BJJ techniques could be used to overpower physically stronger opponents. Royce won the competition easily by tackling his opponents and quickly rolling them into submission holds, forcing them to "tap out" and concede defeat. Most of his opponents were ignorant of submission grappling and could not defend themselves when they were taken to the ground. Reactions to BJJ were mixed. Viewers who had expected a bare-knuckle bloodbath were disappointed by the decidedly non-violent style, which left both Royce and his opponent almost completely uninjured. Others were inspired by the style's effectiveness and giant-killing nature.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship expanded into a series of events with new and returning fighters. Royce won several more tournaments before differences of opinion over how the UFC should be run led the Gracies and co-owner Art Davie to sell their shares of the company to the promoters, Semaphore Entertainment Group. Though Gracie's departure left the SEG-led UFC without their marquee star, other fighters rose up to fill his place, including a number of American submission wrestlers. These fighters had already began to research previous events to learn which techniques were truly effective in the octagon and which were not. Over time, fighters learned to cross-train in the most effective styles, studying BJJ as well as wrestling and various striking techniques. Jeff Blatnik, an early UFC commentator, coined the term "mixed martial arts" to describe the new hybrid style.
The perceived violence of the fledgling sport led Arizona Senator John McCain to famously dub it "human cockfighting." McCain sent letters to all 50 US state governors urging them to outlaw the sport, and soon 36 states passed laws banning "no holds barred fighting." As viewership declined, SEG instituting more safety measures to make the promotion more akin to a combat sport that focused on individual achievement rather than a no-holds-barred contest between styles. They dropped the tournament format and worked with the California and New Jersey State Athletic Boards to draw up a strict rule-set emphasizing fighter safety, which became known as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.
Hope returned with the entrance of the Fertitta brothers, a pair of Las Vegas billionaires whose family owns the Station line of casinos. Forming the company Zuffa (Italian for "brawl") with their close friend Dana White, the brothers bought the UFC and continued the efforts to legitimize the sport. Their crowning achievement was creating The Ultimate Fighter, a reality show tournament showcasing up-and-coming mixed martial artists competing for a contract with the UFC. The first season aired on Spike TV right after WWE Raw, putting mixed martial arts into millions of homes. The season finale, aired live on Spike, featured a now-legendary bout between light heavyweight finalists Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar. The electrifying bout is often credited as the most significant fight in MMA history and earned the UFC a legion of new fans. As the UFC grew, the sport of MMA spread out across the world to a number of upstart promotions.
In Japan, the sport of MMA took a concurrent but separate evolution, with origins in professional wrestling. Japanese pro wrestling includes both "show wrestling" (staged matches) as well as "shoot wrestling" (legitimate competition). Like MMA, Japanese shoot wrestling is a hybrid of grappling and striking. Thus, Japanese pro wrestlers had already been competing in legitimate matches that resembled MMA long before the creation of the UFC. As the popularity of MMA began to rise, the popularity of Japanese shoot wrestling promotions also enjoyed a bump. The Pride Fighting Championship (PRIDE FC) was created using an MMA-style rule set to take advantage of the new phenomenon. The promotion's roster included foreign mixed martial artists, Olympic judoka, traditional martial artists, and a number of popular Japanese professional wrestlers. A heated rivalry between the two dominant promotions developed over several years before allegations of racketeering and Yakuza ties forced Pride out of business in 2006. The UFC bought all rights to Pride and dismantled it, taking some of its best fighters into their own roster.
With the popularity of MMA on the rise, a number of other rival promotions have risen up in the past few years. However, all major western promotions, with the exception of Bellator, have either gone out of business or been bought by the UFC, giving it a stranglehold on the sport. The organization has recently signed a contract with Fox to air live bouts on network television. They continue to air pay-per-view events about twice per month. The FX channel will air future seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. The Fox-owned Fuel Channel has become the unofficial UFC channel, airing a wide variety of UFC commentary shows and past events. Strikeforce, now owned by the UFC, still has a deal with Showtime, but is in the process of being unofficially dismantled by the UFC. Outside of the UFC, Bellator events are aired on MTV2. HDNet covers the sole major Japanese promotion, Dream, as well as provides regular analysis of the sport on Inside MMA. ESPN covers the sport with MMA Live, which often features current professional fighters giving commentary.
Due to the participation of the Gracies, the first UFC event had its roots in the Brazilian tradition of "vale tudo" (literally, "anything goes"), meaning a fight with hardly any rules at all. Modern MMA, however, is a safety-conscious sport with a large number of rules and regulations. Most American promotions operate under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. Fighters wear small four or five-ounce fingerless gloves that protect their hands but still allow their fingers to grip for various grappling techniques. Mouth guards and athletic cups are required, while shoes are usually prohibited. Fights take place in a modified boxing ring or cage of various sizes and shapes. The cage is designed with grappling in mind, as it prevents opponents from falling through or getting entangled in the ropes. Almost all American MMA promotions use some version of a cage. Japanese MMA has traditionally used rings due to the influence of professional wrestling, though cages are gaining popularity in major promotions.
Mixed martial arts features a much wider array of legal techniques than other combat sports, but there are also many fouls and illegal actions. Fighters are generally prohibited from grabbing the cage or ropes as well as their opponent's hair, trunks, and gloves. Fighters cannot strike certain parts of the body, such as the spine, throat, eyes, groin, and the back of the head. Some types of strikes are prohibited, such as headbutts, while others are legal only in certain circumstances. For example, kicking or kneeing the head of a downed opponent is usually illegal in American MMA. Standard competition lasts for three rounds of five minutes each, with five rounds for most main events. Judging in America is based on the ten-point must system of boxing.
Fights can end by knockout, referee stoppage, or submission. Unlike boxing, the fight does not pause when a combatant falls to the floor. Thus, if a fighter gets knocked down, he must continue to defend himself as his opponent continues to attack him. The referee is vitally important in deciding when a fighter can no longer defend himself and calling a stop to the fight. For this reason, technical knockouts due to referee stoppage are much more common than a straight KO. If a fighter is not "intelligently defending" himself, even if he is not taking very much damage, the referee can stop the fight in the interest of fighter safety. If a fighter is placed in a submission hold or decides at any time that he wishes to surrender, he must "tap out" on the mat or his opponent's body to stop the fight. If the fighter's hands are tied up, he can also verbally submit.
Rules vary slightly between promotions. Japanese promotions have traditionally differed the most from the Unified Rules, such as by disallowing elbow strikes but allowing kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent. Some Japanese promotions handle rounds and judging slightly differently as well. For example, Sengoku judges the whole fight instead of round-by-round, and DREAM splits the fight into two rounds of 10 minutes and 5 minutes. Women's bouts in all countries vary from three-minute to five-minute rounds depending on the promotion, though there is a growing movement in support of standardized five-minute rounds. The Strikeforce promotion was the first to hold women's bouts with five-minute rounds.
Promotions following the Unified Rules use standardized weight classes ranging from Flyweight at 125 lbs up to Super-Heavyweight at over 265 lbs. The UFC hosts fights from all weight classes except Super Heavyweight. Japanese promotions tend to use slightly different classes and names. Competitors must weigh in the day before an event and not exceed their class's maximum weight in order to qualify for the fight. Just like other sports involving weight classes, "weight cutting" is a common tactic to gain a size advantage. Fighters will severely dehydrate themselves in the days leading up to the weigh-in to lower their weight down to the limit, then spend the rest of the day rehydrating back to their normal weight. This allows fighters to compete in weight classes that are up to 20 lbs lighter than what they truly weigh on the day of the fight. Extreme weight cutting is far less common in Japanese promotions, leading many fighters to appear undersized for their weight class.
Mixed martial arts began as a competition between pure styles and evolved into a hybrid style of the most effective techniques. Three major disciplines have risen to the top as the essential skills for any mixed martial artist:
- Stand-Up Striking: All bouts begin with both fighters standing, so it is important for fighters to have at least some knowledge of stand-up technique; Boxing and various forms of kickboxing are popular base disciplines for striking. Muay Thai, or "Thai boxing," is a popular discipline for its use of knees and elbows. However, striking in MMA must be modified from its pure stylistic roots to accommodate the possibility of grappling and takedowns.
- Wrestling: Wrestling enables fighters to dictate where the fight takes place. Fighters use wrestling to take their opponent to the ground, keep their opponent on the ground, and resist their opponents' takedowns. Greco-Roman and collegiate freestyle wrestling are popular background disciplines. Wrestling is generally considered the most important pure style for competition, and mixed martial artists with strong wrestling backgrounds are common. Judo is also prized for its effective throws.
- Grappling: When a fight goes to the ground, a strong background in BJJ or other submission grappling style is often necessary to apply or defend against submission holds. Common submissions used in competition include various chokes, armlocks, and leglocks.
An MMA bout is a three-dimensional sport that can take place on three different playing fields:
- On the Feet: Each fight begins on the feet. While both fighters are separated and standing, fighters can either attempt to strike, attempt to clinch, or attempt a takedown. Due to the threat of kicks, fighters stand farther away from each other than boxers do. Fighters also must stand more flat-footing to maintain their balance should their opponent attempt to shoot in for a takedown attempt. To get his opponent off balance, a fighter will usually set up a takedown by throwing strikes before shooting in.
- In the Clinch: When two fighters are grappling while standing, they are in the clinch. From here, each fighter can either strike his opponent, try to take him down to the mat, or attempt to push him away and separate. Wrestling is very important in the clinch to maintain your balance and control your opponent. Takedowns from the clinch usually take the form of trips, throws, and slams. Striking from the clinch is called "dirty boxing." The Muay Thai clinch, sometimes called "the plum," in which the back of the opponent's head is controlled with both hands, is often used in conjunction with knee strikes. Fighters in a clinch usually try to take their opponent down to get a dominant position on the ground. It is also possible to place your opponent in a standing submission hold from the clinch.
- On the Mat: When both fighters are on the ground, the fighter on top is said to have "top position." The fighter in top position must use his submission grappling skills to achieve a dominant position on his opponent and either strike or apply a submission hold. The more dominant his position, the easier it is for him to overcome his opponent's defenses. The fighter on bottom must use his grappling skills to either sweep his opponent and place himself in top position, or he must put himself in the most defensive position he can on the bottom. From the strongest defensive position, called "full guard," the fighter on bottom can threaten with submission holds of his own.
There are a number of classic strategies used by fighters to emphasize their strengths or to capitalize on weaknesses in their opponent's game.
- Sprawl and Brawl: A fighter with good striking and wrestling will often attempt to use his wrestling to prevent the fight from going to the ground and force his opponent into a striking contest on the feet. Thus, the fighter "sprawls" whenever his opponent shoots in on him, and forces his opponent to "brawl" with him. Fighters often use this strategy to nullify the advantages of a submission specialist. This style was popularized by UFC poster boy Chuck Liddell.
- Ground and Pound: A strong wrestler will often attempt to take his opponent to the ground and achieve a dominant top position. Rather than attempt submissions, he will focus on ground strikes to inflict damage while his opponent is less able to defend himself. This is an effective strategy to take stand-up strikers out of their game. It is also useful to soften up an opponent and reduce his ability to defend against submissions. However, it can be a risky strategy against quality grapplers who can still threaten submissions from the bottom. The "GNP" style was invented by early MMA pioneer Mark Coleman, but made famous by UFC light heavyweight Tito Ortiz.
- Lay and Pray: This is a disparaging term for an overly cautious strategy in which the fighter controls his opponent on the ground by maintaining top position, but does not put up significant offense. In effect, the fighter is "laying" on top of his opponent and "praying" that his top position will earn him enough points for a decision victory. However, if a referee believes that the top fighter is not making enough effort to improve his position or to earn a stoppage, he can restart the fighters on their feet. There are disparaging terms for similarly cautious and boring strategies occurring in the standing and clinch phase of MMA; Stand and Bland for a fighter jabbing his way to a decision (also known as 'point fighting'), and Wall and Stall for a fighter pressing his opponent against the cage but not mounting significant offense.
- Pulling Guard: When a fighter believes that he has a sizable advantage in the submission game, he may attempt a takedown called "pulling guard," which pulls his opponent to the ground on top of him and into his full guard. While the fighter is giving away top position, he puts himself in a position where he can threaten with submissions or eventually sweep to gain top position. Fighters who wish to avoid a stand-up exchange will sometimes pull guard as a desperation move, accepting the sacrifice of top position in an effort to get the fight to the ground.
Mixed Martial Arts has yet to completely shed its "human cockfighting" reputation. MMA is still illegal in three US states, and in some western nations, owing to lingering perceptions that the sport is a barbaric freak-show with no rules. Common misconceptions about modern MMA include:
"There are no rules in mixed martial arts"
Even the very first UFC events, which were billed as having "no rules," did in fact have several rules. Combatants had to obey the directions of the referee, and biting and gouging were disallowed. Modern MMA is a fully regulated sport with a long list of rules and prohibitions summarized above. Fouling an opponent or failing to obey the rules will result in point deduction or disqualification. Cuts or other injuries that prevent a fighter from adequately defending himself can also cause a stop to a bout for fighter safety. Referees in America work for state athletic commissions and not for the promotion holding the event to maintain their impartiality. Several high-profile bouts have ended by disqualification or no contest due to fouls.
"Mixed martial artists fight in cages like animals"
Mixed martial arts bouts are held in either cages or rings depending on the promotion. Cages are more popular in the US due to the influence of the UFC, while rings are more popular in Japan due to the influence of kickboxing and pro wrestling. Cages have a stigma attached to them because they are associated with animal fighting or gladiatorial combat, in which unwilling participants are locked inside an arena and forced to fight. In MMA, however, cages are used because the horizontal ropes of a ring do not effectively prevent grappling opponents from falling out of the arena. Grappling opponents can slip through or become entangled in the ropes, forcing the referee to pause the bout and restart the fighters in the center of the ring. Cages can thus prevent pauses in the action by providing a more effective barrier. Fighters use different tactics depending on the type and shape of the arena. Fans are generally divided as to which arena facilitates more entertaining matches and provides the best visibility.
"Mixed martial arts is a brutal bloodsport"
There is no getting around the fact that MMA is a violent combat sport. Many fights have resulted in concussions, bloody gashes and broken bones. There have been three reported deaths at MMA events, though none in any major promotion. Critics decry the sport as barbaric savagery that will corrupt our youth and make society more violent. However, these critics apparently ignore the violence and potential for injuries in other sports such as American football and boxing. Early American football was almost outlawed by President Theodore Roosevelt for its perceived savage nature, yet its current form is considered a hallmark of the nation's culture. Ultimately, any strenuous physical contest carries some degree of danger, even benign sports such as running. To be fair to MMA, one must prove that the sport is more violent or dangerous than other mainstream sports by an unacceptable margin.
Arguably, mixed martial arts is less violent on average than boxing. Boxing focuses exclusively on striking, while MMA includes the use of wrestling and submission grappling. Like any strenuous physical contest, grappling can result in injury, but it generally causes much less trauma than strikes. Grappling-intensive bouts sometimes end with neither fighter having landed a single significant strike. Furthermore, the striking aspect of MMA is arguably less damaging to fighters over the long term than boxing. Due to the use of smaller gloves, MMA fighters are more likely to be staggered by a single punch, whereas boxers with larger gloves must rely on an accumulation of punches to overwhelm an opponent, resulting in more head trauma overall. Also, MMA fighters are not allowed a knockdown count to recover. If an MMA fighter is ever unable to intelligently defend himself, the fight is immediately ended. Staggered boxers on the other hand are given a chance to regain their feet and continue fighting, resulting in more damage. Overall, boxing is no less violent or dangerous to fighter health than mixed martial arts.
To say that mixed martial arts is a bad influence on society ignores the fact that aggressive, competitive sports are already thought to have a positive effect on their participants. American public schools offer wrestling and football programs for their students. Outreach programs teach boxing and traditional martial arts to at-risk youths to channel their energies in a positive direction. Advocates for these sports praise their effectiveness in teaching physical fitness, discipline, and healthy competition. Mixed martial arts is simply an amalgamation of sports and disciplines that are already deemed beneficial for the development of our youth.
"Mixed martial artists are unskilled streetfighters"
Public perception of the average mixed martial artist is that of a professional bar brawler. Several well-known MMA fighters, such as David "Tank" Abbot and Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson did in fact have a background as actual street fighters but have achieved only limited success in professional competition. In reality, fighters must cross-train extensively in a variety of disciplines to achieve any high-level success in the sport. Common background disciplines include wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, judo and karate. As time goes on and the sport grows, the next generation of fighters will feature a greater number of purists who began training the sport at a young age rather than transferring in from another discipline.
APPEARANCES IN MEDIA
Due to the sport's growing popularity, as well as its occasionally lurid reputation, mixed martial arts have been portrayed in a number of media:
- An Italian commercial features an MMA fighter seemingly defeated outside of the cage, expressing shock that something was "so strong." It turns out that he's talking about the Extra Strong Mint Golia candies that he just ate.
- Anderson Silva is fairly well-known by the mainstream public in Brazil and has been featured in a number of commercials, including a Burger King ad that makes fun of his high-pitched voice.
- Pride fighters endorsed a number of Japanese products at the height of the promotion's popularity. Many of the commercials were quite bizarre.
- Never Back Down: An MMA-meets-The OC style film portraying a Florida high school where backyard MMA competitions have become fashionable. The film is surprisingly faithful to the actual techniques of MMA in spite of its silly premise.
- Redbelt portrays an MMA organization as part of its main plot. The film is written and directed by David Mamet, who practices BJJ but does not follow MMA. Though UFC champ Randy Couture appeared in a small acting role, Mamet's MMA consultants had very little involvement in the modern sport, and the film's depiction suffers greatly. The film features an out-of-date and villainized version of the UFC as well as a number of highly implausible plot details.
- Cradle 2 the Grave: Jet Li runs afoul of an underground MMA competition, which features several UFC fighters in cameos.
- In the French film Banlieue 13, one of the villains watches a UFC fight featuring David "Tank" Abbot. The film probably intended the sport's bad reputation to help portray the villain as a thug, and the world as half empty.
- In Pineapple Express, Dale's girlfriend Angie has her motel television tuned to a UFC fight in the foreground as they discuss their relationship over the phone.
- Fighting features a New York underground fighting circuit that is based somewhat on MMA. The main villain of the film seems to be a professional MMA fighter in addition to an underground champ. He posts videos of his seedy MMA fights online, obviously reminiscent of Kimbo Slice's YouTube brawls. The film features former Strikeforce champ Cung Le as the Chinatown fighter.
- Warrior focuses on two brothers who compete in a 16-contestant, single-elimination MMA tournament. The film features a fairly detailed and realistic MMA setting, a number of real MMA personalities in the cast, and even a few Expys of some others.
- Various documentaries about MMA fighters have been made, most of them tearjerkers.
- Jens Pulver: Driven is a documentary about former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver preparing for his fight against Javier Vazquez, and his rough childhood and how his near-poverty forces him to continue fighting long after the sport passed him by.
- The Smashing Machine: The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr details the life and career of MMA pioneer Mark Kerr, and his addiction to narcotics spurred by the pain of his many fight injuries. It also details the later career of Mark Coleman, a former UFC heavyweight champion seeking a return to his winning ways in the Japanese PRIDE FC.
- Once I Was A Champion is a biography about the late Evan Tanner, former UFC middleweight champion.
- In Flash Point, Donnie Yen combined MMA choreography with other traditional styles to film the fight scenes, though the sport itself does not make an appearance.
- The reality show The Ultimate Fighter focuses on amateur or small-time professional MMA fighters aspiring to be signed into the UFC. Each season is structured as a tournament between two teams of contestants, each coached by a veteran UFC fighter. A live finale fight card determines the winner of the tournament, who receives a UFC contract. So far, three contestants of the show have gone on to become UFC champions in their weight class, though all lost their first title defense. The popularity of the first season is widely credited as a major factor in pushing the UFC and MMA into the mainstream.
- Iron Ring was a reality show on Black Entertainment Television loosely based on The Ultimate Fighter. The show divided its contestants into several teams, each led by a celebrity "coach," most of whom were actually rappers. The show was criticized heavily by the MMA community for the crass way in which the spotlight was placed on the egos of the celebrity coaches rather than the fighters' efforts and for its extremely loose adherence to the rules, conventions, and discipline of professional MMA.
- TapouT was a reality show hosted by the three founders of the TapouT clothing line, which is a major sponsor of MMA fighters. In each episode, the company founders "Mask," "Skyskrape," and "Punkass" would travel by bus to meet an up-and-coming MMA fighter to sponsor him and follow him through his next fight. Whether the fighter won his bout or not, the TapouT crew would inevitably applaud his determination and continue to sponsor him. Much of each episode was also dedicated to the hosts' wacky hijinks. With the death of Charles "Mask" Lewis, no new episodes are expected for the future.
- Bully Beatdown is a reality show on MTV hosted by the colorful middleweight fighter Jason "Mayhem" Miller. The premise has one or more bullied individuals getting their revenge on a bully by putting him in a cage against a professional MMA fighter for two rounds, each with the possibility of earning up to $5,000. The first round is grappling only, with the bully losing $1,000 each time he submits. The second round is kickboxing, with the bully losing all $5,000 if he cannot survive the round. All of the bully's losses go to his victim(s). The show is based around the expectation that the bully will get beaten up and humiliated, earning very little money. Mayhem provides over-the-top commentary throughout. The second season has added a Daily Show-esque sit-down interview between Mayhem and the bully. The third season is currently airing, including a female bully in one episode and Mayhem himself fighting a bully in another.
- In an episode of Friends, Monica's boyfriend, played by Jon Favreau, dedicates himself to becoming a UFC fighter. David "Tank" Abbot has a cameo as his opponent.
- In an episode of Entourage, Johnny Drama inadvertently gets on the bad side of then-UFC champ Chuck Liddell. He attends a UFC fight and is brow-beaten into entering the cage and humiliating himself, but the whole thing is just a prank by Pauly Shore.
- In a second season episode of The Fixer, John Mercer infiltrates a gang of criminals who run underground cage fights. He ultimately enters a lethal cage match himself. The scene is presented as a seedy underworld populated by violent crooks, rather than a legitimate sport.
- An episode of News Radio had Joe Garelli, played by Joe Rogan, as a UFC combatant, which is particularly Danza-ish due to Rogan's job as color commentator for the UFC. An exciting new style of combat is discovered in this episode: Tickle-style.
- In the fourth season premier of True Blood, Tara is revealed to be an amateur mixed martial artist. She fights her lesbian lover in a match and wins via armbar.
- One episode of Leverage involved going after a MMA promoter who had doped an up-and-coming fighter who refused to throw his fight.
- Teppu is interesting, as it portrays Japanese MMA neutrally and fairly realistically, though the main character's goal is to beat the eternal smile off her rival's face.
- All Rounder Meguru is a light-hearted but impressively realistic ongoing series about amateur MMA.
- High School Exciting Story: Tough and Shootfighter Tekken despite not being all that realistic.
- Shamo was an interesting but subversive take on combat sports as a whole. Unfortunately the series was discontinued.
- MMA shows up late in Holyland; the final Big Bad's Co-Dragons are both trained in it. While both of them are Blood Knights, the older and more experienced of them is portrayed as a Worthy Opponent (though a very ruthless one) while the other is little more than a punk (though a very skilled one).
- Several video games have been released under the UFC brand:
- Ultimate Fighting Championship was the first UFC game, released in 2000 for the Dreamcast, PlayStation, and Game Boy Color. The game was publisher Crave Entertainment's first big title and received fairly good reviews.
- UFC: Tapout was released for Xbox in 2002. The game received good to fair reviews and inexplicably features rapper Ice-T as an unlockable character. A sequel was released in 2003 with an updated fighter roster, but few other additions.
- UFC Throwdown was also released in 2002 for the PlayStation 2 and Gamecube. The game features a number of hidden characters, including UFC employees Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta, and Bruce Buffer. The late TapouT clothing line founder and MMA advocate Charles "Mask" Lewis served as a model along with Tito Ortiz on the game's cover.
- UFC Sudden Impact was released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2. Published by Global Star Software rather than Crave, it received poor reviews. The cover featured fighter Phil Baroni kneeing Charles "Mask" Lewis and also featured "The Mask" as an unlockable character.
- UFC 2009 Undisputed was released in 2009 and published by THQ. It is the first UFC game released after the company's breakout success following The Ultimate Fighter series and has sold over 1 million units. The game features an extensive roster of UFC fighters, though some had already been cut by the time of the game's release; UFC 2010 came out the next year, but was hurt by lackluster sales.
- Electronic Arts released an MMA game prominently featuring the Strikeforce promotion and its associated fighters in direct competition with the UFC's game. UFC President Dana White declared soon after the announcement of the game that he was "at war" with EA, citing their dismissive attitude toward MMA when the UFC approached them to publish Undisputed, and going so far as to say that any fighter who appeared in the EA game would be blacklisted from the UFC. The sole exception at this point is Randy Couture, who had a great deal of flexibility as to control of his trademarked image worked into his most recent contract. Reviews of the game were mixed and it suffered from weak sales.
Tropes associated with Mixed Martial Arts are:
- Ass Kicks You: Mark Hunt once performed the now-famous "Atomic Butt Drop" on Wanderlei Silva. This move has only been attempted once.
- Awesome Yet Practical: The "superman punch" looks like a gratuitously flashy move that would usually be confined to a kung fu flick, but the theory behind the technique is almost disappointingly practical. The fighter lifts his front leg off the mat to fake a low kick, then springs off of his back foot to close the distance and deliver a head punch in mid-air. It's simply one of the many ways that fighters "fake low and go high."
- Ax Crazy: Despite how the sport is sometimes portrayed in the mainstream media, most MMA professionals are sane, friendly, reasonable people. However, there are a few notable exceptions in those who are completely crazy and fight for a living.
- Allen "Junie" Browning: Junie became famous on season 8 of the Ultimate Fighter for his many, many violent, profanity-laced and alcohol-fueled destructive binges. After being taken to a hospital following an overdose of Klonopin in 2009, Junie proceeded to assault hospital personnel and threaten their families, for which he was released from his UFC contract. Upon his MMA return, he celebrated his win by sexually propositioning every woman in attendance.
- Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett: As Seanbaby wrote on cracked.com, "'Krazy Horse isn't a cute nickname. Charles Bennett is a legitimate lunatic." Bennett is known for his bizarre and entertaining in-ring antics, his claims that he trains only by playing basketball, and his arrests for drug possession and assault, and actually jumping another fighter backstage at a show.
- War Machine aka Jon Koppenhaver: Has had multiple legal incidents throughout his career, legally changed his name to "War Machine" (over, of all things, TNA's Rhyno using the moniker), became a porn star and was sentenced to one year in prison for assault at a porn industry party in 2009. At one point he was found trying to sell pieces of his kidney and liver, and sperm over eBay. He was also infamous for several... unique rants on Twitter (now "protected"), and most recently was arrested for assault after fighting with bouncers at Thrusters Lounge...one day after pledging to change his "War Machine" moniker and turn over a new leaf. War Machine fought twice more in May and then July of 2010 before reporting to prison to serve a 1-year sentence partially as a result of the incident at Thrusters Lounge.
- And Viacheslav Datsik outcrazies them all. Famous for beating former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski early in Arlovski's career, Datsik went on a losing streak from 2001 to 2003 and then disappeared. He was presumed dead for four years, but then re-emerged in 2007 and robbed a series of mobile phone shops. He was arrested, determined schizophrenic, and locked in a high-security mental institution...from which he escaped by tearing a hole through the chain-link fence with his bare hands. Datsik has since been recaptured, reincarcerated, and presumably kept away from fences. Seanbaby has written about him too.
- Badass Beard:
- Kimbo Slice is well known for his bushy facial hair. One reporter asked future opponent James Thompson whether it was fair that Thompson had to fight both Kimbo Slice and his beard at the same time.
- Before his untimely death after a disastrous camping trip in the desert, Evan Tanner sported a mighty beard in his last few fights. When he died, thousands of fans and fighters spent a month growing a beard in tribute (including Joe Rogan).
- Badass Grandpa: Pretty much why Randy Couture is legendary in the American MMA community.
- Badass Mustache: Dan Severn sported the original MMA badass mustache, but his protege Don Frye made it a Memetic Mutation.
- Bald of Awesome: Randy Couture, Fedor Emmelianenko, Anderson Silva, George St. Pierre, BJ Penn, UFC president Dana White, among others.
- Beard of Sorrow: Joe Rogan joined a number of other people in growing out their beards for a month to honor the memory of the late Evan Tanner, who occasionally sported a Badass Beard. Rogan appeared with the beard at several UFC events.
- Big Guy Rodeo: Sometimes happened in Japanese promotions when giant fighters face smaller ones, and the smaller one goes for a rear naked choke.
- Blood Sport: Mixed martial arts is often called a "blood sport" even by respectable media in order to sensationalize it, despite the fact that mainstream sports like boxing could also be characterized as such.
- Blatant Lies: Chael Sonnen in the lead-up to UFC 117 is notorious for his rants and comments at Anderson Silva's expense, but several times has made objectively false comments. He claimed that he had never been defeated at middleweight, then claiming that his infamous Twitter account wasn't his, despite having given out the URL in a prior interview. After denying that he'd claimed that Lance Armstrong "gave himself cancer" by abusing performance-enhancing drugs. a radio host played him back audio of him making the claim. Undeterred, Sonnen denied that it was his voice. Amusingly, Sonnen himself tested positive for steroids following UFC 117.
- Boring but Practical:
- The use of wrestling to control your opponent is a vital component of MMA. Some fights are decided almost completely by positioning and control rather than damaging offense, making wrestling specialists very effective but often boring to watch.
- Georges St-Pierre is sometimes criticized for using tactics that turn every fight into a lopsided decision victory. Whether it's using his wrestling to control opponents or his jab to stay out of harm's way, GSP's style is undeniably effective, but doesn't always make for much drama.
- Jon Fitch has been derided for his conservative style of fighting- rather going for decision than KOs or submissions. It has worked, but even Dana White called him out on his fighting style.
- Boring Invincible Hero: The UFC's matchmaking is occasionally hampered by champions who are "too dominant" in that they appear to have cleaned out their weight division of worthy challengers, although with the anything-can-happen nature of MMA, however, these periods rarely last long. As of the end of 2011, Georges St-Pierre (welterweight) is presently the only champion who has not shown any weakness in some time.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Jason "Mayhem" Miller seems to enjoy doing this in the middle of his fights when in Japan as he will frequently pause his attack from top position to look up and give the V-sign to the camera.
- Bullying a Dragon: In 2006, Former WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber told a pretty exciting story about how a pack of Balinese gangsters swarmed him after watching him beat down one of their own in a streetfight. Faber summarizes the episode: "It takes more than twelve Balinese with weapons to kill the California Kid."
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: Rousimar Palhares is pretty much a mix of this, Cloud Cuckoolander and possibly Crazy Awesome, seeing as he's notorious for two things: horrifying leglocks, and horrifying mental lapses in the Octagon and on the grappling mat! (Fortunately, so far as anyone knows this is strictly in competition, which keeps him from qualifying as Ax Crazy.)
- Charles Atlas Superpower: Many fighters can demonstrate flexibility and resilience that would shock most bystanders. BJ Penn was noted for being able to, without using his hands, lift his leg up and loop his foot behind his head, though he has admitted he can no longer quite perform this feat. Flexibility is often vital for submission defence, allowing fighters to contort their limbs to ridiculous angles to escape a hold, as the current UFF lightweight champion Ben Henderson has proven time and again.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Pretty much what UFC middleweight Rousimar Palhares is known for, even more than his successes, particularly where he seemed to suffer brain farts in two fights, one that almost decided the fight and one that did:
- When Nate Marquardt slipped out of a leglock attempt by the supine Palhares, for some reason Palhares turned his head towards the referee to complain that Marquardt might be "greasing" (oiling himself up to defeat grappling). Unfortunately, Palhares turning his attention away from his opponent violated the referee's pre-fight instruction to "defend yourself at all times," and Marquardt promptly punished this by grounding-and-pounding Palhares to a TKO.
- When Palhares dropped Dan Miller with a head kick to the chin, he promptly went for ground-and-pound against his turtled-up opponent, landing several heavy-looking punches... then got up to raise his arms in seeming victory, walk away and climb the cage to celebrate, only for the referee to tell him that the fight had not been stopped and that he was to come back down and continue fighting — after which Palhares himself was crumpled by a left hand from Miller and almost TKO'd himself!
- Complaining About Shows You Don't Watch: A common problem with critics of MMA, who very often display a limited understanding of the sport they criticize.
- Confusion Fu: Genki Sudo's main tactic while on the feet, including turning his back, waving his arms in silly poses and literally dancing around his opponent. His fighting style can be summarized as 8% ridiculous dancing around, 1% spinning backfists, 1% flying triangle chokes and 90% amazing grappling skill.
- Media Research Failure: Many people incorrectly refer to MMA as "ultimate fighting" and the athletes as "ultimate fighters." The UFC probably appreciates this and encourages it with the name of its reality show, The Ultimate Fighter.
- Curb Stomp Battle: There have been many examples of a fighter defeating a worthy opponent with unexpected ease. A few examples include:
- Royce Gracie curbstomped his way through the very first UFC event. Most of his opponents had no idea how to fight his style, and boxer Art Jimmerman gave up without throwing a single strike. Since the first event, Gracie continued to dominate the early events, but he was always considered the favorite. Ironically, he suffered a curbstomp defeat of his own on his return to the UFC against welterweight champ Matt Hughes, who dominated him with superior wrestling coupled with savvy submission defense.
- Anderson Silva exploded into the UFC after a fairly unexceptional career in other promotions. He dispatched the rugged Chris Leben so ruthlessly in his debut that he was immediately given a title shot. Though many fans didn't think he even deserved the shot, Silva demolished the two-time defending champ Rich Franklin in the first round. Since then, Silva has dispatched a number of other worthy opponents with ease, including a thrashing of Forrest Griffin, in which Silva spent a large portion of the fight taunting Griffin with his hands down before knocking him out with a backpedaling jab.
- Lyoto Machida unleashed a series of lopsided victories over quality competition on his run for the light heavyweight title. Machida used a unique and elusive style, which includes a strong base in his family's brand of Shotokan karate, to nullify most opponents' offense and make them look like novices.
- "Shogun" Rua delivered a curbstomp beating on Machida during their rematch, beating the champ to the punch and knocking him out in three and a half minutes.
- In 2003, Fedor Emelianenko challenged the then-greatest heavyweight ever in Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira. He was viewed as not standing a chance. He proceeded to spend twenty minutes absolutely torturing Nogueira, assailing him with unbelievably powerful punches. In December of 2004, he did it again, and would have done so in August of 2004 had an accidental cut not stopped the fight early. Fedor went gone on to crush many more opponents, but was always the clear favorite up until he began fighting for StrikeForce, where after defeating Brett Rogers, he proceeded to lose 3 in a row.
- Jon Fitch was riding a dominant 8-fight winning streak en route to his title fight against Georges St-Pierre, which turned into the worst beating of his life. After another another 8-fight undefeated streak, during which he was considered the perennial Number 2 welterweight in the world after GSP, he faced Johnny Hendricks and was knocked out in just 12 seconds.
- George St-Pierre vs. BJ Penn 2 was dubbed a superfight between champions. Many fans thought that Penn stood an excellent chance of being the first fighter to hold two UFC belts simultaneously. Instead, St-Pierre dominated the fight with superior wrestling, and pummeled Penn mercilessly for three rounds until Penn's corner threw in the towel before the fourth bell.
- Jon 'Bones' Jones destroyed Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua in their title fight at UFC 128 in New Jersey, and made it look easy. Nobody has ever made a victory against Shogun look easy until this day.
- David Versus Goliath: Early UFC events were open-weight, sometimes resulting in fighters facing opponents more than 100 lbs heavier then themselves. Japanese promotions love these match-ups, often pitting small Japanese fighters against opponents weighing 300-500 lbs. The trend fell into disuse after the demise of Pride, but was restored for Dream's 2009 "Super Hulk Tournament." Usually the "Goliaths" fare quite poorly due to their often dubious credentials as fighters.
- Ikuhisa "Minowaman" Minowa, winner of the Super Hulk Tournament, has since become the go-to giant killer for many Japanese promotions.
- Dead Little Sister:
- Sadly all too true in the case of Vitor Belfort, whose sister Priscila was abducted in 2004; three years later, a woman confessed to murdering her due to the lack of a ransom.
- Denis Kang's life and career were totally derailed by his girlfriend's death in 2006. From That Other Wiki:
"On September 23, 2006, Kang's fiancée, Shelby Walker, who was also a professional fighter, was found dead after an apparent overdose of pain medication. Kang had racked up a 23 fight unbeaten streak prior to his fiancée's death, but has since won only 7 of 16 bouts."
- Deadpan Snarker: Forrest Griffin is prone to this in his interviews, though Amir Sadollah seems to be giving him a run for his money. An "Inside The Octagon" mini-show that reunited them (Sadollah was a member of Griffin's team on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter) showcased both men Snarking their way through the entire segment.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: Nick and Nate Diaz are known for their unique and effective style of boxing, which involves a high volume of low-power punches to wear their oppponents down. The style is sometimes called the "Stockton Slap."
- Defeating the Undefeatable: Due to the nature of the sport, upsets in MMA are more common than in boxing. All "undefeatable" fighters are just one mistake away from getting knocked out or tapping out, or at the very least losing their "invincible aura."
- The Gracie family have been the most dominant family in the history of the sport during its early years, and the family took pride claiming that BJJ (which was once dubbed Gracie Jiu Jitsu) was unbeatable. That image was shattered when 4 of the Gracie clan (including their most well known member former UFC champion Royce Gracie) were beaten by Japanese MMA legend and former Pro-wrestler/Shootwrestler Kazushi Sakuraba. Sakuraba was later dubbed The Gracie Hunter.
- Matt Hughes was the most dominant UFC champ in history until his rematch with Georges St-Pierre, who stopped him in the second round with surprising ease.
- After winning the championship, St-Pierre was considered undefeatable. In his first title defense, he faced Matt Serra, a journeyman whose career had fizzled out before winning a "comeback" title shot through the The Ultimate Fighter reality show. Everyone expected Georges St-Pierre to run straight through Serra. Early in the first round, however, Serra landed a hard punch just behind St-Pierre's ear, taking away his equilibrium. Serra swarmed in with more punches until the overwhelmed St-Pierre was forced to tap out due to strikes.
- The trope was subverted by the first Machida vs. Shogun fight. Although Lyoto Machida was considered an unbeatable enigma coming into his first title defense as light heavyweight champion, many spectators and commentators gave the decision victory to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. The judges, however, awarded Machida a controversial unanimous decision victory. Machida's air of invincibility had nonetheless been cracked, and he fittingly lost the rematch to Shogun by first round KO.
- BJ Penn was considered unbeatable at lightweight once he took the UFC championship, steamrolling over all title contenders with ease. Then came Frank Edgar, a 6 to 1 underdog who was thought to lack a single competitive advantage over the champion. Edgar proceeded to pepper Penn with punches and frustrate him with movement and feints to take a somewhat unpopular unanimous decision victory. In their rematch, Edgar took a decisive decision victory.
- Fedor Emelianenko was long considered the best MMA fighter in the world. However, when he to knocked down the underdog Fabricio Werdum and rushed in for the kill, Werdum took advantage of Fedor's overconfidence and snapped on a triangle choke with armbar — ending a 9.5 year-long 28-fight undefeated streak.
- Narrowly averted by Anderson Silva, the most dominant champion in UFC history, during his 2010 title defense to Chael Sonnen. The challenger dominated four and a half rounds with superior wrestling and surprisingly effective stand-up striking until the champion managed to sink in a triangle-armbar and win the fight.
- Defeat Means Friendship: It's very common for fighters to embrace and congratulate each other after the bout is over. Former opponents have sometimes invited each other to train at each other's camps.
- Defictionalization: Remember the original Karate Kid? Lyoto Machida knocked out Randy Couture at UFC 129 with an honest-to-goodness crane kick.
- This is quickly becoming Scott Smith's calling card. His wins against Cung Le and Benji Radach both came late in the last round on one big punch, after having been dominated the rest of the fight. The best example is his amazing win against Pete Sell (at :33).
- Also applies to Kazushi Sakuraba. As an MMA legend with a reputation for winning against daunting odds, exciting comeback wins, and being a national hero of Japan, referees sometimes give Sakuraba a bit too much leeway in letting him continue fighting. Observers will note that in his fights against Kestutis Smirnovas and Zaleg Galesic, Saku appears to be knocked completely out at least once. However, the referee let the match continue and Sakuraba won both fights. Sakuraba's history of brain-related injury leads to the frightening question of how long he can continue to be a Determinator.
- Urijah Faber pretty much is the Determinator King of North America for his second fight vs. Mike Brown, for the WEC featherweight championship. There's been more than one fight where a fighter suffered a broken hand, but Faber on the other hand (unfortunate pun) lost BOTH of his hands... instead of immediately surrendering or the fight being stopped by the officials though, he chose to fight on for the remainder of the 25 minutes with elbows, kicks and knees. While he still lost by unanimous decision, it's pretty much American MMA's biggest known case of this.
- Disproportionate Retribution: After the main event of Strikeforce: Nashville, card, Jason "Mayhem" Miller gained access to the cage and interrupted the post-fight interview of victorious middleweight champion Jake Shields to demand a rematch. Shields and his cornerman Gilbert Melendez pushed Miller away, but their infamously pugnacious teammate Nick Diaz threw a punch, prompting Shields' entire team to swarm Miller and pummel him with punches and soccer kicks.
- The Eeyore: Nick Diaz, despite being on a three-year winning streak, is known for his stubbornly dour and pessimistic personality. After an impressive stoppage of Paul Daley, his only reaction was to speculate that Strikeforce was trying to get rid of him and would likely punish him for some imagined grievance. After dominating the legendary BJ Penn into retirement and earning more than a quarter-million dollar paycheck, Diaz spent the post-fight interview complaining about his living conditions, being forced to fight BJ Penn and his gloves not fitting.
- Embarrassing Nickname:
- Nick "The Goat" Thompson was originally nicknamed "The Fainting Goat" due to his tendancy to get knocked out. Once he got more experience and increased his toughness, the name got shortened to "The Goat," which has no meaning.
- Yoshihiro Akiyama was nicknamed "Sexyama" by internet fans due to his modeling and fashionable lifestyle. He found the nickname embarrassing, but eventually accepted it.
- Every Year They Fizzle Out:
- Chael Sonnen came in second place in a national wrestling competition and has been submitted twice in two championship fights that he was in the process of winning.
- Kenny Florian has fought well enough to earn four UFC title shots, but lost in every attempt.
- Fan Dumb: The Sherdog Message Board is a notorious haven for trolls and infantile commentary.
- Fan Nickname: Many fighters adopt a nickname that is coined by friends, family, and trainers, but sometimes the fans themselves coin them. Examples include Sean "The Muscle Shark" Sherk, Kazushi "The Gracie Hunter" Sakuraba, and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. Examples that are not officially adopted are often mocking names or simple abbreviations of the fighter's name. Sometimes a fighter's signature move receives a fan nickname.
- Alistair Overeem gained the nickname "Ubereem" to signify the ridiculously muscled physique that he developed after moving up to the heavyweight weight class.
- Brock Lesnar is often called "Cock Chesnar" to mock the extremely phallic tattoo he sports on his chest.
- "Cup" Chieck Kongo is so called due to the number of times he "cup checked" his opponent Mirko Cro Cop with illegal groin strikes.
- Sakuraba is often called "Saku" by fans who are pressed for time.
- Georges "Rush" St-Pierre is almost always referred to as GSP rather than by any part of his name or even his original nickname.
- Mirko Cro Cop's infamous left high kicks are often abbreviated "LHK," which in turn has migrated onto others' use of the same technique.
- James Thompson's tradition of charging at his opponent at the instant of the first bell is called "Gong and Dash."
- Yoshihiro Akiyama, known for his modeling and fashionable lifestyle, is called "Sexyama" by fans. Akiyama stated that the name embarrassed him at first, but he now likes it.
- Rousimar Palhares' official nickname is Toquinho ("little tree stump") but he's often referred to as "Paul Harris" due to his surname.
- StrikeForce fighter Miesha Tate's nickname is "Takedown", a reference to her wrestling-based style. However her, shall we say, impressively muscular posterior has led some fans to dub her Miesha "Dat Ass" Tate.
- Fetish Fuel: Let's just leave it at that.
- Fight Clubbing: "Smokers" are private, unsanctioned boxing and MMA events set up between gyms so that inexperienced fighters can get some ring experience before going into their first sanctioned bout. Kimbo Slice also made a name for himself in backyard boxing matches before transitioning into a professional MMA fighter.
- Fingerless Gloves: MMA uses 4-ounce fingerless gloves to accomodate both striking and grappling. There is a running problem with fighters accidentally poking each others' eyes in competition, which is an illegal move.
- Foe Yay: Grappling in MMA is often disparaged as "a bunch of hugging and kissing." However, even fans will admit that some ground positions can look a little peculiar. Don't tell that to an MMA fighter, though. They don't have a sense of humor about it.
- Later taken to a logical extreme by Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans in a conference call for their UFC 114 main-event clash, both whom eventually lampshaded how homoerotic their trash talk had become:
Rampage: I bet you'd get an [expletive] from that.
- Or this classic moment when Wanderlei Silva entered the cage to hype his upcoming UFC 79 fight with Chuck Liddell, a dream match between the iconic light heavyweights of PRIDE fand UFC respectively, and became the victim of English as a Second Language:
Wanderlei: I want to fuck Chuck — fight Chuck!
- UFC middleweight almost-champion Chael Sonnen is infamous for an old promo he filmed for BoDog seeming to disparage the guard position and implicitly jiu-jitsu where he declared, "some people subscribe to that theory, but I'm a Republican and we don't do that." Ironic considering that not only are eight of his eleven losses by submission, but four of those were from the guard, by triangle choke — performed with one man's legs and pelvis around another man's head and neck.
- Genius Bruiser - There are a significant number of MMA fighters who are actually fighting for a living as a second career, with some pretty intellectual first ones.
- Rich Franklin is famously a former math teacher with a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and a Master's Degree in Education.
- Matt "The Law" Lindland ran for Oregon state representative but lost partially due to his opponent's anti-MMA ads
- Chael Sonnen also ran for state representative. More infamously, he took part in a money laundering scheme as a real estate agent while also fighting professionally.
- Shane Carwin is a full-time mechanical engineer and showed up to work as usual at 9:00 a.m. on March 29, 2010... two days after he won the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship.
- Dr. Rosi Sexton has 10-2 win record and a Ph.D in theoretical computer science.
- Nick "The Goat" Thompson achieved his J.D. in Law and became a practicing attorney while amassing more than 50 fights across almost every major fighting promotion.
- Gentle Giant: UFC heavyweight fighter Shane Carwin is a big dude, and most of his 12 wins have been extremely short and extremely brutal. Outside of the cage, he has been consistently described by all the fans that have met him as kind, personable and quite possibly the nicest fighter in the UFC.
- Glasgow Grin: UFC Featherweight champ José Aldo received a partial one in a childhood accident. Though healed, the scar is easily noticeable, attributing to his nickname: Scarface.
- Glass Cannon: Several examples in mixed martial arts, including fighters that have devastating offense but a weak chin, or fighters with ludicrously brilliant skill in one area... and none in any other.
- Shinya Aoki is one of the most brilliant no-gi grapplers on the planet, but he reacts to punches as though they were illegal and has very limited striking skills.
- Similarly, Demian Maia is one of the most decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in MMA and has defeated heavier opponents, including UFC heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga. At one point, he was undefeated at 11-0 under MMA rules and had won 5 straight UFC fights by submission, despite having no striking ability. Then he fought Nate Marquardt. Fortunately, this has improved... somewhat, though it remains to be seen if doing so has dulled his jiu-jitsu edge.
- Bob Sapp has enough strength to pick up a 260 pound man literally off the mat and piledrive him violently to the ground. He racked up a number of impressive kickboxing wins with his sheer size and power. However, Sapp is also infamous for his glass chin, lack of heart, and having laughably few grappling skills. He now regularly loses to opponents nearly half his size.
- Melvin Manhoef, a Dutch kickboxer, has truly horrifying punching power. He was the first, and so far only man to ever knock out Mark Hunt, who was famous for shrugging off career-ending strikes to his presumably granite-filled head. Manhoef delivered said KO while moving backwards. Unfortunately, even though he's fought at the highest levels of kickboxing and MMA and can put together beautiful offensive combinations, Manhoef's strike defense is quite lacking, and he has been knocked out by mid-level fighters far more often than an elite striker should. More saliently, his grappling skills are pure garbage. For MMA professionals, fighting Manhoef can either end in Melvin decapitating you with a punch, or with him meekly tapping out 15 seconds after the fight hits the mat.
- Many fighters like Melvin Guillard and Houston Alexander have decent striking, scary power and zero grappling skill. Stand with them and they're likely to hurt you, take them down and they'll play you the three-tap symphony.
- Chuck Liddell developed into one of these after Rampage Jackson KO'd him for the Light Heavyweight title. Lately, he's suffered his third consecutive KO defeat(to his opponent's "weak side" hand no less) and everyone from the fans to UFC President Dana White had to urge The Iceman to hang up his gloves. Even in his prime, Liddell's ground game was notoriously weak.
- Former UFC Heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski is infamous for that. He has great speed and technique and can more than hold his own on the ground as well. Unfortunately he has always suffered from a weak chin, which got even worse after he suffered a brutal KO from Fedor Emelianenko.
- Brock Lesnar has started to veer this way after suffering two straight KO losses.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: MMA is generally regarded as having demystified martial arts and helped strip away the exotic, flashy moves that proved ineffective in competition. Today, MMA has generally homogenized into a core set of simple, effective moves. However, many fighters avert the trope by successfully applying exotic or flashy moves into their arsenal:
- Lyoto Machida's signature stand-up style is greatly influenced by his family's brand of Shotokan karate as well as his sumo background.
- Katsunori Kikuno is a Japanese fighter noted for use of techniques from his Kyokushin karate background in the ring, typified by signature "crescent" kicks to the body (particularly towards the liver) and head.
- Yves Edwards vs. Josh Thomson ended with both famously using exotic techniques — a flying kick and a spinning backfist — against each other simultaneously.
- Jon "Bones" Jones is noted for his use of spinning back elbows and eye-popping throws. He claims he doesn't use them to be flashy, they're just part of his style... learned through YouTube.
- After watching Ong Bak, Anderson Silva suddenly wanted to win a fight by leading reverse elbow. His coaches completely shot this down, so he practiced the technique privately with his wife. Come his fight with Tony Fryklund, that's exactly how Silva won.
- Cung Le has a Sanshou backrgound and used his impressive array of kicks to break Frank Shamrock's arm.
- Anthony Pettis is well known for his acrobatic attacks. He won the final WEC Lightweight Championship by running up the side of the cage, springing off, and delivering a flying kick to the face of Benson Henderson, flooring him.
- Hard Work Hardly Works: BJ Penn developed a reputation for being lazy and coasting through fights on natural talent rather than training to improve his technique and conditioning. It caught up with him. His career is peppered with flashes of brilliance as well as disappointment.
"My worst enemy has always been that I've been too talented to train, and now it's catching up with me. I gotta start training or those guys will start catching up with me."
- Hate Dumb: Many fans criticize Bobby Lashley and Brock Lesnar for coming to MMA after a successful pro wrestling career, in spite of their legitimate amateur wrestling pedigrees. The same fans seem to give a pass to the many other MMA fighters who also had professional wrestling experience. In fact, only four UFC heavyweight champions have never done any pro wrestling.
- Hit and Run Tactics: Dominick Cruz and Frankie Edgar are known for their use of high-volume striking combined with a great deal of lateral movement to pick apart their opponents and avoid counters.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: There are several instances of a fighter being defeated "at his own game" by someone with a lesser or no reputation for that area of expertise.
- Melvin Manhoef was knocked out by a single hard punch from Robbie Lawler who was almost unanimously believed to be his inferior at stand-up striking. During DREAM's 2010 Light Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinals, Manhoef would even be knocked down by his opponent Takeya Mizuno, slugged multiple times (while his head was trapped by a turnbuckle pad of all things!)... and then submitted.
- Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and his team "read the style" of Lyoto Machida and planned to lead him along in the rematch, pretending to leave an opening in Shogun's defense so that Lyoto would "go aggressive" and run right into Shogun's "ambush" — a favored tactic of Machida's.
- Georges St-Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck. GSP had no formal wrestling training prior to entering MMA, while Koscheck was a college wrestling champion. However, GSP steamrolled over Koscheck with startlingly advanced wrestling skill. Since this fight, GSP has based his entire gameplan around dominant wrestling, trains with the Canadian Olympic freestyle wrestling team, and even publicly considered trying out for the 2012 Olympics as one of them.
- Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and his deadly left high kick stepped into the Octagon to face giant grappler Gabriel Gonzaga in what many considered a squash match before an anticipated clash between the Croatian and then-champion Randy Couture. After manhandling the kickboxing legend for the majority of the first round, Gonzaga knocked Filipovic out, causing him to (in the words of Seanbaby) "Ragdoll so hard that his foot was on backwards when he landed". What did he use to find his light switch? Why, a head kick, of course.
- Paulo Thiago debuted in the UFC as an unknown and heavy underdog against the established and highly ranked Josh Koscheck. Thiago won the bout with a one-punch knockout in the first round. After becoming an established and highly ranked fighter in his own right, Thiago faced Siyar Bahadurzada, who was debuting in the UFC as an unknown and heavy underdog. Bahadurzada defeated Thiago with a one-punch knockout in the first round.
- Implacable Man: Kazushi Sakuraba's epic 90-minute fight with Royce Gracie, which he won after Gracie threw in the towel due to exhaustion and accumulated damage. If that wasn't enough, Sakuraba faced a second opponent on the same night, Igor Vovchanchyn, a feared striker who was much heavier and better rested. Sakuraba went the distance for another 20 minutes, fighting Vovchanchyn to a draw, before Sakuraba declined to enter a tie-breaker round.
- Internet Backdraft: Many longtime and hardcore MMA fans did not like the sudden influx of johnny-come-lately MMA fans brought in by The Ultimate Fighter television series. Saying anything positive about the show or a fighter who appeared on the show could get you branded a "TUFer" and treated with derision. As the new fans became more educated, and hardcore fans eventually realized the benefit of increased interest in their sport, the animosity faded. One of the sole remaining points of contension is the Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar finale, which is widely considered to have converted many fans single-handedly. Hardcore fans will grudgingly admit the fight's importance to the sport, but god help you if you call this sloppy slug-fest "your favorite fight."
- Large Ham: Several fighters are known for their hammy behavior out of the ring:
- Jason "Mayhem" Miller is famous for his flamboyant entrances, often break-dancing to the ring surrounded by models. His behavior landed him a hosting gig on MTV's Bully Beatdown.
- "King" Mo Lawal wears regal attire and is surrounded by models during his entrances.
- The hulking Bob Sapp often behaves like the living anime character that Japan seems to think he is.
- A number of MMA commentators have developed a reputation for their hammy styles. Mauro Renallo regularly unleashes a torrent of cheesy, pre-scripted witticisms, while UFC commentator Mike Goldberg can always be counted on to bellow hyperbolic analysis at maximum volume. Michael "the Voice" Schiavello manages to do both at once.
- Large Ham Announcer: Bruce Buffer is the current standard, but anything involving MMA Announcing should start with Lenne Hardt, better known as PRIDE Crazy Lady.
- Lensman Arms Race: One of the most interesting examples in sports history:
- Early on, grapplers were able to easily take down and submit/ground-and-pound boxers and karate fighters, due to them not being trained in ground fighting.
- The arrival of Igor Vovchanchyn in PRIDE and Chuck Liddel in the UFC reversed the tide. They were strikers who used their wrestling backgrounds to defend takedowns, forcing grapplers into boxing match, essentially using grapplers' previous tactic against them and paving the way for the future striking aces like Mirko Cro Cop and Anderson Silva.
- Finally, the surge of Jack of All Stats fighters like Fedor Emelianenko, Georges St. Pierre and BJ Penn, trained well in multiple disciplines and capable of finishing the fight from any place, made Crippling Overspecialization pretty much extinct at the top level of the sport.
- However, part of what keeps MMA so interesting is that the race continues because the skills involved are so many and varied. Submission rates, for example, have been dropping in the past several years with better wrestlers neutralizing submission skills. It remains to be seen how submission grapplers will answer back.
- In general, part of the appeal of MMA is the constant arms race between fighters who are good in all areas and great in none, and those who excel in one or two, but are average in others.
- Lightning Bruiser: The more athletic heavyweight fighters fit this trope. Examples include Alistair Overeem, Brock Lesnar, Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. Seanbaby says that Lesnar in particular is prone to this, since "He is 300 pounds of muscle, and judging by the way he darts around, I don't think mass and inertia were properly explained to him."
- Made of Iron: Many fighters have been reputed for their iron chins. Some seem impossible to hurt, such as Mark Hunt, Chris Leben, Wesly "Cabbage" Correira, and Kazuyuki "Iron Head" Fujita. Others seem to recover quickly from the very worst shots, such as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Nick Diaz. However, all of these fighters have been knocked out due to strikes, leading to the inevitable conclusion that it's better to not get hit in the first place.
- Memetic Mutation : Several fighters and commentators are associated with memes among the Internet MMA fandom, some examples including Don Frye and Bas Rutten's badassery, Mike Goldberg's Inverted Syntax, Chael Sonnen's... unfortunate take on jiu-jitsu, Fedor's legendary unflappability (see Tranquil Fury below), Lyoto Machida drinking urine, Alistair Overeem eating horses and sharks, Rousimar Palhares' love for destroying limbs, Fabricio Werdum's grin, but the most famous has to be Georges St-Pierre not being impressed with your performance.
- My Nayme Is: MMA stalwart Travis Wiuff's last name is pronounced the same as "view." Commentators have expressed bafflement at this.
- Narm Charm: Known for his eccentric training methods (including running up hills and chasing airplanes), his mullet hairdo, and his iconic red speedo briefs, Ikuhisa "Minowaman" Minowa has become a consistent fan-favorite in JMMA who is known for his 80s pro-wrestling look and catch-wrestling style finishes. And really, how can you not love this guy?
- Nonchalant Dodge: Anderson Silva's trademark, especially against fighters he doesn't consider a challenge. Examples against Rich Franklin [dead link], Forrest Griffin, and Yushin Okami.
- Numbered Sequels: The UFC popularized this trope when naming its events, and it has become standard for other MMA promotions.
- One of Us: In addition to being a Badass Bookworm, Joe Lauzon (twitter link) and Roxanne Modafferi are unabashed geeks and gaming enthusiasts. Heavyweight Josh Barnett is a bona-fide Otaku and Japanophile who once vowed to use his prize money to buy a life-size Kenshiro statue, has Ai wo Torimodose as his entrance music, and once said, "My Nanto Seiken isn't very good, so I'll keep working hard to be more like Kenshiro." Carlos Newton named his fight style Dragon Ball Jitsu and often performs a hadoken after victories.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Coach Greg Jackson almost always keeps a very light and level tone while instructing his fighters between rounds. When his fighter Carlos Condit was down two rounds and heading into the final third, however, Jackson began screaming and swearing at Condit to get aggressive and knock his opponent out. Condit responded and got the TKO just 7 seconds from the final bell. Later, Jackson calmly explained that he thought Condit needed that kind of encouragement.
- The Pete Best: Plenty of MMA fighters had their best years before the boom.
- Some ealy pioneers, such as Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock, left the sport for Professional Wrestling to make money, only to return later when MMA paychecks improved. Ironically, the inverse is happening now, with former pro-wrestler Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley joining the sport.
- Igor Vovchanchyn is The Pete Best to Fedor Emelianenko. Vovchanchyn was the first kickboxer to have sustained success against jujitsu artists in the mid 90s and was universally feared as a striker in the late 90s. However, because his success happened in the "Dark Ages" of MMA, only hardcore fans remember him. Emelianenko is very similar to Igor in style, being slightly larger and more well-rounded as a fighter, and has replaced Vovchanchyn as the most successful fighter out of the Ukraine.
- Similarly, Jose "Pele" Landi-Jons is a fighter active from the mid-90s to present day, skilled in Muay Thai. His style is almost identical to that of current UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, and in fact he trained Silva at one point. Almost no one knows who "Pele" is (not the least because his name makes him The Pete Best in another way), while Silva has had much more success and is regarded as one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world.
- Bas Rutten dominated the Pancrase organization, won the UFC heavyweight championship, and retired before MMA ever went mainstream. However, he's made quite a name for himself for his commentating and commentary, as well as his infamous self-defense tapes.
- Jens Pulver started fighting in 1999, was the UFC's first ever lightweight championship and, for eight years, was the only person who ever defeated BJ Penn at lightweight. However, when UFC really hit the mainstream Pulver's suspect chin and defensive grappling was used against him multiple times, culminating in a two-year, six fight losing streak. Unfortunately, most modern fans only remember the tail-end of his career, which has consisted of him getting punched out or submitted.
- Pummel Duel: Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama.
- Punch-Punch-Punch Uh-Oh: Some fighters try to intimidate their opponents by offering "free shots" to their opponents. Chris Leben and Gary Goodridge are notable examples. This is generally considered to be a poor tactic.
- Rags to Riches: A common theme in UFC promotional pieces on Brazilian fighters, several for whom MMA was a way out of abusive homes/slums, off of the streets, or in Rousimar Palhares' case the pig farm:
- José Aldo: His mother left because of an abusive alcoholic husband when José was 14, and José himself left at 16 for Rio de Janeiro where he spent several months broke, unemployed and living in favelas (Brazilian slums) or the jiu-jitsu/MMA gym — at one point, he was told to move into the gym (where his membership fees were waived) and even fed by the members before training (he was too broke to afford food on his own); according to him, he married his wife as her father required it for Jose to move in with them (Jose was living in a favela when they met).
- Thiago Silva: Ran away from home at 18 because of an abusive father, was homeless for a time and would literally sneak into a supermarket and consume food right there on the spot.
- Rousimar Palhares: Child laborer on a pig farm who at one point was so impoverished that his family had to eat pig feed, and although his family was able to eventually put together enough money to send him to Rio de Janeiro at 25, he was still broke and homeless (living under a bridge) there at first and (like Aldo) was for a time financially supported by his fellow gym members.
- Real Men Wear Pink:
- Some fighters wear pink as part of their standard uniform. Rich Franklin (honoring the Cincinnati Bengals), Seth Petruzelli (sprayed into his hair) and John Maguire (a self-described "pink belt") are examples.
- A number of fighters paint their toenails before fights, usually colored a manly black. Frank Trigg, however, usually wore colorful shades, which inspired his nickname "Twinkle Toes."
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After knocking out Yoshihiro Akiyama at the Yarennoka! event, Kazuo Misaki took his defeated opponent by the shoulder and chastised him at length for being selfish and fighting only for himself, rather than for the fans. Akiyama listened to the entire speech with surprising humility. Ironically, the fight was later ruled a No Contest due to Misaki's illegal soccer kick.
- Scary Black Man: Several fighters have cultivated this image to increase their profile, whether or not their fighting prowess deserves it:
- "Big Daddy" Gary Goodridge gained an intimidating reputation in his early Pride fights for yelling at his opponents to hit him and giving them free shots.
- Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was probably the first MMA figter to overtly cultivate the trope with a "street thug" persona, which included wearing an industrial chain as a necklace and swearing profusely during interviews. He softened his image somewhat after his religious reawakening, but revived it when feuding with Muhammad "King Mo" Lawal and "Sugar" Rashad Evans, both also African-American wrestlers.
- African-American giant Bob Sapp toyed with this trope in Japan, where he seems to be treated like a living anime character.
- Kimbo Slice's appeal came from his streetfighting roots and scary, grizzled appearance. According to his TUF 10 castmates, he spent most of his non-training time talking about his kids, and at least publicly he's attempted to reinvent his public image as a serious mixed martial artist... though a bad loss to Matt Mitrione cast him out of the UFC and cast serious doubts as to his future prospects.
- The old intro sequence for UFC events features a gladiator rubbing sand into his hands before walking into the arena, an obvious reference to Gladiator.
- Many fighters have a shoutout in their nickname:
- Signature Scene: Various promotions have a defining fight in their history:
- UFC: Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, during the finale of The Ultimate Fighter, season 1. The fight is credited with singlehandedly generating a fanbase for MMA in the United States. Because the fight was more or less a sloppy stand-up brawl, many keyboard warriors will look down their noses on fans who consider it to be one of the "best" MMA fights.
- WEC: Either "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung and Leonard Garcia's sloppy slugfest on the undercard of WEC 48, or Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis's back-and-forth championship fight, culminating in Pettis' flying kick off the side of the cage. The latter gets extra points for the being the organization's very last fight.
- Bellator: Pretty much got put on the public eye thanks to Toby Imada performing an inverted triangle choke on a standing Jorge Masvidal — it only hit the ground because Masvidal passed out, apparently too confused to tap out.
- Lyoto Machida's legend is centered around his karate-based style and his overt public allusions to a honorable samurai-like image... but on the Internet, he's also notorious for admitting right before UFC 98 that for health reasons, he drinks his own urine every morning. Worse yet, he got it from his dad. Over a year after the story broke, people are still joking about it. When pressed by MMA celebrity reporter Ariel Helwani about the now-infamous story days before UFC 113, his dad Yoshizo Machida produced his own urine on the spot and drank it on camera.
- A series of escalating pranks on The Ultimate Fighter led to fighters contaminating sushi with their own bodily fluids.
- Strange Syntax Speaker: "Often inverted in his syntax is UFC commentator Mike Goldberg, Joe!" He does it as an apparent tactic to avoid repetition. On rare occasions it rubs off on his partner Joe Rogan.
- Too Dumb to Live: James Gardner takes a moment to wave to the camera while grappling wizard Shinya Aoki has his back. Both commentators Face Palm at the obvious outcome.
- Tranquil Fury: A hallmark of Fedor Emelianenko. Compare his expression while viciously beating on his opponent to being hit in the face to being interviewed. Commentator Michael Schiavello noted this during one of his interviews with Fedor and called it "terrifying." It's also a bit of a meme amongst MMA fans.
- True Companions: Fighters in the same training camp are traditionally expected to refuse to fight each other due to the closeness of their relationships. This has caused some friction between fighters and the organizations that employ them when camp loyalty interferes with matchmaking. A notable subversion came when Light Heavyweight UFC champion Jon Jones readily agreed to fight title contender and campmate Rashad Evans, who took great offense and left the camp.
- Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: The whole point. It's called Mixed Martial Arts for a reason.
- Verbal Tic: Listen, Chael Sonnen wants to make sure you're paying attention.
- The Worf Effect: A "gatekeeper" is a dangerous veteran fighter in the middle of the division who is nonetheless not good enough to compete for a championship. They are often paired with up-and-coming prospects as a test of mettle. Beating a gatekeeper will add to a prospect's reputation and build their case for a title shot. Well known "Worfs" include: Chris Lytle, Vladimir Matyushenko, Chris Leben, and Cheick Kongo.
- Worked Shoot: In the early days of Japanese MMA, the lines between fixed and shoot competition was much blurrier. Japanese promotions were fairly notorious for manipulating the results to establish storylines and build up stars. Often this was done through lopsided matchmaking and questionable judging, but there were also outright works.
- Ken Shamrock dropped at least two Pancrase matches: one to drop a title before a UFC tournament, and one to build the popularity of a Japanese fighter.
- Several of the first Pride events were anchored by Nobuhiko Takada, a popular Japanese professional wrestler, and his stable of fighters. Unfortunately, Takada's skill in real bouts did not match his popularity, causing Pride to set up a worked match with Mark Coleman, a former UFC champion, to boost his drawing power. Coleman did a particularly poor job of selling the work when he jumped into Takada's guard and allowed himself to be heelhooked.
- Wrestler in All of Us: A wide range of wrestling moves to be used in actual athletic competition, creating some spectacular matches. This six minute compilation provides a number of examples. Note that the German suplex definitely qualifies.