two mma fighters in ring

You may be wondering what is MMA? This is mixed martial arts and it is a system to learn how to fight in a ring or cage.

Fighters train in several different fighting systems such as Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, boxing, and various other martial arts.

Using these skills a fighter enters a ring to fight against another opponent of equal weight and skill. This is similar to boxing but you can kick and take opponents to the ground to do ground fighting.

MMA is a sport and UFC or Bellator is the name of organizations to sponsor fighters and fights.

The same thing as football is a sport and the NFL is an organization.

What is Mixed Martial Arts in the United States

MMA was introduced into the United States back in 1993. It was called the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

I remember watching this in college on pay-per-view thinking how crazy this was being hardly any rules and no weight classes.

One of the fights had Telia Tuli against Gerard Gordeau but only lasted 26 seconds.

The thing is Telia was 400 pounds and Gerard was only around 200 lbs. Gerard knocked out 3 of Telia’s teeth with a roundhouse kick to the head.

I watched this and thought that it was the craziest thing I had ever seen.

The “no holds barred” fights came to an end with the implementation of rules and regulations.

What are the Rules for MMA

The rules of MMA when training or fighting in the UFC is as follows:

  • No striking to the back of the head is permitted
  • No small-joint manipulations are allowed
  • You cannot pull someone’s hair
  • Headbutting someone is not allowed
  • No hit to the groin is allowed
  • You cannot grab someone’s mouth by inserting your fingers in the mouth and pulling the cheek or jaw
  • There are strict weight classes
  • Non-tile matches are usually 3 rounds of 5-minute duration each with a one-minute rest duration in-between
  • Championship matches are usually 5 rounds of 5-minute duration each with one-minute duration rest in-between
  • An opponent can stop the match by tapping on the opponent or the mat or saying verbally they are done
  • You cannot kick or knee an opponent to the head when they are down on the ground
  • No biting

Other organizations around the world have varying rules. In some organizations kicking or hitting an opponent’s head while they are down is allowed. This is not allowed in MMA in the United States.

What is Mixed Martial Arts Training Like?

I train at a small MMA gym where the fighters do training in both stand-up and ground fighting techniques. If you want to reach the highest level of MMA fighting you need to be proficient at stand-up and ground fighting.

Here is some of the training we did at our gym.

Stand-up training

  • Focus mitt training doing punch combinations for 3-minute sessions
  • Focus mitt training you work on punching and kicking combinations
  • Muay Thai pad punching, kicking, elbow, and knee strike combinations
  • Footwork and movement
  • Slipping, dodging, and defending against kicks and punches

Ground fighting

  • You need to learn the basics like guard position and the mount
  • You will roll with belts higher to get your skill increased quickly, especially if you are a good fighter
  • Train to do armbars, chokeholds, punching on the ground, defense on the ground, and more

You need to spend equal time training in both ground and stand-up fighting. In the amateur MMA fights that I go to watch where the guys at my school fight, most amateur fighters are proficient at Jiu-jitsu.

The amateur MMA fighter’s stand-up skills are not really good so most fights go to the ground and the better ground fighter wins.

If you want to check out some of the punch and kick combinations we do or how to put together combinations then check out our article on boxing combinations.

Many fighters will train in one martial art for a long time and then transition to MMA. You will see many collegiate wrestlers transition from wrestling to training in MMA.

There are also many Jiu-jitsu practitioners that have gotten really good at Jiu-jitsu and they take those skills with them over to the UFC.

Once they train in MMA and feel they are good enough amateur fights can be set up for them.

How Do you Get into MMA?

There is what is called a safety ladder progression to get into MMA fight matches.

Just like boxing, you have to prove yourself in the lower fight training levels before being allowed to fight as a professional MMA fighter.

I know in Ohio you have to have so many amateur fights with winning opponents before you can get your pro-fight card.

The Ohio Athletic Commission is the governing body to get your status for MMA. Each state may have some different rules so check with your state athletic commission.

Safety Ladder MMA

The World MMA Association and IMMAF safety ladder

  • Martial arts without the full-contact impacts – This is where you train at a martial art school such as Jiu-jitsu, judo, boxing, Muay Thai, or an MMA gym. You develop techniques and fighting abilities at these gyms. Usually when first starting out there are limited full-contact hits to the body and head.
  • Full contact martial arts – This is where you would compete in full contact so maybe you go to Jiu-jitsu tournaments where you fight other opponents and try to submit them. You may participate in amateur Muay Thai fights with full contact but participants wear headgear and shin guards. Another example is participating in amateur boxing matches where headgear is worn.
  • Full-contact which is closely related to amateur MMA – This is similar to amateur MMA fighting but the rules are more strict. They may not allow hitting the opponent once the fight goes to the ground is one such example of limiting rules.
  • Amateur MMA – In the gym I train with all the guys fighting in the amateur division. This also has limited rules and the bouts are usually shorter. Many fighters do not get paid for winning or losing but they can get a piece of the money from ticket sales. If they get friends and family to buy tickets from them for their fights they get a small cut. Basically, fighters in some venues can get a cut for tickets they sell.
  • National Professional MMA – This is when you are a professional fighter and you train at a professional gym like Top Gym in Florida. This is where one of the guys in our gym moved to so he could advance his training.
  • International professional MMA – You are a top athlete in MMA fighting and would be fighting in Bellator or UFC.

Fighting MMA

You will need to find a local MMA gym if you really want to be a fighter. If you are at a good MMA gym they will know how to connect you with promoters.

The promoters help to set up some amateur fights for you once you get good enough.

I have watched several amateur MMA matches and some of the combatants probably should have not been in the ring.

They looked horrible and I would assume that is because the martial arts or MMA gym they went to did not train them properly.

What is MMA? Fighter training in MMA

Top UFC Gyms to Train

UFC Gym list was pulled from Wiki Mixed Martial Arts:

  1. Nova União located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  2. Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico
  3. American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) is located in San Jose, California.
  4. Team Alpha Male is located in Sacramento, California.
  5. American Top Team (ATT) is located in Coconut Creek, Florida.
  6. Kings MMA is located in Huntington Beach, California.
  7. Blackzilians are located in Boca Raton, Florida.
  8. Serra-Longo is located in Long Island, New York.
  9. Glendale Fighting Club is located in Glendale, California.
  10. Black House (Team Nogueira) is based out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  11. Teixeira MMA & Fitness(Teixeira MMA) located in Bethel, Connecticut.

What are the MMA weight divisions

MMA has weight classes to really make fighting fair. If you have two guys with the same fighting skills the much larger opponent will usually beat the smaller ones.

The larger fighter has an advantage just because of size, power, and weight especially when fighting on the ground.

Nine weight divisions

Flyweight – up to 125 lbs

Bantamweight – 125 to 135 lbs

Featherweight – 135 to 145 lbs

Lightweight – 145 to 155 lbs

Welterweight – 155 to 170 lbs

Middleweight – 170 to 185 lbs

Light Heavyweight – 185 to 205 lbs

Heavyweight – 205 to 265 lbs

Super Heavyweight – No upper weight limit

Fighter ranking

You can check out several sites to see fighter rankings.

Sherdog – The site provides MMA news, interviews, pictures, videos, and more.

UFC site – The UFC main site showing up-and-coming fights. The site also has everything going on in the UFC.

MMAJunkie – MMA and UFC news, pictures, blog, and videos.

MMA organizations

  • UFC or Ultimate Fighting Championship
  • Bellator MMA
  • Absolute Championship Berkut or ACB – Based Russia
  • Fight Night Global or FNG – Is based in Moscow, Russia
  • ONE Championship – Based Singapore
  • Rizin Fighting Federation or Rizin FF – Based in Tokyo, Japan
  • Invicta FC – Female MMA – Based North Carolina
  • Pancrase – Based in Tokyo, Japan
  • M-1 Global – Based in St Petersburg, Russia
  • Legacy Fighting Alliance or LFA – Based out of Houston, Texas


Hopefully, you know more about what is MMA and how it came into existence. We reviewed how the UFC started in the United States. Talked about how most fighters train, where they train, and the different weight classes.

The last thing was we reviewed the different MMA organizations that put together fights, promote the sport, and are responsible for the awards/belts.

You may also like: MMA Training How to do MMA Fighters Train and Is MMA Good for Self-Defense

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