Mixed martial arts, also known as MMA, is a martial art and combat sport that has risen from relatively humble beginnings. Once a pay-per-view spectacle, MMA has become a legitimate sanctioned sporting event that is enjoyed by millions of fans the world over. And, it’s also a martial arts practice that is rapidly gaining popularity with people from all walks of life.

Walk into any mixed martial arts gym in any city in the nation, and you’ll find everyone from bankers and teachers, to military personnel and law enforcement, to pro fighters and yes, even soccer moms participating in MMA training. But what is it that gives mixed martial arts such a widespread appeal to people from so many different walks of life?

To answer that question, first we must examine the history of MMA, and then follow its evolution from the early open tournament days to MMA’s current position as the most popular fighting sport on television today.

The History of Modern MMA

While many historians may argue (and rightly so) that some form of mixed martial arts competition has existed since the days of the Greeks and Romans, modern MMA competition started with the advent of the first UFC events on pay-per-view television in the early 90’s. In these events, anyone from any style of martial arts could enter, and promoters chose fighters for the fight cards based on what they thought would draw the biggest audiences.

For that reason, there were no weight classes, and the tournaments were based on an elimination system. Fighters would fight a match and the winner would move on to fight again at a later stage in the event. So, the participants might have to fight three times in a single evening. Rules were loose and fast at best, and injuries were common. For these reasons, early MMA matches became very unpopular with politicians, and at one time only a few states would allow mixed martial arts events to be held.

Fast-forward a few years to the beginning of the modern MMA era. Dana White and the Fertitta brothers took over the UFC in 2000 and began cleaning up and legitimizing the events. They spent a great deal of time and money to make the competitions safer for the fighters and more acceptable to the various state fight sanctioning bodies. Even so, they had a very difficult time turning the UFC and the sport of MMA around in the United States.

So what made the difference? Despite some early pay-per-view successes, the UFC was still struggling under the leadership of Dana White. Then, in 2005 the first season of The Ultimate Fighter aired on Spike TV and became an overnight ratings success. Millions of fans tuned in to watch the season finale, which featured an epic title fight between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin. To this day, Dana White credits that fight with saving the UFC.

Now, with MMA firmly established as a modern fight sport that is considered by many experts to be safer than boxing, MMA events are routinely held at the amateur and professional levels in all 50 states. And, talented amateur fighters who wish to turn pro have a real shot at moving through the rankings and eventually getting paying gigs with major MMA organizations.

In short, mixed martial arts as a fight sport is here to stay. But what does it offer the average person who wants to take mixed martial arts for fun, fitness, and self-defense? Is it a safe and legitimate activity for the average person to do?

Absolutely! Here’s why…

Mixed Martial Arts For Fun And Self-Defense

MMA is taught as both a fitness class and as a recreational pursuit in most legitimate mixed martial arts schools and gyms around the country. Even in those gyms where pro fighters train, the owners and coaches understand that everyday people want to learn MMA for fun. And, that means training at a level that is comfortable for the average person who is not training for a title fight.

For this reason, many mixed martial arts gyms have a variety of training opportunities to suit MMA enthusiasts of every skill level and interest. Enter just about any MMA gym and you’ll find classes for beginners who are just learning the basics of the sport, all the way up to closed training sessions for elite amateurs and pro fighters. Most gyms give their members the option to train in a more casual environment, or to eventually increase the intensity of their training and workout alongside their serious fighters.

So, whatever your interests and experience level, you’re sure to find an MMA class that meets your needs and goals. And no, you don’t have to get beat up to do MMA. In some gyms sparring is optional, while in other gyms safety is ensured with plenty of protective gear and coaches who keep a close eye on the level of intensity in sparring. Regardless, for the casual student both contact and injuries are kept to a minimum.

Of course, MMA is different than practicing regular martial arts, and you can expect to get some bruises and scrapes no matter what your experience level. However, that’s what attracts most people to the training in the first place, and it’s what makes MMA such a practical art for self-defense as well. In MMA training you are always practicing against a resisting opponent, and you are always practicing techniques that have been proven to work.

The great thing about MMA training is that techniques and training methods that don’t work are soon discarded. Also, the sport and art are always evolving, so the methods you train in are constantly being updated and improved upon. That’s the best thing about training MMA in a gym where real fighters train, that you know the most effective training methods are trickling down from the fighters and coaches to the recreational MMA classes.

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