I feel like Jay Leno, stammering “have you seen this, have you heard about this?” Yes, team MMA is now becoming a thing, and it brings a few thoughts to mind. The primary one being: “WOW, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? THIS IS AWESOME!” Let’s break down the fight in the video. Ten men enter the ring, in two teams of five. After a nice, brief introduction, they beat the sweet Bajesus out of each other. Quickly the team aspect is taken out of it, at which point there are five two-man fights occurring in the oversized ring. A couple of the duels drop to the ground, with grapplers taking down their opponents and trying to lock in submissions or deal damage through ground and pound. Conversely, a couple of striking battles take place with guys throwing with reckless abandon, in hopes of finishing the other, so that they could join one of their teammates in a two-on-one.
As exciting as the event is, however, there are some potential problems with such a sport variation. Because I genuinely want to discuss what great things this type of innovation can bring to the sport, we’ll address the problems first. At this point, there are three potential problems, the first of which deal with some difficulty for the fans trying to watch the event. The second is that the fight might be over after the first “mini-fight” is done, because the winner of that “mini-fight” could then help double teams others. The third problem is another completely different issue, due to the fact that this type of event could in fact take some strategy out of the sport.
Obviously this article is purely hypothetical. The Team Fighting Championship is a small operation which takes amateur teams from areas around Europe and lets them scrap. On this organisation’s website there is little, if any, mention of it actually being an MMA operation, instead they call it ground sports and street combat. The video was fast paced, and unfortunately short, but the excitement value and sheer aggression in that video speak for themselves. Obviously there are some different rules, as there were a few instances of kicking a downed opponent, among other things, but I think that with a few tweaks and some effort and creative thinking, this team MMA thing could have a place in the sport as we know it.
The video seen above is an example of the form team MMA has taken under the name of Team Fighting Championship. If a more reputable and longstanding promotion were to pick up such an event, it would undoubtedly take a more organised approach, including more rules than “no biting, no eye gouging and no groin strikes.” With some work, this is something that would not be a significant stretch for the UFC or another league to work with. Do I think that every MMA fight should become this? NO! But the world of MMA, like any other sport, is about competition, excitement and entertainment, and that was a couple of minutes of awesome, aggressive and exhilarating entertainment. Here are five reasons that team based fights could potentially be a great addition to MMA. If you disagree and think five on five MMA fights are the worst thing since Ebola, let it be known in the comments section. If the comments section doesn’t satisfy your rage, tweet your hate at me, I sleep best after a good cry anyway.
5. No Boring Fights in this Type of Event
There will obviously be a certain mindset going in to any fight of this variety. There are current fighters who use strategy and a great deal of care and conditioning to lengthen fights, so that they can gradually and carefully wear down their opponent. This type of fighting strategy can be boring to watch and will be unavailable in a team-style match. No more will two fighters spend the first round throwing nothing but leg kicks and jabs. The nature of this competition involves a need to win the first pair off, because then another one-on-one becomes a two-on-one and so forth. So, fights in this category will be shorter (most likely) but there will be plenty of excitement and little in the way of standing around and sizing each other up for several minutes at the start of a fight.
4. Multiple Match-Up Options
The fact that there is a team effort in this kind of competition opens the door to a couple of options for any promotion willing to make this a part of one of their events. For instance, is there any reason that all fighters involved be the same weight class? Have Lightweights to Heavyweights on each team and watch the carnage unfold. Or have a system of rounds in which the first team to lose a fighter in a given round, loses that round, then time is stopped and the fighters get a break. Then start up again.
Any fighting promotion willing to try out this type of event would, however, have to be careful that such events don’t get tacky or downright silly, as I don’t think any MMA fans want to see it turn into the WWE. Not that there is anything wrong with the WWE, but it is a completely different beast than mixed martial arts. Additionally, why would five-on-five be the only option; three-on-three is another, which would be easier to follow as a fan and would possibly be able to fit into a regulation UFC octagon, for instance, rather than an oversized ring like the one featured in the video.
3. Renewed Excitement For the Sport
New excitement is another thing that a team aspect could bring to MMA. MMA doesn’t really need new excitement, as it is currently as popular as ever. Remember how it was when the first women’s fights started to take place? In part, the excitement would be because it is a completely new, and potentially game changing, type of fight for this sport and would attract attention. Rather than two fighters squaring off in a ring and the strategies being pre-determined for each fighter, the possibilities of what could happen would be endless. For example, when GSP fought Johny Hendricks, everybody knew what was going to happen. Rush and Bigg Rigg are both gifted strikers and grapplers, with GSP having the slight edge in takedowns, conditioning and grappling, while Johny was undoubtedly the fighter with more knockout power. In a team event, such distinctions are both important, but initial matchups of fighters is much more important, creating a more difficult fight to predict. This leads into the next point.
2. New Talent
It’s hard to define “MMA talent” in a picture so Brittney Palmer will have to do. You’re welcome.
If such an idea as team based MMA were to be adopted and used in any current promotion, it would require some new talent, as with the state of current MMA training, most fighters would be significantly perplexed and incapable of participating. Think about it, these guys and ladies have been training in one-on-one battles for their entire careers, but now they have to consider the actions and possible mistakes of four other teammates, so many would be completely thrown for a loop. It would be completely possible that fighters other than the ones currently on top in the MMA world would be the ones who could excel in this type of competition.
1. Revolutionary Strategies
Putting a team aspect into any sport is going to lead to the necessity of new strategy. Basketball, for example could exist as a one-on-one game, and the strategy would be completely different than it is now. The same can be said of MMA. With the amount of variation that already exists among fighters in the sport, in addition to the approaches they use in each fight, imagine multiplying that by ten for each bout. If all fighters on a team had different skills sets (which obviously they would), it would be imperative to set each guy up against a fighter from the opposition who would be vulnerable to such a set. Along with that, imagine being able to train decent strikers in such a type of competition to leave their own opponent for a fraction of a second to land an unexpected strike on another teammate’s adversary, and then return to his own.
Similarly, consider the necessity of being able to diagnose individual fights around the ring and be able to break contact with one fighter to help out a teammate who is being dominated in ground and pound and has given up his back, and then returning to the original fighter to continue trading punches. Obviously, again, hypothetical and by no means a prophecy of what will happen, but rather an explanation of how much this kind of competition could add to the sport.