Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has exploded in popularity with the UFC leading the way to promote the sport as a legitimate alternative to boxing, a sport that has seemingly lost a good amount of its luster.
Gone are the days of Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran. Top heavyweights like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield have long retired from the sport of boxing. MMA on the other hand has been growing and prospering while boxing has been in search of a new identity or even identities.
The UFC has done wonders by cleaning up the sport (MMA) and spoon feeding it to many of the disillusioned boxing fans who are starved for excitement in between the infrequent, "big bouts." Here are 10 reasons to consider why MMA and the UFC is better than boxing.
The UFC has grown by giving fans something to watch almost every week. Between the Ultimate Fighter series, pay-per-view events and a new deal reached between the UFC and the Fox Network, the UFC has been providing more exposure to the sport than the occasional over-hyped boxing bout can ever produce. The UFC has worked to gobble up any competition and bring their best fighters into its fold. This gives the company more options to push forward with even more events.
Although the contract with Spike TV has expired, the exposure helped the UFC and MMA reach and establish itself with its target audience. More exposure and the push for more televised action should continue with the contract with Fox. The UFC has maintained a consistent pace with its big events and has not kept fight fans waiting too long for new doses of action.
Since it is easier to get knocked out by a well-placed roundhouse kick or flying punch in MMA matches, there is a tendency for fighters to come into fights more prepared. The cost of losing is far greater in MMA than the money alone. Since MMA fighters typically do not have the luxury of training for one big payday like the top boxers, there is more pressure to be ready to perform on short notice. This leads to fewer lackluster matches and a better product.
Even the weight classes are simplified and don't have the amount of clutter that is evident in boxing, which makes it harder to follow up and coming fighters. Most MMA matches are controlled by the UFC for the good of the sport and not by a bunch of greedy boxing promoters. The fighters that win and even those that put up a good fight in defeat, end up seeing more action to the delight of fans.
Boxing has had its share of less than fit athletes. The heavyweight division of boxing alone has seen the likes of "Butterbean", Francois Botha, James Toney, Buster Douglas and even George Foreman headlining major events. A few of these have tested their luck with MMA and have not fared too well. It calls into play the conditioning that Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir and even Fedor Emelianenko must have to compete in MMA.
Boxing has its share of elite athletes like Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Wladimir Klitschko but most of these boxers only train hard prior to a big bout. MMA fighters have to always be ready to accept work and constantly train to learn more moves and master other martial arts. They also have to be stronger to work on the ground and even to absorb more punishment without gloves.
Boxing has always had some intriguing matchups between highly skilled boxers and power punchers but MMA matches have even more interesting clashes. Wrestlers might take on kickboxers or Muay Thai specialists might go up against Jiu Jitsu black belts. Sometimes neither fighter can win with their favorite martial art, so their secondary skills often come into play. This makes every matchup unique.
The variety of martial arts that combine to make MMA also make it harder to determine who might have a clear advantage. Upsets can happen when fighters have never met and fighters with any kind of advantage will always feel the pressure of having to finish an opponent off before the opponent is able to modify his attack. MMA fighters have such an arsenal of weaponry at their disposal and are always capable of changing a match.
The venerable Brazilian was probably the single most important figure in MMA history with his victories at UFC 1, 2, 4 and draw at UFC 5. The fact that a guy who weighed far less than his opponents and looked no different than many fight fans could win so many fights, often without even striking his opponents, changed the sport forever. Mind triumphed over matter and fight fans then realized that MMA fighters could neutralize many of the best boxers with Jiu Jitzu skills alone.
Gracie also helped elevate the UFC to be a more respectable status with victories that were swift, clean and skillful. This produced a buzz in the fight community and even more kids started to learn martial arts than take up boxing. Thanks to Gracie, the UFC has a more diverse audience and even more diverse fighters coming into matches with more martial arts skills.
The UFC has been able to promote MMA in a way that boxing has failed to do. In boxing, big fights and boxers are routinely promoted and hyped just about everywhere, but the UFC does a better job with promoting the sport as a whole. They have used the Ultimate Fighter television series to give fans more of a glimpse into the lives of MMA fighters and how hard they have to work to excel at the sport. The public no longer has a perception of the sport as being a blood sport or a reckless sport lacking precision and control, thanks in part to this show.
The fighters seem more humble, the sport is still bigger than the fighters themselves (unlike boxing), and the public identifies with that. There are fighters from small towns, big cities and every continent of the world and fighters have more respect for the sport and their opponents because of the extensive training each of them has to endure. Compared to MMA, boxing seems to be more of a "me" sport where "I am the greatest" has become a tired worn out phrase.
Boxing has come across as being very one-dimensional as the UFC has opened up the doors to all disciplines of fighting. Blows to the head or body can be exciting, but throw in roundhouse kicks, submissions and takedowns and there is so much more to master in order to stay alive in a fight. The inclusion of more Jiu Jitsu, Judo and Muay Thai techniques have made fighters more skilled and downright lethal.
Learning many of the martial arts necessary to succeed in MMA is not an easy task. Even when fighters enter the sport with expertise in one or two martial arts, they must never stop learning to become better at MMA. The best MMA fighters can do much more than strike or clinch and holding on will never save them from impending punishment. Boxing is more about hand speed or a powerful punch, while that is just one small facet of an MMA figher's repretoire.
Since MMA fights can be won in more ways than by knockout, there are usually fewer contests that have to be subjected to a decision by the judges. In boxing, it seems like there are far too many fights that end up with controversial decisions, especially if the challenger manages to put up a good fight. Judging in the sport can sometimes seem rigged and although MMA fights have had some controversial decisions, a greater percentage of fights are still determined inside the octagon.
Even when there is no knockout or submission, it is often easy enough to tell which fighter is winning the war. Since there is no way to recover by clinching or covering up with gloves, MMA fights usually end shortly after one fighter gets wobbly. In boxing, that is not the case and fighters can grab to avoid punishment and hang on to get out of a round.
The more UFC fighters advance and move up the ladder, the more lethal they become. Many of these men are the toughest of tough and the best of them are as capable of absorbing punishment as they are of dishing out some of their own. Chuck Liddell was downright scary with his intimidating mohawk, icy stare and brutally opportunistic striking, but Rampage Jackson was even scarier with nastier striking in his two wins over Liddell.
Men like Wanderlei Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, Matt Hughes and even Dan Henderson are always ready to fight anyone and are some of the baddest men on the planet. These men were a welcome relief from the prima donnas of the boxing world who so often take "safe" fights against outclassed opponents. These fearless fighters brought attitude and toughness to MMA that few boxers have been able to match.
Boxing is certainly an exciting sport, but MMA is a more realistic interpretation of one on one fighting in every sense. Sure things like Evander Holyfield's ear getting chomped on by Mike Tyson might happen in street brawls, but MMA fights are still closer to reality. Legs can be used as well as various holds and body positions that make the MMA action more realistic. Knees, elbows, hammer fists, throws and grappling are all more commonly used in combat or real fights and they are staples of the MMA.
MMA fights are more about using everything, including the mind, to win. Just having a good jab or counter punch is not good enough to win MMA contests. Fights are battles, punishment is severe, and hiding behind gloves will not prevent a beat down. That is real fighting and that is what makes the MMA resonate with fans.