What's the Difference Between UFC and MMA?

MMA fighters

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If you are a sports fan (or even if you are not) then chances are you have heard about MMA and the UFC. Standing for Mixed Martial Arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship respectively, sport martial arts are rapidly taking over boxing as the most watched combat sport in the world.

But, if you’re confused about just what MMA is, what the UFC is, and what the difference between them is, then it really is quite simple.

MMA Is the Sport. UFC Is the Major Organisation/Promotion Within That Sport

MMA stands for mixed martial arts. It is a sport that has only really come to prominence relevantly recently but it’s actually been about for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Essentially MMA is a full contact sport that allows the use of both striking and wrestling, both standing and on the ground.

Since ancient times, contests have been fought with these kinds of rules such as the ancient Olympic combat sport of Pankration, which was practiced in Ancient Greece and later by the Romans. However, it is only since the late 20th century that the sport of MMA has come into the consciousness of the masses, thanks mainly to the inception of the UFC - the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The Foundations of Modern MMA

Before the UFC, there were various types of mixed martial arts organisations in existence. The two most popular were Vale Tudo in Brazil, which was dominated by the Gracie Jiu Jitsu clan and shoot wrestling shows in Japan. Although reasonably popular in their respective countries, neither ever really broke into the big US television market.

It was the creation of the UFC in 1993 that rocketed the sport of MMA into the public’s imagination. The first Ultimate Fighting Championship was supposed to be a one-off, a competition to identify which was the world’s most effective martial art, with representatives of different fighting styles such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, Muay Thai, Karate, and Taekwondo.

It was won by Royce Gracie, younger brother of one of the show’s founders and viewers were highly impressed at the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that he used to defeat all of his opponents, often fighting men twice his size. Because of this popularity, further UFC promotions were organised with Royce Gracie winning three of the first five. It has gone from strength to strength and today is the premier MMA fighting organization that attracts the very best fighters from across the world.

UFC and the Development of MMA

In the early days of the UFC, MMA was essentially one style of fighter fighting against another. Therefore, you may have had a Judo player fighting someone skilled in Taekwondo or a wrestler fighting someone skilled in Karate. However, as the UFC developed over the years, it became clear that one style was not enough to be truly effective. This realisation was to change MMA forever.

No longer a mix of martial arts with one style being pitted against other, fighters in the UFC (and other mixed martial arts promotions) began to cross-train in different martial arts, grapplers becoming better strikers and vice versa.

That means mixed martial arts competitions were no longer a mixture of martial arts being pitted against each other but MMA itself became its own style – a mixture of the very best techniques of all martial arts mixed together.

Therefore these days as well as being a sport, MMA is a martial arts style in its own right with the UFC being the major promoter and organisation within the sport, attracting the very best fighters from all around the world.