Don’t know the difference between an armbar and a triangle choke? Still scratching your head over what the term “ground and pound” means? Don’t worry novice mixed martial arts fans, Boston.com has you covered.
As the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) prepares to take over the TD Garden this week, learn a little more about the promotion and the sport of MMA in this guide made specially for the casual sports fan.
Pictured: UFC welterweight Matt Brown, right, taking on Jordan Mein in San Jose, Calif. on April 20. Brown will be fighting in Boston when the UFC comes to town on Aug. 17. Next
1. UFC is the league, MMA is the sport
“Do you train UFC?”
No question will infuriate a mixed martial artist more than this one. It’s like saying you play NFL instead of football.
Just to clarify once and for all: MMA is the name of the sport while the UFC is it’s most popular promotion. Now who’s up for a rousing game of MLB? Next
2. Global appeal
Unlike many US based sports leagues who focus their marketing mainly on North American audiences, the UFC does as much marketing around the globe as it does stateside—if not more so.
The company has invested so much into its overseas growth that, according to a recent piece in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the UFC’s annual international revenue is projected to surpass its domestic revenue by 2015.
As the promotion continues to expand, the UFC has started to enter many different markets, including hosting events in cities such as Dubai, Macau and Stockholm as well as shooting international editions of The Ultimate Fighter reality series in Brazil and Australia, with plans set for China and India.
The focus on a wider appeal shouldn’t come as a surprise as the UFC’s roster is filled with fighters from every corner of the globe, from Brazilian featherweight champ Jose Aldo (pictured right) to fan favorite, “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung (left), who hails from South Korea. Next
3. There are rules (plenty of them)
One of the biggest misconceptions casual viewers still have about the UFC is that they think there are no rules.
True, back in the promotion’s early days, there were no rules, no time limit , no weight classes, and no gloves. However, like all sports, MMA eventually evolved and became more uniformed with the creation of the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts in 2000, a clear set of standards that many promotions, including the UFC, now adhere to.
Some notable Octagon no-no’s include strikes to the groin, eye gouging, fish hooking, and strikes to the back of the head, with clear penalties outlined for offenders.
Check out the UFC’s current rule book here.
Pictured: Referee John McCarthy. Next
4. There are a million ways to win…
In the UFC’s heyday, fighters used to know only one or two styles, severely limiting their overall martial arts skill set.
However, today’s athletes of the Octagon are expected to be well versed in all disciplines, from striking arts like boxing and Muay Thai to grappling arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Greco-Roman wrestling, making the sport a true mix of the arts.
The continued focus on cross training in multiple styles has opened up fighters to a whole array of ways to finish an opponent. Whether it’s a brutal spinning hook kick KO or a bone-breaking submission hold, there are a million ways to win a fight. Next
5. But wresting is key
While fighters train every area of their MMA game, there’s no discipline that has proven to be as important as wrestling.
Casual viewers will often boo when they see a fight hit the mats, but that’s because they don’t really understand or appreciate the nuances in a double-leg takedown or a nice sprawl.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm from some members of the fan base, controling an opponent using wrestling can mean all the difference in a close fight that goes to a judges’ decision.
Pictured: Rob Kimmons (right) slams Steve Steinbeiss during their match in San Diego on Aug. 1, 2010. Next
6. ‘Ground and pound’ and other fun MMA terms
If you are a casual viewer tuning into Saturday’s fights on Fox Sports 1, you will undoubtably hear UFC commentators Jon Anik and Joe Rogan use unfamiliar terms such as “ground and pound,” “passing the guard,” and plenty more.
The sport has its own set vernacular, which can get pretty confusing at times. Here are a few poular terms and their definitions:
Ground and pound: Striking an opponent on the ground while controling from a top position.
Guard: A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu position where a fighter lays on his back and wraps his legs around the torso of his opponent.
Clinch: A position where two standing fighters lock arms around each other in an attempt to either go for a takedown, control their opponent or land close-up strikes.
7. Not your typical sports league president
Out of all the major sports in the US, there’s no league president more open and outspoken than Dana White (center).
The UFC’s head honcho doesn’t mince his words, often saying exactly what’s on his mind, expletives and all. While this openess has gotten him in a bit of trouble in the past, it has also made him one of the more popular figures on the professional sports landscape.
Always willing to take photos with fans at events and constantly doing interviews with the press, White may be the most acessible sports league president out there today. Next
8. Plenty of personalities in and out of the Octagon
Like Dana White, the UFC’s roster is filled with equally as entertaining and outspoken personalities that MMA fans just can’t get enough of.
One of the biggest names in the sport right now is this weekend’s headliner, former top contender Chael Sonnen (pictured right), whose uncanny ability to talk smack has earned him legions of fans (as well as plenty of haters).
When he isn’t calling people out or fighting in the Octagon, Sonnen hosts UFC Tonight alongside retired mixed martial artist and Boston area native Kenny Florian (left), who’s also a pretty popular figure in the sport.
Each division has its own cast of characters, but there are also plenty of people who don’t fight at all that fans still love. From ring girls such as Arianny Celeste and Brittney Palmer to comedian and color commentator Joe Rogan, there’s no shortage of personalities in the UFC. Next
9. Women can scrap too
Thought the UFC was a boys only club? Think again.
Despite Dana White saying a few years back that women would never enter the Octagon, the UFC president quickly changed his tune after seeing now current female bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey dominate rival Miesha Tate in their 2012 Strikeforce title fight.
Now the face of women’s MMA, Rousey was the catalyst that caused White and company to finally introduce a female division into the UFC earlier this year. The Olympic judo bronze medalist caputred the world’s attention when she became the first woman to headline a UFC event this past February, becoming the first female UFC champ in the process with her seventh consecutive first round armbar victory over Liz Carmouche (pictured) at UFC 157.
10. Anything can happen in a fight…
A bit of a cliche in the MMA world, the phrase “anything can happen” has been uttered countless times by commentators, media members and fighters alike. However, it continues to ring true, especially in the aftermath of last month’s UFC 162.
Anderson Silva (pictured left), the long reigning middleweight and pound-for-pound king, seemed unbeatable over the course of his UFC career, amassing a record breaking 10 title defenses en route to a perfect 16-0 UFC record. However, that all came to an end on July 6 when challenger Chris Weidman (right) shocked the world by knocking out the living legend in the second round.
While some experts thought that Weidman had the skill to take the belt, no one could have predicted that the former wrestling stand out would actually stop “The Spider” on his feet. This is just one of countless examples that anything can happen when two guys with tiny gloves punch each other in the face.
From unexpected finishes and untimely injuries to surprising underdog wins, you’ll never truly know what to expect when the Octagon doors close. Next
11. But there’s always time to hug it out
Sportsmanship and camaraderie through competition can be found in any sport, but there’s something special (and a bit odd) about two fighters hugging it out after punching each other in the face for 15-25 minutes.
It’s a surreal experience fighting another person inside the Octagon, but there’s usually a mutual respect among opponents, even if they engage in a heavy war of words prior to the bout. While this might not always be the case (see Paul Daley vs. Josh Koscheck), the spirit of the martial arts more often than not prevails.
Pictured: UFC champ Chris Weidman, left , embraces Anderson Silva after beating him for the middleweight title at UFC 162 in Las Vegas on July 6. Back to the beginning
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