Mixed martial arts evolved throughout the ages as a means of seeing the most effective method for hand-to-hand combat. There was a certain romanticism to it despite the nature of the sport. Since they were combining several disciplines in one arena, having one set of rules proved to be difficult. What was banned in boxing could be allowed in Taekwondo, and so on. It was hard to reconcile the various regulations. Truth be told, it was often thought of as undesirable to limit the battles. People wanted as little restrictions as possible. The closer things were to a street brawl, the better.
However, the need for rules soon became apparent as MMA grew. There were two major driving forces for the change. First, it became necessary to protect the health of the fighters. They are, after all, prized assets that performed for audiences. They draw the people and sell the tickets. Although some damage is expected, they should not be fully incapacitated during fights. It would be enough to see the clear dominant fighter. Heavily one-sided affairs were no longer tolerated with referees stopping fights once a person is no longer able to mount a credible offense and defense, even if their heart pushes them on.
Second, rules were modified to ensure that matches will be entertaining for audiences. Putting two people inside a ring doesn’t really guarantee action. Sometimes the men simply circle each other for an eternity until the audience expresses its disappointment. There clearly had to be a greater sense of urgency for the fighters. The results should also be credible. Since the matches won’t always end in a knockout, a scoring system had to be devised for judges to appreciate the fight in a uniform manner. The way that the protagonists are pitted against each other had to be fair as well to avoid mismatches.
MMA introduced strict time limits into every match. Instead of one long continuous fight, battles were divided into finite rounds. The number of rounds differs among various leagues and situations. In the UFC, regular fights are usually contested within just three rounds while Championships bouts can go up to five rounds. Each of these last for five minutes. For comparison, professional boxing matches usually last for 8 to 12 rounds of three minutes each. These used to go for 15 rounds or more but were cut short to compress the action, make things more entertaining, and limit the damage on the fighters.
In the past when anything goes, head butts were considered as a valid move that fighters would often deploy when forced into a corner. It was effective in close-quarter combat when arms and legs are unavailable. Sometimes, it would be used even if other striking methods were possible just because it could have a drastic effect on the match. Indeed, it could open up a nasty cut. It is often a bloody affair. It simply could not be tolerated due to the dangers it presents. This is now considered as an illegal move in MMA with penalties given to offenders. The first few instances may be given a warning with subsequent ones resulting in costly point deductions.
Bare knuckle fights are rare in modern professional tournaments. In most MMA leagues, fighters will wear gloves though they are not as hefty as those used by boxers. They are short and sleek with open fingers. This allows fighters to use their hands to effectively grab their opponents and perform complex holds while protecting their hands during heavy strikes. There are lots of small bones that could and so break during fights when fists land on a torso. Thanks to the cushioning, this can be avoided and people will be less hesitant about punching back. Stoppage due to cuts is also prevented.
In BJJ competitions, Gis are usually worn by the fighters on the mat. Knowing how to maneuver in one and use the opponent’s garment to successfully perform holds is part of the game. Experts at grappling spend a lot of time training for this. In professional MMA, however, it is generally a no-gi affair with tight-fitting shorts being the uniform of choice. Women wear a sports bra for support. Fighters cannot wear shirts or long pants. They must have a mouth-guard to protect their teeth. Men wear a protective cup. Everything is checked by the state’s athletic committee before they are allowed to enter the ring.
Although there have been several cases of smaller men dominating bigger ones, massive size disparity is highly frowned upon as it puts one side at a severe disadvantage. MMA fighters are divided into weight categories and they can only clash against those in the same division. There are currently 11 such classes from atom weight (105 lbs and below) to super heavyweight (above 205 lbs).