Sunday, 8 March 2009

Ultimate Fighting's Rise to Number 1

Fans of any combat sport are set to sweat as the newest in fight entertainment- the "Ultimate Fight Championship"- verges on breaking the international mainstream

The UFC is the major organisation that promotes regulated bouts of Mixed Martial Arts. MMA encompasses exactly what it says- any style of fighting goes, whether wrestling, boxing or kung-fu. The aim is simple: two fighters face each other in an octagonal cage, 30 foot in diametre, and can employ any style to defeat their opponant by either knockout, submission or by the referee calling a stop. Most organisations of MMA allow three 5 minute rounds. The UFC (being the organisation promoting highest caliber fighters) allows five 5 minute rounds.

Unsurprisingly, the sport has taken heavy criticism since its conception in 1993. There was far less regulation back then and it was marketed as "No Holds Barred" fighting instead of as martial arts. Bouts were frequently bloody and the sparse rules resembled those of the wrestling in Ancient Greece- no biting or eye-gouging. The US senator John McCain described it as "human cock-fighting" and four years later it was forced underground as cable televion Pay-per-View providers axed any ties with the sport. Many, perhaps rightly, even maintained that it wasn't a sport anyway but a kind of glorified satisfaction for primative blood lust.

After a reworking of the rules, a definitive set of 31 fouls and regulations such as mandatory glove wearing and not kicking a floored opponant, the public is beginning to accept MMA as a serious contact sport. McCain admits that it has, "Grown up" and that athletes now have, "Better protection". Fighters now cannot wear shoes and are not allowed to strike the back of the neck or head.

Facts speak for themselves and it's a fact that there have been zero deaths from Mixed Martial Arts since it was born. Although there are far more boxing fights, this is still a pertinant point considering that an average of eight people have died each year for half a century as a direct result of boxing. The injuries are usually superficial, such as skin cuts, abrasions and bruising.

And the popularity is on a rapid rise. 2006 was a landmark year for UFC as it took the record for highest buys ever for Pay-per-View, topping all wrestling and boxing bills. One particuler fight (between Matt Hughes and Royce Gracie) took a staggering 600 000 buys minimum.

The number of fans for MMA is on the up, with regular fights aired on Bravo and Setanta Sports and even an imminent page dedicated to UFC in the sports section of Telegraph online. UFC 85, billed as "Bedlam" is coming to the O2 Arena in London on June 7 and the 20 000 tickets are expected to sell out quickly. The card includes "Great British Hope" and current UFC light-heavyweight champion Michael Bisping. The Lancastrian has dropped down a weight division to Middleweight and is taking on Canadian Jason "Dooms" Day.

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