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Gareth a Davies GuidetouFC fiGhtinG THE Ultimate Fighting Championships’ first fight night took place 14 and a half years ago in Denver, US, a one-off event pitching facts different martial artists against each other. Could a karate expert defeat a wrestler or a judo fighter? Would the skills of Brazilian jiu-jitsu overcome a wrestling specialist or a boxer? The one-off event was a hit, and spawned new contests, developing into the sport of Mixed Martial Arts – known as MMA. What is Mixed Today, under the auspices of sanction- ing bodies and formulated rules, the Martial Arts? Ultimate Fighting Championships – Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is the fastest growing sport football’s equivalent of the Champions’ on both sides of the Atlantic. Two combatants League within the sport of MMA – pitches compete against each other using a mixture of elite modern-day gladiators against each martial art disciplines such as boxing, Greco-Roman other using a hybrid of mixed martial arts wrestling, freestyle wresting, judo, taekwondo (all inside ‘the octagon’, a 30ft fighting zone. Olympic sports) as well as other traditional martial It is a rapidly-growing, international arts such as kickboxing, karate, jiu-jitsu, and Thai sport, with a huge global fan base. The boxing. sport is booming in the US and around the world – with the UK, France, Holland and several Eastern European countries How long do showing rapidly increasing numbers of fans. contests last? Some professional rugby league and Contests last for three five-minute rounds (five rugby union players are now learning MMA rounds for UFC title fights) unless a combatant wins skills, while the athletes’ involved are inside the distance by scoring a stoppage or increasingly respected by other profes- submission. If the bout lasts the distance, a winner is sional sportspeople. UFC is, without doubt, found via the scorecards of three ringside judges, a modern sporting phenomenon. Like all who use the same ‘10-point must’ system utilized in combat sports, it has its critics. boxing. UFC President Dana White, a former boxer who bought the rights to the UFC brand for two million US dollars, with two partners, in February 2001, says the sport Household name: Michael Bisping, What is the is now totally different to what it was when it started in 1993. Two years ago, the men above, dishing out the punishment, Ultimate Fighting in suits behind the sport injected a further 40 million US dollars, and their investment and, left, copping a punch, is now a Championship? huge star in both The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the has paid dividends. the UK and the Last year alone, UFC grossed over 200 world’s premier mixed martial arts organisation. United States Established in 1993, the UFC is the equivalent of million US dollars, and attracted millions of fans worldwide. “The sport bears no football’s UEFA Champion League of mixed martial resemblance to what it was when it started arts and boasts the world’s élite and most experienced MMA athletes. VIES in 1993. Anyone who thinks so has been living under a stone for the last 14 and a half years,” says White. “UFC is here to stay.” Celebrity UFC Fans GARETH A DA UFC has made Michael Bisping, a 29- Pamela Anderson (pictured) year-old former amateur boxer from Lee Majors Lancashire – whose father was an Army Paris Hilton sergeant major with the Queen’s Keanu Reeves Lancashire Regiment, and whose three George Clooney brothers followed his father into the forces Girls Aloud – a huge star both in the US and Man Utd players increasingly in the UK after he won the Ricky Gervais televised US series of ‘The Ultimate Jonathan Ross Fighter’ in Las Vegas. Yasmin and Simon Le Bon In 2007, an indication of his Mandy Moore popularity came when Bisping David Haye was voted 12th in the BBC Danielle Lloyd Sports Personality of the Year Jay-Z Award. Over the coming Beyonce months, I will be reporting on UFC super fight events, and bringing you the interviews, the issues, news and debate from this fast- evolving sport.
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