Combat sports and the differences between them can be incredibly confusing. With so many acronyms and different names, what exactly does each term mean? What is the difference, for example, between UFC and MMA? 

The difference between UFC and MMA is that the UFC is a business, while MMA describes an entire sport. MMA stands for mixed martial arts, while the UFC stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship and is a privately owned business that runs MMA competitions. 

Understanding exactly what the UFC is and how it distinguishes from mixed martial arts as a whole can be difficult. Read on to learn more about mixed martial arts and how they relate to the UFC.

What is MMA?

When you first hear the term “mixed martial arts” you might wonder what it is. Many people know martial arts to be a type of sport that comes from different schools of fighting. 

Mixed martial arts is a fighting sport in which various combat techniques combine into one versatile form of fighting. Mixed martial arts today often involve a combination of strikes, kicks, and grappling moves.

Common martial arts people participate in are: 

  • Karate 
  • Taekwondo 
  • Jiu jitsu 
  • Kung Fu 

Within these martial arts, there are also different varieties. For example, Brazilian jiu jitsu, Japanese jujitsu, and Israeli jiu jitsu, are all unique types of jiu jitsu sports. Many specific martial arts fall within the category of each martial art. The versatility of mixed martial arts helps athletes to achieve the most effective form of physical attack or defense.

What is the UFC?

With an understanding of what mixed martial arts are, we can understand what UFC is.

UFC stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship and is a sports organization that organizes matches between professional mixed martial arts fighters. UFC is perhaps the most widely known and the best organized mixed martial arts league, especially within the US.

The UFC, unlike other sports, does not have a season. Instead, it holds about 41 live events each year. 

The UFC’s organization works differently compared to other major sporting competitions. UFC fighters are not part of a team, but rather are individuals with agents that sign them up for events. This is different from the majority of American sports leagues. Fighters spend significant time training and fighting in lower leagues before eventually qualifying to fight in the UFC. After they have participated in enough fights, the UFC then sets up matches for them to compete in. 

Mixed Martial Arts Has a Complex History

While mixed martial arts is now more popular than it has ever been, the sport has a long history. Mixed martial arts first began with the early Chinese sport of Leitai. Leitai, also known as lei tai, was a form of mixed wrestling and boxing that started in ancient China. Eventually, the ancient Greeks created a form of mixed martial arts called pankration. Pankration combined aspects of the following sports: 

  • Wrestling 
  • Kicking 
  • Regular boxing 
  • Tackling 

Over the years, martial artists from one school began to experiment with other schools of martial arts. Meanwhile, they took aspects that they liked from each school and combined them to create a mixed martial art. Though this didn’t lead to any major structural organization, mixed martial arts soon began to grow in popularity. In 1993, the UFC was born, creating one of the first major mixed martial arts organizations. 

Mixed Martial Arts is Growing in Popularity

Though martial arts have not always been popular, both martial arts and mixed martial arts are rapidly growing in popularity. Mixed martial arts is not only growing in popularity in the United States, but is also becoming more popular worldwide. As of 2015, nearly one-fourth of the world’s nations had at least one representative in the UFC. Furthermore, almost 50% of the fighters came from outside of the United States. 

Additionally, more people are beginning to watch mixed martial arts and the UFC. The UFC uses a model called “Pay-Per-View” that allows people to watch the fighting. As the name suggests, you need to pay in order to watch a contest. 15 of the top 50 pay-per-view events were those of UFC fights. Nine of these most recent events had over 1 million pay-per-view sales, suggesting an incredibly large viewing audience. 

Mixed Martial Arts Provides Many Life Benefits

Most people who participate in mixed martial arts do not end up making it to the big league. Still, there are serious benefits for those who do participate in mixed martial arts. For many, these benefits include immediate health effects. Martial arts incorporate unique forms of both cardio and strength training. Many people are able to lose weight, become healthier, and feel less stressed as a result of participating in mixed martial arts. 

For those who do make it to the big leagues, there are some serious financial benefits in mixed martial arts. Conor McGregor has made over $20,000,000 from fighting alone. Even still, the average UFC fighter makes about $148,000 per year. While less drastic than they are with some other sports, serious financial benefits can accompany mixed martial arts. 

Mixed Martial Arts Derives From Famous Martial Arts

While mixed martial arts pulls from more than 15 different styles of martial arts, most mixed martial arts fighters learned their skills in one of the following major styles. 

Karate Focuses on Self Improvement

Known by many, Karate is perhaps the most famous of all of the martial arts. Some attribute the sport’s popularity to its common use in many famous movies. Karate is also incredibly popular because it is relatively easy compared to other martial arts and focuses on perfecting yourself. While the individual moves are important, the level of perseverance and self-control needed to master karate is even more important. Karate is very popular among MMA fighters. 

Taekwondo Improves Fighting Skills

Taekwondo was created in Korea in ancient times as a way to perfect fighting. Its literal translation means “the way of the foot and the fist.” The sport’s many combinations of kicking and jumping moves make it both fun to watch and participate in. Taekwondo has become incredibly popular in the 21st century, and even joined the Olympics in 2000. There are multiple varieties of taekwondo with differing styles and techniques. 

Judo Focuses on Pins and Takedowns

Judo is a famous martial art known for its lack of weapons, unlike some other martial arts. Judo, like Karate and Taekwondo, is helpful for self-defense. However, it is distinct in the fact that it includes takedowns and techniques to pin your opponent to the ground. Judo, like Taekwondo, is also an Olympic event and is particularly popular outside of the United States. 

As a form of martial arts, Judo is also unique in that it teaches people how to fall. The sport places a heavy emphasis on the best way to receive the force of one’s opponent. By learning proper falling techniques, those practicing Judo learn to safely receive an attack. This quality separates Judo from many other forms of martial arts.

Tai Chi Revolves Around Calming Techniques

Very different from Judo, Taekwondo, and Karate, Tai Chi is a unique martial art in the fact that it is not meant entirely for self-defense. However, the sport does have some self-defense properties. People participated in Tai Chi in ancient times because of the calming effects it has on the individual. Tai Chi was practiced and is still practiced today by many Taoist and Buddist Monks living in China. Though slow for spectators, Tai Chi’s basic moves are common in self-defense. 

Jiu Jitsu Is Common in the UFC

Perhaps the most commonly used martial art by UFC fighters, jiu jitsu started as a Japanese martial art similar to that of Judo. However, the sport has evolved to embrace many alterations. Brazilian jiu jitsu, in particular, has become a popular adaptation of the traditional martial art. The Japanese initially introduced the sport to Brazil, but Brazilians adapted the sport for their own purposes. Eventually, it became a distinct fighting style that stands apart from the original Japanese jiu jitsu. 

Famous Mixed Martial Artists in the UFC

While the only difference between the UFC and MMA is that the UFC is the championship that organizes mixed martial art fights, many of the most famous mixed martial artists today are current and former UFC fighters. Here are some of the most famous UFC mixed martial artists. 

Conor McGregor Flaunts Personality

While many people either love or hate Conor McGregor, everyone seems to know who he is. Known for his foul language and taunting, many recognize McGregor as one of the best UFC fighters of all time. McGregor started out as a boxer, but became interested in mixed martial arts at a relatively young age. McGregor might be part of the “featherweight” class, but you do not want to get in a fight with him. Not only has he won 22 UFC fights, but six of these fights have been by knockout. 

Anderson Silva Brought Popularity to the UFC

Similar to McGregor in his fandom, Anderson Silva is one of the most famous UFC fighters of all time. With 34 wins, Silva packs a heavy punch and has helped the UFC become as popular as it is today. Nicknamed “The Spider,” Silva’s Brazilian jiu jitsu inspired many people to give the martial art a try. Not to mention, Silva is incredibly flashy in the Octagon. Though retired, Silva is one of the best-known names in all of mixed martial arts. 

Khabib Nurmagomedov Remains Undefeated

Known as “The Eagle,” some argue that Khabib is one of the best mixed martial artists of all time. Having competed in 29 professional fights, Khabib didn’t lose a single fight throughout his entire career. The only person that ever came close to beating Khabib was Conor McGregor. Khabib famously beat McGregor, causing a brawl in the arena after the fight. Recently retired, Khabib is one of the best UFC fighters of all time. 

Ronda Rousey Holds Records in the Female Sport

Even if you aren’t a fan of UFC, you have probably heard of Ronda Rousey. Known as one of the best female UFC fighters of all time, Rousey retired from the UFC with a record of 12-2. Even more impressive, Rousey never lost a fight that lasted through every round. Though no longer fighting in the UFC, Rousey now fights in the WWE, and is still an incredibly popular figure. 

Dustin Poirier is an Up and Coming Fighter

Dustin Poirier is perhaps one of the most famous UFC fighters still in the game. He’s currently ranked number two in the UFC’s lightweight rank, and has already won 28 professional UFC fights. For those who aren’t frequent UFC viewers, Poirier is famous for beating Conor McGregor twice after losing to him once. 

Poirier is only going to continue to grow in fame and popularity in years to come. If you aren’t currently watching him, be sure to start keeping an eye out.

Georges St. Pierre Holds Impressive Fighting Streaks

Georges St. Pierre must be on the list as one of the most famous mixed martial artists of all time. Though he’s never technically retired, the Canadian fighter is likely out of the Octagon for the future. St. Pierre only ever had two losses, both of which he refought and won on later dates. St. Pierre is also well known for his 13 wins in a row, making him a legend in the Octagon. 

Final Thoughts

While mixed martial arts encompasses an entire sport, the UFC serves as the premier organization within it. Founded in 1993, the UFC has brought mixed martial arts to new levels of national and global popularity. With many famous fighters practicing a vast array of martial arts, the UFC is an entertaining organization to follow. Finally, if you’re looking for a new way to exercise, mixed martial arts might be your best bet!

Related Articles