Words by Will Vo 

As Mixed Martial Arts has grown from being a niche sport with a cult following, and into more of a mainstream attraction, there is no better time to become a fan of what can be the most unpredictable, yet simple to understand phenomenon in the world. MMA embodies a gritty realism that is part and parcel of a fight, combined with the technicality and beauty that comes with a life’s dedication to any discipline. It is topped off with a sense of drama and suspense augmented by its charismatic participants. 

Firstly, no introduction to MMA would be complete without distinguishing the difference between MMA and the UFC. MMA refers to the sport itself, Mixed Martial Arts, whereas the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is the organisation in which the sport takes place. The UFC to MMA is what NBA is to basketball, or what the Premier League is to football. 

Despite the UFC’s relative youth as a brand, there is a rich history that new fans would enjoy catching up on. Condensing any sport down to its key moments and runs doesn’t entirely give its participants the respect they deserve, but if you are looking to see some defining moments from the UFC’s history, I would recommend watching Anderson Silva’s streak as middleweight champion – a plethora of unique and interesting finishes, fights and moments, culminating in one of the great upsets in any sport. Conor McGregor’s journey to double champion falls into a similar category, with the addition of all the antics that have become a staple of the Irishman’s status as a prizefighter.

So, history aside, what’s going on currently? Well, we have a polarizing striker dominating the middleweight division in Israel Adesanya. Adesanya integrates his love of anime into his fighting, from his taunts which reference Death Note, to his nickname ‘the Last Stylebender’. At heavyweight, Francis Ngannou holds the strap. Ngannou embodies everything that sport should represent, as his journey from the Sand Mines in Cameroon to becoming the World Champion is one of immense willpower, inspiration, and talent. The Cameroonian lost his first World Title fight, and then won four fights in a combined time of under four minutes. He followed this up by avenging his unsuccessful World Title bid, and currently stands proudly atop the mountain. 

Looking to the future, there are fights for people who would love the technical side of fighting, for those who love the brawlers, and for those who love the spectacle and the rivalries. The previously-named Ngannou will defend his title against former training partner, now undefeated rival, Ciryl Gane, in a power vs precision matchup. Petr ‘No Mercy’ Yan will challenge for the title he lost via disqualification against submission specialist Sterling, in a battle between flash and fundamentals, and bitter rivals Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington and Kamaru Usman look set to clash once more following their classic matchup two years ago.

For more information about martial arts at Sussex, visit the SussexSport website.

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