Mixed martial arts (MMA) has exploded in popularity over the last two decades, becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the world. While MMA incorporates techniques from various disciplines, its foundation lies in wrestling. The connection between wrestling and MMA runs deep, from training methods to competition strategies.
As MMA continues to evolve, the dynamic intersection between these two physically demanding sports is shaping the future of combat sports.
MMA traces its roots back to the ancient Olympic combat sport of pankration, which combined boxing and wrestling techniques. When the UFC hosted its first event in 1993, the tournament featured fighters from different backgrounds including Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, karate, boxing, judo, and wrestling. In the early days, grappling-based fighters tended to dominate due to the lack of time limits and rounds. Over time, the sport has become more well-rounded, but wrestling remains a core component of MMA.
Importance of Wrestling in MMA
Wrestling provides some of the most critical skills for MMA fighters. The ability to take opponents down, control them on the mat, and avoid being taken down is crucial. Elite MMA fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov use their wrestling base to impose their will and set up submissions.
On the feet, wrestling teaches important strategies like level changing, footwork, and conditioning that allow fighters to avoid strikes and initiate clinches. For any aspiring MMA fighter, developing a strong wrestling foundation is essential.
MMA Wrestlers Finding Success
With so much overlap between the sports, accomplished wrestlers have been able to successfully transition into MMA. High-level collegiate and Olympic wrestlers like Daniel Cormier, Yoel Romero, and Henry Cejudo have gone on to become UFC champions. Their world-class wrestling skills give them an edge, allowing them to control fights.
Other standout wrestlers like Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley have also found success in MMA after their wrestling careers ended. For these athletes, MMA provides a new opportunity to challenge themselves athletically.
Crossover Training Methods
The training methods used in wrestling and MMA have greatly influenced each other over the years. Both sports utilize intense cardio, drilling, live sparring, strength and conditioning, and rigorous dieting. MMA fighters regularly train wrestling takedowns and defense to improve their abilities in these areas.
Wrestlers, meanwhile, incorporate MMA training into their workouts to enhance their conditioning, submission defense, and standup skills. Prominent MMA camps like American Kickboxing Academy and American Top Team host elite wrestlers to exchange knowledge. This crossover training gives athletes the best preparation for competition.
In addition to physical techniques, MMA and wrestling share many strategic similarities. They both emphasize explosive movement, controlling positions, and reading opponents. Fighters use setups and combinations to disguise their attacks. Matches feature constant transitions between striking, clinching, and grappling. Cardio endurance and the ability to dictate pace are hugely advantageous. Adapting strategies between the two sports has allowed athletes to become more tactically proficient.
MMA Influencing Wrestling Rule Changes
As wrestlers have integrated MMA into their training, it has also impacted wrestling competition rules. Governing bodies have increasingly incorporated more MMA-style positioning and submission opportunities.
In 2010, FILA introduced the “Grand Amplitude” rule which allows wrestlers to intertwine their legs for better control. Leg grabs, such as single and double leg takedowns, have also been permitted again in freestyle wrestling. These rule changes make wrestling more dynamic and help prepare athletes for transitioning into MMA.
Continued Growth and Evolution
The popularity of MMA has generated greater interest in wrestling as a foundational discipline. Participation in scholastic and collegiate wrestling programs has increased notably over the last decade. As more young athletes recognize the benefits of wrestling for MMA, this trend will continue.
Both sports will promote and learn from each other through training methods, athlete crossovers, strategic developments, and rule progressions. As MMA expands globally, the wrestling community stands to gain from this growth. The intertwined evolution of these sports will shape the martial arts landscape for years to come.
MMA Organizations Recruiting Wrestlers
Major MMA promotions like the UFC, Bellator, and PFL have made a concerted effort to recruit standout wrestlers over the years. They scout NCAA Division 1 wrestlers, national champions, and Olympians to help build their talent pool.
These organizations provide financial incentives and development opportunities to entice wrestlers to transition into MMA. Some of the sport’s biggest stars like Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey were signed directly from college wrestling programs.
The influx of elite wrestling talent has elevated the caliber of competition across MMA. Meanwhile, the exposure and paydays MMA offers have become increasingly attractive for wrestlers looking for a new athletic challenge after college.
MMA and wrestling have developed a symbiotic relationship that has impacted both sports’ trajectories. The extensive crossover between the two will likely only deepen over time. As fans enjoy watching the highest levels of competition, new generations of aspiring fighters and wrestlers will work diligently to rise up the ranks. The mat chronicles of these athletes will write the next chapters in the intersecting histories of MMA and wrestling. Those keeping an eye on the latest FanDuel MMA odds will get a glimpse into how these sports continue pushing one another to new heights.