MMA is an acronym for the term Mixed Martial Arts. There’s a great general description of Mixed Martial Arts here. The term was established back in the 90’s when the pioneers of MMA were trying desperately to get the sport/art accepted and the term ‘cage fighting’ had a lot of negative images associated with it. MMA or Mixed Martial Arts was a term that accurately portrayed the sport and was more paletable for the general public. The biggest difficulty in getting uptake of the term in the early days was that it wasn’t shocking enough for small organisations and events to promote their shows – ‘cage fighting’ sold more tickets and so it was very rare to see the term MMA on a fight promotion. Thankfully now there is complete acceptance of the term MMA in the Mixed Martial Arts community and public knowledge of these terms has increased dramatically thanks in particular to organisations like the UFC who have done an outstanding job of raising public awareness of the sport with their promotions.
So in its original form Mixed Martial Arts was really a concept for finding out which Martial Art or combination of Martial Arts were most effective in combat. A very limited set of rules was created, there was the minimum amount of safety equipment allowed and an arena was chosen that would not favour any one style – the Octagon. It was seen as the ultimate proving ground – if you thought that your style was best regardless of whether it was Karate or Kung Fu or Wrestling or Muay Thai, all comers were welcome to test their skills in the octagon. At this point in MMA history Mixed Martial Arts really referred to the ethos that a mixture of styles could fight under one set of rules, it didn’t really refer to a combatent being skilled in several different arts – the term Mixed Martial Artist was not really used at this point in time and was coined later when cross training became commonplace. It may seem odd to a more recent convert to MMA that there was a time (less than 20 years ago) where most Mixed Martial Arts competitions were essentially still fought by fighters that were skilled in just one style but if you think about the history of Martial Arts on a grander scale it’s easier to understand how this was the case.