MMA and the Rise of Bloodsports

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In recent years, the sport of MMA has started to grow from a small organization to a worldwide cultural phenomenon.Gulf Insider explores the rise of this popular sport.

Anthropologist D.S. Farrer claims that in warlike ancient societies, to perform martial arts as “games” signified peace as a proxy of wartime. It’s no accident then that American society, long mobilized for permanent war, has evolved the most brutal competitive fighting sport since the Roman gladiators, MMA.

Proof of its hold in our collective imagination is it being a common theme in fiction. Examples are The Hunger Games, Fight Club, and Amores Perros. Star Wars and Doctor Who also feature blood sports in their alternate universes. D.S. Farrer believes that “MMA offers a brutal competitive antidote to the cult of the passive spectator”.

Who is the best fighter?

During the late 1960s to early 1970s, the concept of combining the elements of multiple martial arts was popularized in the west by Bruce Lee via his system of Jeet Kune Do. Lee believed that “the best fighter is not a Boxer, Karate or Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt to any style, to be formless, to adopt an individual’s own style and not following the system of styles.” In 2004, UFC President Dana White would call Lee the “father of mixed martial arts” stating: “If you look at the way Bruce Lee trained, the way he fought, and many of the things he wrote, he said the perfect style was no style. You take a little something from everything. You take the good things from every different discipline, use what works, and you throw the rest away”

In its present form, mixed martial arts is a full contact combat sport that allows both striking and grappling, both striking and on the ground, using techniques from other combat sports and martial arts.

MMA has been called the world’s fastest growing sport. Boosted by the reality TV series “The Ultimate Fighter”, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) runs 30 events a year to reach 354 million homes in 154 countries. “MMA’s cultural and financial penetration is deep,” said sports analyst Breaking Carnival. D.S. Farrer believes that MMA is now the “dominant global martial arts form”.

Challenges of an MMA fighter

There is no better sport than MMA to reveal the limits of human endurance. Minor cuts and lacerations are common in an MMA fight. However, the injuries don’t stop there—more severe injuries like fractures, ligament tears, and head injuries are also common. Facial fractures are also to be expected, particularly in the nose and the orbital bone. In cases where the septum may be damaged, reconstructive surgery is needed.

What then attracts able-bodied men and women to this blood sport? Aside from premium exposure; MMA fights, because of their worldwide appeal, pay very well. The top level fighters of mixed martial artists can make about $4-5 million per fight. An entry level fighter can make about $6,000 per fight while the average MMA fighter can earn $12,000 per fight (

However, remuneration in the mixed martial art discipline is complicated when compared to other disciplines. The athletes are not paid on a regular basis, but are paid according to the number of fights in which they participate in. The average fighter makes only $18,000 per fight, and it is difficult to book more than three fights per year because the fighter also has to go through a period of training. However, the renowned fighters make millions of dollars per fight and often have lucrative contract endorsements from advertising companies.

Why can’t MMA be better?

Another problem that MMA fighters face is getting sponsors. claims that “for many fighters, sponsor money means everything. It’s the difference between prospering and just getting by. It’s something they talk about among themselves, but rarely in public. It’s the hidden undercurrent of the MMA economy”. This brings to mind the Ancient Roman gladiatorial system where the more victories a gladiator won, the more valuable he was to his owner; and could eventually win his freedom from slavery.

In light of this situation, Mohammed Shahid, CEO of KHK-MMA, strives to make a difference. KHK-MMA is the first Bahrain MMA team to create a truly professional stable of world-class fighters and coaches that gives back by promoting and supporting Bahraini MMA fighters. They quickly rose to fame in the worldwide arena through such stalwarts like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Eldar Eldarov. Recently, they have started to create the Brave Combat Federation, a first in Bahrain MMA promotion fight.

Shahid recounts “As a fighter, it was really hard for me to actually find fights, and even when I found fights, I still couldn’t get to a point where I could make a career out of it”. So began his tinkering around with the MMA sport and the business side of it trying to make MMA better for fighters.

“Regardless of whether you are marketable or not, or are from India, Bahrain, or the USA, you should be able to have a career that allows you to reach your potential among the best in the world. That was our vision and our goal – to bring all these countries together and give the fighters the chance to be the best in the world,” Shahid adds.



Hot Currency

In the earliest days of MMA as an organized sport, it wasn’t allowed on pay-per-view and Republican politician John McCain lobbied heavily for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States to keep mixed martial arts off Pay per view channels. In response, mixed martial arts leagues began to organize their fighters into weight classes and institute regulations to make the sport more appealing to the masses. With these changes, MMA began to move out of the underground circuits and into the mainstream.

Where boxing was once the go-to combat sport for Vegas gamblers, mixed martial arts is now becoming the new bet. Betting on MMA fights is a booming business and fantasy MMA sites like are making it easier to bet on such fights.

According to Breaking Carnival, “only boxing’s Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.—charismatic, singular, once-in-a-lifetime pugilistic talents—can compete with MMA’s dozen deep roster of pay proven superstars, in terms of fan interest”. He further added “My personal opinion is that if MMA were a stock,
you should be backing up the truck
to buy”.                                                                                    

For more information about KHK-MMA go to

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