Recent years have seen MMA grow in popularity. The buy rates keep on improving as more fans turn their attention to what’s happening in the Octagon. Those who decide to enter the sport have a wide range of talents: some come from an amateur wrestling background, others have boxing skills and some have acquired skills in Jiu-Jitsu, judo, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Sanshou or karate. It all helps MMA be one of the most popular sports in the world.
From Wrestling to MMA
Brock Lesnar may have been a former WWE Champion before entering UFC and winning their Heavyweight title, but his early days had been spent in amateur wrestling. Lesnar was a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One Champion and while at college lost just five of 111 bouts. He considers his NCAA title win the toughest of his career. It was the skills he learnt there that helped him conquer the UFC rather than an F5 in WWE.
Multi-UFC Champion Randy Couture nearly made it to the Olympics and won several NCAA titles before becoming a wrestling coach. Then he had a stellar career in UFC and it’s the mat skills he learnt in amateur wrestling that gave him the chance to become successful in UFC.
A look at the current list of UFC Champions shows the huge amount of skills fighters have gained in other sports. Current UFC Champion Stipe Miocic didn’t just ply his trade in amateur wrestling but boxing too. Ability on the mat and a great punch are fantastic assets for any MMA competitor to possess. Light Heavyweight top dog Daniel Cormer wrestled at the Olympics and Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley also has an amateur wrestling background. Submission skills of course are a valuable asset for any MMA competitor. Brazilian Jose Aldo, the Featherweight number one, took a different route learning Capoeira before switching to Jiu-Jitsu.
When it comes to current Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping, he was just eight years old when he started being trained in Jiu-Jitsu. Later on he tried plenty more martial arts including boxing, karate and kickboxing. It was in the latter of those sports that he was to win titles before turning his attention to MMA and having a highly successful career. The same applies to interim Featherweight champion Max Holloway and World Women’s Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who also indulged in a spot of Muay Thai.
A big punch has served double UFC Champion Conor McGregor well in his record-breaking career. Not surprising considering his background in boxing in which he won titles in Ireland while a youngster. A similar route was taken by UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, who learnt boxing as well as being a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in Judo helping to make her an all-round talent. Ronda Rousey did a little bit better than a brown belt in judo. She followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a judo champion, winning a gold medal at the 2007 Pan American games and then taking the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics. Recently she’s been sparring with Olympic boxer Mikaela Mayer and of course she’s heavily tipped to one day become a WWE wrestler. Before that though, she tries to regain her UFC Bantamweight title. She’s currently 8/11 in betting for her title match against Nunes.
So you can see that when it comes to life before MMA, the top UFC competitors have been busy getting a wide range of skills before heading into the Octagon. All help them in some way, whether it’s wrestling on the mat, putting their opponents in submission holds or knocking them out.