Mixed martial arts fighters are starting to come out of the woodwork quite regularly in the last few years, especially with the popularity of international MMA competitions, particularly the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In the Philippines, one of the first to professionalize this sport is the Universal Reality Combat Championship, which has been in operation for about 10 years. But more recently, the Pacific X-Treme Combat (PXC) came to the Philippines to add more excitement to this budding sporting event and has so far introduced Filipino MMA fighters to international combatants. Despite having started only in 2011, the PXC has quickly drawn crowds and has also spurred more Filipino fighters to come out of the shadows and to become professional combatants. The obvious draw, of course, is the fact that the PXC is the largest MMA competition this side of the Pacific with a stable of over 200 fighters. Its international viewership is over 400,000 making it as popular as many sports programs including the NBA. Fighting comes naturally to Filipinos especially with the popularity of boxing and wrestling across every region in the Philippines. MMA would most likely be easily picked up. There are already several training gyms that provide training in a variety of fighting techniques, from vale tudo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay thai and the locally known yaw-yan fighting style.
However, MMA today is not for the faint-hearted even for those who have already experienced facing off against another combatant in a different contact sport. Unlike boxing or other martial arts competitions, MMA fights require different physical and mental abilities. While most contact sports only require participants to hit specific targets to score points (or perhaps to knock out the opponent with a lucky shot), MMA fighters have to be more prepared against the unexpected. This is because the opponent might have a different set of fighting discipline that the other fighter has to anticipate. Such fighters are well-rounded in a variety of fighting forms (thus the term mixed martial arts) and have to be mentally prepared to take hits from their opponents who they have to anticipate to have been trained in different martial arts. While many people think that MMA is just brutish and without real art, fighters joining this highly regulated sport are among the most disciplined combatants and take to the sport very seriously. In fact, MMA is also monitored by the Wrestling Association of the Philippines (WAP), which has had experience in this type of activity. But how does one really start out as a fighter? Here are some of the more common tips for would-be MMA fighters:
1. Of course, one of the very first things is that you’ll need to have experience in any fighting discipline, be it boxing, wrestling, taekwondo, karate, etc. Those types of contact sports would already provide you with a certain level of mental and physical preparedness that would be necessary to get into more serious MMA.
2. After making the necessary preparations, would-be MMA fighters have to look for a gym. There are already several gyms in the Philippines offering MMA training, which include S.P.R.A.W.L. in Cubao, Quezon City; Hybrid Yaw-Yan Martial Arts Training Center, also in Cubao; Red Corner in Pasig City; FIST Martial Arts Academy in Quezon City, among others. Choosing a gym also means choosing a coach to train you. Similar to boxing, a coach will give you the right training regiment based on your available skills. Coaches would also know what your strengths and weaknesses are and ensure that all these are well covered.
3. Training partners are also necessary. In most cases, once you’re in a gym, other fighters will also be there to be trained. Be sure to understand the rules during practice especially when it comes to grappling or locks. There are certain moves that could literally break bone and dislocate joints so be sure to know your partner’s skills as well and avoid untoward incidences.
4. Know what you want to develop in terms of skills. While being well-rounded is the core of being an MMA fighter, you should also ensure that you are strong in one or more technique. For instance, if you are lean and have some speed, you could train to become a brawler (throwing punches and kicks). If you are heavily built you can train to become a ground fighter and be able to take down your opponent and beat them to submission). You should also know how to execute locks, grapples, and strangles as these can be effective against most types of fighters.
5. Mentally preparing yourself is also a very key ingredient to become a successful MMA fighter. Because of the nature of this contact sport wherein injuries would most likely happen, a fighter has to learn to endure physical pain. Diligence and commitment in training help develop mental preparation. Listen to your coach during training and always focus on both your strengths and weaknesses to determine how best to prepare yourself prior to a fight.
6. Show respect to other fighters. Anyone can see that MMA fights are among the most gruesome contact sports. Just the same, it also requires fighters to show respect before and after each fight. Showing unruly behavior isn’t just a show of disrespect, it also indicates lack of discipline – something that an opponent can take advantage of.
As with any sport, MMA requires rigorous training and conditioning. Facing up to fighters means learning how to face your fears. Fighting organizations such as the PXC allows you to face bigger challenges that also helps improve your game. Already, many fighters who started out early have eventually become better fighters through the PXC. But at the heart of it all is making sure you remember the same rules that helped you start your career.