Many pundits say that the Lessner-Couture fight marked the beginning of a new era of Mixed Martial Arts. I happen to agree. MMA journalist, Joe Rizzo of the internet talk show “The Rear Naked Choke” expressed this sentiment in a recent pod cast and I couldn’t agree more. I’ll go one step further and PREDICT the next evolution of the sport of MMA and the Martial Arts industry.
Mixed martial arts will go the way of boxing and take its place among at the top of the of American combat sports. It’s faster and it has an edge that meets the demands of our grow-up-to-soon, over-exposed youth. The sport of mixed martial arts will continue to grow, regulated and controlled to meet the safety standards of each state. I would NOT be surprised to see MMA become an Olympic sport in the next 16 years.
MMA will take the path of all professional sports. If we look at the boxing model, fighters come out of small local gyms, fight in small venues as they work their way up the food chain. They get picked up by promoters and handled by managers and trainers.
For MMA it will be even harder to break in. The Cinderella, rags to riches story of a kid learning MMA at his local boys club is highly unlikely to happen. The future of MMA will come from Amateur and Collegiate wrestling. It has already happened. The vast majority of champions have a wrestling back ground. Good striking skills only take a few years to develop and submissions even less than that (you can build up a decent submission DEFENSE in about a year.)
Wrestling in the US has a tremendous infrastructure and talent pool to choose from. On the elite college level, wrestlers already have the work ethic, the attitude, body awareness and of course superior grappling and scrambling skills. As the payday for MMA increases, it becomes a viable option for elite college wrestlers to pursue. The only other options were go to the Olympics or go to work.
I only hope the athletes get their due, which is going to happen since most of them are college graduates, they have more OPTIONS than a starving kid form the street. The path of the MMA fighter will be wrestle and maybe do some Judo or BJJ as a youth. When he’s out of college or high school, he should learn to strike: boxing and muay thai. He will lead a Spartan lifestyle and seek out higher levels of competition in order to improve. This doesn’t happen at the local studio, it can’t.
What will continue to happen is college wrestlers will be recruited MORE by MMA promoters. I even for see an MMA draft. Athletes will be recruited and placed in in training camps. They will be developed, just like any other pro athlete.
The day of the small local MMA club is gone. The idea of having MMA at the local martial arts school will be the same as teaching cardio kick boxing or aerobics (it’s almost there now- most guys just don’t know it yet.) There will always be the exception, but on the whole, there in no way that someone who starts training at their local club will be able to compete with a collegiate elite wrestler; NO WAY, NO HOW. MMA will be the business it inspires to be: Major sports entertainment.
So where does that leave the state of martial arts? Martial arts will always have it’s niche, cult following. It’s the nature of the beast, but that ONLY attracts a small percentage of people who are looking for that lifestyle. The vast majority of adult practitioners look to martial arts for self defense training. Adult martial arts will be another tool to help them live their lives better. Programs must focus on fitness and self defense to survive. In the next 5 years, if you’re not in the self defense and fitness business and you continue to offer ONLY martial arts programs, you’re going to be stuck and forgotten.
The mixed martial arts and grappling era on the local level will be soon over. Unless you are teaching wrestling, judo or BJJ you will not be able to compete. Offering MMA in the near future will be like offering professional football or basketball classes.
While most people enjoy watching football, they aren’t about to go play professionally. But they still have an interest in related activities. As MMA grows, they will have an interest but no desire to jump in the ring- even if they tried, there won’t be much opportunity. But there is always a need for self defense skills. Today’s student just wants the facts, the skills and go about there lives. If you’re teaching in a traditional style dojo, you better incorporate self defense training into your program or you can say good bye to your adult program.
Adults are interested in martial arts will want to do only two things: Learn self defense and get in shape. Will you be there for the turn?