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Sports Versus Martial Arts: Does Ultimate Fighting Protect You In Real Life Situations?

By Gene Roos

UFC competitor Joel Sutton punches Christopher Caile during a mixed martial arts practice, (1) While Ultimate Fighters and mixed martial arts compeitiors often go to the ground to fight, in street situations this can be especially dangerous if the attacker has a weapon or if there are multiple attackers.

Watching Ultimate and mixed martial arts fighting is entertaining. It has also become big business. TV shows featuring this type of fighting now rivals both boxing and professional wrestling for audience attention. Action is fast, hard and it is real – blood and sweat. Fighters are well trained and conditioned. Techniques traded include various mixtures of punching and kicking, grappling and ground fighting where participants trade blows, leverage joints and use choke holds looking for a submission or a referee’s intervention to end the fight.

But, will Ultimate Fighting (UFC) skill protect you from a real life, on the street attack? The answer is, only on a limited basis.

Let’s first look at how Ultimate Fighting has evolved from its inception (initial broadcast in 1993 to the present).

Initial Broadcast


Only two rules:
- No Eye Gouging
- No Biting

Same plus:
- No Groin Strikes
- No back of head elbow strikes
- No finger and wrist locks
- No kicks or kneeling to the head on a grounded opponent, etc.
- 4oz gloves required (2)

Ten minute rounds

Three to five minute rounds

No weight classes (heaviest fighter was 6689 pounds)

Five weight classes

Winner fought four people to win (in one evening)

One fight

Thus, we see that Ultimate Fighting has changed dramatically. Now there are more rules, weight classes, time limits, single fights and many prohibitions on allowed targets. In short, fights are more regulated and attempts have been made to eliminate the most dangerous techniques.

Next let us look at comparisons of Ultimate Fights to a street fight or attack.

Ultimate Fights


Many rules for prohibited techniques and behavior seen below)

No rules
Addition to no rules are groin strikes, smashiing ear drums, ripping and breaking the neck, small joint locks and breaks

Three to five minute rounds

No rounds

Five weight classes

No weight classes

No weapons

Possible introduction of hidden or surrounding weapons (chair, sticks ash trays, bottles, etc.)

One opponent

Multiple attackers are possible and may not be obvious

Use cage against opponent

Use of floors and walls for smashing against the opponent's head

Referee for stopping and judging fight


Mat surface

Cement or hard wood surface

Opportunity to prepare for the efent and scout the opponent

Sudden attack (very little warning) and no scouting opportunities

Protection of mouth piece and gloves and proper fight attire

No gear and street clothes

In short, the street is very different. There can be weapons, multiple attackers and attacks can be sudden and unprovoked. And the back of your head or eyes can be easy targets if you are not aware enough. If you go to the ground with one person, as is often the case in Ultimate Fighting, you may just find yourself kicked, hit or stabbed by others who are standing. In fact, if attacked by a gang on the street, the ground is the last place you want to be.

Given these limitations, however, if a martial arts student wants to test his fighting skills, the Ultimate Fighting or mixed martial arts sport competition is one avenue that will allow him to come closer to experiencing an actual attack. But, it should realized that a comprehensive set of rules is instituted for the competitors' safety, which separates the sport from a street brawl. There is also the factor that competitors have the opportunity to scout (past matches) of his opponent and determine his style and favorite techniques in order to spot his weaknesses. In a street confrontation the above is not available.

Ultimate Fighting (UFC) or mixed martial arts competition matches are not for everyone, as many fighters leave the encounter injured and bloody in spite of the rules. But students of mixed martial arts who choose to compete will find their experience equal to being involved in a full contact sport with limited protective gear (mouth piece, cup and gloves).

If the martial arts student wants to be prepared for self-defense on the streets, however, other arts can be helpful. Jujutsu, for example, is a pure self-defense art that teaches defenses from both unarmed and armed attacks. Like Ultimate Fighting it also combines strikes and kicks with throws, wrist, arm and body manipulations, but tries to avoid going to the ground for the reasons stated above. (3)

In sum, Ultimate Fighting or mixed martial arts are interesting to watch and involve real skill, but they are constrained by rules and limitations which limit their similarity to the street – especially if the attack involves weapons and multiple opponents. The study of another martial art, such as jujutsu that is based on street, multiple opponent and even weapon self-defense, might be more useful.


(1) Photo courtesy of Christopher Caile, Editor of Sutton a boxer and Praying Mantis Kung Fu practitioner won two early Ultimate Fighting Championship preliminary bouts and later competed in several international mixed martial arts competitions. Later he took up Krav Maga and now teaches that self-defense art. Sutton was a housemate of Christopher Caile for severl years on Grand Island (Buffalo), NY. Caile accommodated Sutton’s training by creating a mixed martial arts training facility in a building near his home.

(2) Points and fouls have increased from the original UFC fights. Also each sport organization (Pride, K-1, Vale Tudo, etc. ) determines its own rules. These are the rules that are listed on the UFC site which for copywrite laws, cannot be listed in the article but you can access them on the website. ( )

(3) The practice of Jujutsu (as with other martial arts) can vary from light or controlled to heavy sparring including fighting applications.  As you approach real life applications, the injury level increases significantly.  This can cause loss of students and possible law suits.  The sensei should make a decision on how close to reality the techniques in his school will approach.

Author’s Note: In Ultimate Fighting the rule for a disqualification is as follows: a "warning" will be given when a fighter commits a foul or illegal action or does not follow the referee's instruction. Three (3) warnings will result in a disqualification. Moreover, if a fighter is injured and unable to continue due to a deliberate illegal technique from his opponent, the opponent will be disqualified.

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About The Author:

Prof. Gene Roos, 10th dan Ju Jitsu, and 4th dan in judo, is a member of the Board of Directors for the America Ju Jitsu Association. He is a frequent contributor to In 1958 was awarded Shodan (Judo) and won the Regional Judo Champion. In 1958 & 1959 was Judo State Champion. His instructors include: Harold Brosious (Ketsugo), Dennis Palumbo (Hakko Ryu Ju Jitsu, 8th Dan), George Kirby, & Shizuya Sato (Ju Jitsu), Wally Jay (Small Circle Ju Jitsu), Dr. Sacharnoski (Hard Style Ju Jitsu & Ki) and Master Mochizuki (a student of Funakoshi, Kano, & Ueshiba). He is also the author of a series of upcoming books on Aiki jujitsu as well as a number of videos including: "Aiki Jujitsu" (a three video tapes series with manuals); "Deadly Attacks" (defense against 30 knife, gun, stick and empty hand attacks); "Deadly Attacks- part II" (defense against an additional 30 knife, gun and empty hand attacks); "Deadly Attacks III" and "Devastating Throws and Other Deadly Attacks " (defense against 30 advanced combat throws, knife attacks, stick, and a rear shotgun attack), For more information see:

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

Ultimate Fighting,Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC, mixed martial arts, street self defense, reality fighting, jujutsu, jujitsu

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