MMA – From the ring to the cage, why are boxers switching to MMA?

On the evening of January 22nd and 23rd, UFC 270 and the battle between Cyril Garn and Francis Naganu for the world heavyweight belt made many French spectators gather in front of the screen, their eyes red from fatigue and unwilling to miss it. Such a shock. The largest in French MMA history. One night puts France on the map of this discipline that is increasingly popular in Europe.

But there is also an opportunity to put the spotlight on the course of the two Colossi. Francis Ngannou, who left Cameroon, came to France to start a career in British boxing and is now at the top of the world in mixed martial arts. Cyril Gane is gifted in martial arts, having gone through Muay Thai (punch, foot, elbow and knee allowed) before embarking on a new challenge in the octagon. The path has now been cleared and marked, and many fighters from other disciplines have ended their MMA careers, sometimes at the age of 50.

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Francis Ngannou works on the ground after dominating behind Cyril Gane.

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Sensible but unobvious conversion

It was a challenge to forget what I had acquired and start from scratch.I could keep kicking and fighting, but it’s going to be a routine…in MMA, I’m having a hard timeKarim Ghajji, 42, is already a bottle. A multiple-time world champion in kickboxing, he fights with his greatest sport. Yet, he’s still hungry. So when you have a kind of What to do when making a successful impression?

Getting started with MMA is one solution. The word “enlightenment” was chosen here because while we know all the corners of the ring, the cage follows different laws and feels separate. Even the untrained eye might just see it as a new way to swap a few blows in a new location. “The first big difficulty was cardio, Ghajji admits, just out of training.Work standing on feet and fists, lift legs, be brought to the floor, work again, then back up“.

Level changes are energy-intensive, and the first few weeks of practice can be strenuous for even the best preparation. “The center of gravity changed, we lost momentum, we didn’t know where we were, we had to start over, it was incredible‘ Ghajji continued, all smiles remembering his efforts.

At first it pissed me off a bit

The loss that Assia Miri experienced. The 19-year-old has participated in nearly 130 Muay Thai bouts. After pushing her entire category in Europe and winning two world titles, she is looking for new sensations. With MMA, it’s served. “Surprised at first.Compared to boxing, it’s weird that we look under the belt and grab. ‘ she described.

Because for these fighters who have no more secrets of feet and fists, put on gloves and increase their fighting art, knocking his opponent to the ground, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu through chokes or keys (twisting opponent’s limbs to force him give up) is not obvious. These special disciplines require new combat intelligence. The ground requires very precise tactics and techniques, each gesture opens up defensive and offensive possibilities, from which you must build up step by step until you succumb.

Also, expect different distances for a blow to the face, a knee to the liver, or a knockout. New way to move, place yourself. a new universe. “I got lost at first.My hands, my body, not too far, not too close, not too high, not too low…it still pisses me off a bit‘ Assia Miri recalls with a smile.

The former Muay Thai champion is now more comfortable on the grip and on the ground, and currently prefers to do stand-up fights in bouts. “At the moment, I don’t take risks in fights. I progress first and then I’ll see later in my fights to get into wrestling and ground“, she explained.

“MMA, a logical continuation”

A new world full of headaches and even a little frustrating. The champions must revisit their first steps. On the famous first day, they walked through the door of the boxing gym. “Frankly, it’s annoying to start from scratchKarim Gage said with a smile. You arrive in battle on the ground, you are an amateur, a baby. In some countries, in Japan, in Morocco… I was welcomed like Macron.In MMA, I’m nothing“And yet all this, Ghajji”accept“Don’t be afraid, because the joy of rediscovering and progressing trumps everything else.

It’s not Jerome Lebanon who wouldn’t say the opposite. At 49, the huge name in French combat sports continues to ignite his love of martial arts through MMA. About to fulfill his dream by competing in his fourth mixed martial arts bout in his hometown of Le Havre on June 6, he continued to show impressive form from the top of 1.90 m with around 115 kg. All of this, 30 years after he first distributed his fist.

Nice to feel progress in subjects I didn’t knowconfided “the king without crown”. I like to train with everyone and if a 75kg guy brings me to my knees, I don’t care.I learn”. Even more so to continue cherishing the excitement before donning the gloves and entering the arena, touching MMA also touches on a new discipline for fighting enthusiasts.

Just like a professional sprinter will find that training for pole vault backfires, even if he will give a lot to feel the adrenaline of climbing the sky, a hard-fought boxer won’t spend much effort becoming a master of the art of ground fighting. The magic of MMA is that you can have both. Better yet, we must do both. “Jiu-jitsu and wrestling, I likeLebanon shouted in a hoarse voice. The next day you have poison gas everywhere and it will drain your energy.Then I want to fight again because I get mad when I don’t (laugh)”.

Cyril Gunn vs. Lewis

Credit: Getty Images

Karim Ghajji even sees a continuity there. “I think going into MMA is the logical next step, he reflects.With the arrival of legalization in France (January 2020, Editor’s Note), Recognition has come“With the new popularity and examples of a successful transition from boxing to MMA across the Atlantic, the planets align so that the Frenchman can start building a career at home rather than exporting himself worldwide.

When you have a big career in kickboxing, if you have a somewhat “fighter” image, then MMA is accessible.Ghajji explained. Every foot/fist fighter, at a certain stage, can touch the end of MMA“. Everyone’s goal is to be the most complete fighter.

MMA, the sport of the future?

Assia Miri is not hiding. As a new source of motivation and excitement, starting MMA is also a way to start solving problems financially. Muay Thai scholarships in France are very limited and more for women. Large battles of up to a few hundred euros. “Muay Thai doesn’t pay at all.Compared to MMA, it’s day and night“The young fighter claimed he only played one game.

For champions like Jérôme Le Banner or Karim Ghajji, financial issues are less of a concern, but MMA offers some good prospects. If the salary received by the second entry anise is not yet”nothing to see“With his greatest fighting talent in taekwondo, the prize system of the French MMA league ARES he participated in is enough to make you drool.

Each night, four prizes of €10,000 are distributed for the prettiest fights, prettiest KOs, prettiest submissions and most aggressive fighters. It’s all about incentivizing making a show, like winning a competition. A shaky pay system, but enough to motivate seasoned fighters who have had success in the past.

Ghajji also appears to be just waiting for this minimal financial guarantee to kick in. He recalled: “MMA, I still watch it with my bare hands. I haven’t even fought yet. I’ve always wanted to do the same thing, I’m training in the garden with my brothers.After I made a big suggestion…but I’ve been following the UFC, that’s a small problem. “

MMA responds to the same logic as all other sports, with a more hypothetical “spectacle” dimension than others. The bigger the audience, the more the fighters are paid, and the younger they are, the younger they are, and the higher the level, the more they try their luck. From there to kick the MMA front office? In any case, Karim Ghajji assured him that this discipline”is the conclusion of everything that can be done in combat sports“.


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