Why Does UFC Use an Octagon?


Combat sports differ from one another in their own unique ways, but perhaps one of the things that makes the UFC so recognizable is its usage of an octagon. So, while other sports like wrestling and boxing use a mat or a ring to contain its competitors, what is it about mixed martial arts that calls for an octagon?

Why Does UFC Use an Octagon?

Safety is the main reason for the octagon. The UFC started off using something similar to a boxing ring, but changed to an octagon to protect fighters from falling out or getting thrown out of a ring. The wide angles of the octagon avoid giving a single martial arts technique an advantage.

The details surrounding the octagon make it an interesting and unique fighting structure. Whether you are discussing the size, material, or floors, you will quickly see that there is no fighting structure quite like a UFC octagon. In this article, you will get a better idea of the origin of the octagon and what it is like to fight inside of one. 

What is the UFC Octagon Made From?

The standard UFC octagon is 30 ft wide with a 6 ft high fence. The fence walls are made of metal chain-link like material and are coated in with a black vinyl color. The cage is above a platform which raises the height up the structure 4 feet off of the ground. The top of the cage and its corners are foam padded. 

  • Chain-link fence
  • Foam padding 
  • 4-foot platform
  • Mat
  • 2 exit gates opposite of each other 

The octagon has undergone changes over the years, but the standard UFC octagon will typically look something like the description in the paragraph above. The chain-link fence is tightly locked so that it can support the weight of fighters when they are laying on the fence. Every part of the octagon is designed with fighter safety in mind.

The material used for these octagons is standard throughout most MMA organizations and training gyms. The only thing that will typically change from event to event is the promotional advertising logos painted on the mat or octagon corners. 

How Hard is the UFC Floor?

A UFC octagon uses plywood and canvas with about an eighth of an inch thick foam material to provide some soft padding. Most fighters have stated that the floor is not hard, but that a hard slam on the mat can hurt. The floor padding is minimal and does not deform under the weight of fighters.

Although the majority of the octagon is designed with fighter safety in mind, most fights do not see a lot of fighters being heavily spiked or slammed onto the ground. A wrestling ring, for example, sees more slams and bumps than a UFC octagon and therefore makes floor padding more of a priority for wrestling companies. 

Despite the small amount of padding provided under a UFC mat, there has never been a heavy outcry for additional padding by UFC fighters. So whether you have been in a UFC ring or not, you can be assured that the UFC floor is not a hard surface to fight or fall on. 

Does UFC Use Different Size Octagons? 

The UFC does use different size octagons for its fights. The typical octagon used at major events is the 30 foot octagon, but smaller events use an octagon with a 25 foot diameter. Aside from the size, the other features of the octagon remain constant. 

Smaller octagons mean less room for fighters to operate which should result in more finishes. The statistics show that fights that take place in smaller octagons have a 60 percent finish rate as opposed to the 48 percent finish rate in fights that take place in bigger octagons. 

Octagon TypeDiameterAverage Fight Length 
Standard (PPV, Fight Night)30 feet (9.1 M)650 seconds
Small Event 25 feet (7.62 M)590 seconds

If you dive deeper into the statistics, you will notice that the percentage of fights that went the maximum amount of rounds, so either 3 or 5 depending on the bout, were higher in 30 foot octagons than they were in 25 foot octagons. So although the UFC is aware that smaller cages mean more finishes, larger octagons are still the standard. 

Who Invented the UFC Octagon? 

Video and film director Jason Cusson designed the first trademarked octagon for the UFC. Many dispute who the original creator is, but evidence supports Cusson’s case. The Octagon was born in 1993 and was originally designed for the UFC’s signature show The Ultimate Fighter.  

Cusson stayed on board with the UFC through UFC 27 as the company’s production designer. The UFC’s origins started with the idea of whether someone in martial arts could beat someone in boxing or kickboxing in combat and the octagon was designed to give fighters a unique and neutral stage to fight. 

The octagon has changed in size and diameter over the years, but the material it is made out of has predominantly remained the same despite the changes. As fighter safety continues to remain a priority, developers and designers continue to find ways to upgrade the octagon. So, although there is one inventor, it takes a team to improve it. 

How Tall is the UFC Cage?

A UFC cage is typically 6-feet tall. The height is designed to help keep fighters from falling out of the ring or being thrown out by an opponent. Although the overall diameter of an octagon can vary from event to event, the height of the UFC cage typically remains the same. 

Keep in mind that the UFC octagon stands above a 4-foot platform so technically, the entire structure stands at 10-feet tall for anyone sitting or standing outside of the cage. 6-feet is a solid and neutral height that keeps fighters in but also does not make them feel like they are trapped in a steel structure. 

In the early stages of the UFC, some fighters would throw their opponents over the octagon fence despite its height. After fighter safety complaints, the rules were changed and fighters were no longer allowed to toss an opponent over the fence. Without this rule, the UFC would have had to raise the height of the octagon fence. 

Why an Octagon Instead of a Boxing Ring?

Aside from the fact that mixed martial arts and boxing are completely different kinds of combat sports, the UFC octagon is designed to keep fighters inside the fighting premises at all times. Fighters falling out of the boxing ring is highly unlikely, but it is still possible. 

Another reason for the octagon is to differentiate it from other combat sports. Wrestling is done on a circular mat or in a ring, boxing and kickboxing are also done in a unique ring, and many forms of martial arts are done on a mat. The octagon gives MMA its presence and gives it the opportunity to establish itself as a unique combat sport.

Conclusion

The UFC uses an octagon for several reasons. The octagon promotes different fighting styles you see during fights while also ensuring that a single fighting style does not have an advantage.

Aside from the obvious safety and fairness reasons, it also gives the UFC as a combat sport its own unique playing field. When you think of an octagon, you think of MMA and the UFC. The octagon has become a great place for fighters of all disciplines to honestly display their skills and expertise. 

Sources:

UFC

MMA Channel

MMA Weekly

WayofMartialArts.com

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