Behind the Tattoos: MMA Symbols

Written by on January 29, 2021

When it’s time to step into the Octagon, there’s no measure of mental or physical preparation that top fighters won’t take. In the world of MMA, pre-fight rituals range from crazy to superstitious and are often just as important to athletes as what they eat and drink before a match.

While the NBA has flashy sneakers and MLB players sport gold chains while they’re at-bat, MMA fighters dress their skin in unique tattoos. Some, like tattooed bible verses and shout-outs to Muay Thai, are designed to declare a fighter’s identity.

Others, like animal tattoos and tribal markings, give fighters the extra edge. Depending on culture, each fighter has a unique tattoo inked on their skin. In the industry, it’s rarer when fighters don’t have tattoos, which is the case for the likes of Joe Lauzon and Volkan Oezdemir.

However, tattoos aren’t a surefire way to build a fierce reputation. Japanese symbols never helped Georges St-Pierre win a bout, nor Dustin Poirier. Punters who regularly wager on sites like Unibet sports for MMA and UFC matches are more worried about picking between prop and victory bets, and assessing fighter injuries, than admiring an elaborate Japanese tattoo on a fighter’s back. Nevertheless, let’s check the most popular symbols inked into MMA champions.

Animal tats are some of the most common in the world of MMA. Fighters look to draw upon the fighting spirit of the animal they choose to ink on their skin. With heavy influence from the world of Muay Thai, the tiger seems to be one of the most popular tattoos, along with large birds, such as the Thunderbird.

Conor McGregor has a tiger tattooed on his stomach, and a fierce gorilla on his chest. Meanwhile, Alexander Volkov used to have one of the best animal tattoos in UFC with his tribal stingray piece. There’s no word yet on why the fighter chose to cover up the manta ray with a massive back piece.

Symbols from Other Alphabets

Across the industry, many fighters choose to ink small words on their body — typically not in their first language, either. While Arabic and Mandarin characters make appearances on top fighters from Robbie Lawler to Chuck Liddell to Dan Hardy.

However, none appear quite as often as Japanese symbols. As mentioned above, Dustin Poirier has a symbol on his chest—which may have paid off considering his recent win against McGregor. Aside from Poirier, other successful fighters have similar markings, such as St-Pierre and Jon Fitch.

However, the best of the MMA’s Japanese symbol tattoos were represented by Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, a native speaker of the language, and Patrick Côté, who has a single symbol inked on his upper back.

To step into the ring requires more than guts — and more than a passing interest in glory. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for top fighters to tattoo their own name on their bodies. Once again, McGregor makes an appearance in this section with his large stomach tattoo of his last name.

Others, like Josh Neer, Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino, and Quinton ‘Rampage Jackson’ have all tatted their nicknames from the industry on their bodies. Frank Mir has ‘Mir’ on his upper back, while Anthony Pettis has ‘Showtime’ tattooed across the same area on his body.

But even a well-placed text can have a devastating effect on the enemy, such as Israel Adesanya’s ‘Broken Native’ tattoo across his chest and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone’s ‘Play Time’ tattoo, with each word tatted on a shin.

In the case of Cerrone, he’s also got his name tattooed across his back.

Like the symbols mentioned above, tribal marking tattoos often have a cultural significance. In recent years, it’s become less common for competitors outside of a culture, such as Samoan or Maori, to tattoo tribal markings on themselves.

Today’s top examples come from Travis Browne, who has a Hawaiian background. Brad Tavares also has a large piece dedicated to his Polynesian heritage, which covers his bicep and chest. However, the coolest tribal marking tattoos in MMA come from the Samoan Pe’a tattoos.

Fighters like Tyson Pedro and Tai Tuivasa rep Pe’a tattoos, which are completed with bone, turtle shells and wooden tools. The markings cover the legs up to the hips, taking weeks to complete.

The post Behind the Tattoos: MMA Symbols first appeared on Combat Press.

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