Featuring affiliations with several international MMA organizations, and offering gamers the chance to fight with more than 60 real-world combatants, EA Sports MMA marks the publishing giant's debut in the arena of mixed martial arts games. EA Sports MMA was designed to offer an authentic fight experience, offering players the chance to step into the cage with such industry luminaries as Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko, Shinya Aoki, and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, and featuring unique walkouts for each fighter, introductions from ring announcer Jimmy Lennon, Jr., refereeing from "Big" John McCarthy, and running commentary from Frank Shamrock and Mauro Ranallo. The combat was also designed to reflect the many disciplines within MMA, so gamers can choose to pursue submission holds, stand up and battle from the clinch, use ground and pound tactics, or combine any of the styles into a hybrid technique. The developers at EA Tiburon also wanted to discourage button mashing, so they designed the Total Strike Control system of strikes, advances, and counters that requires players to manage their stamina through strategic use of the analog sticks and timed button presses.
The "Career" mode finds gamers traveling to different gyms in the United States, Japan, Brazil, and Thailand to learn new skills and techniques from top trainers Pat Miletich, Rickson Gracie, and Bas Rutten. Players then put their skills to use in a variety of drills, with the goal of rising through the ranks and making it to the Strikeforce stage. Online action lets gamers level up and earn title belts in each weight class, and by creating hype videos for their fighter, players have the chance to earn real-world prizes and have their fights broadcast online, complete with live commentary. And for those with dreams of becoming world-class fighters, EA Sports MMA includes a "Photo Game Face" mode which lets users upload pictures of themselves to create and share personalized combatants.