A martial art is the art of martial combat of course. Dating back thousands of years, it has been developed in every culture as a way of defense, strategy, and self improvement.
I personally believe in and follow the way of a warrior rather than a fighter. What differentiates the two you may ask. It is the purpose behind the actions.
A warrior will fight for their safety when attacked, to protect others in danger, for survival, etc. A fighter fights for fame, money, power, and things of the like. I do believe sparring is a crucial way of testing your skills and provides ways to improve them. MMA fighters are testing their skill against one another, but to what end? A proof of power, or control; for money and fame?
The true purpose of martial arts is to make a way for peace. The true warrior makes a friend of a foe, convinces the attacker to change his ways, and uses physical contact only if absolutely needed. Martial arts is not only physical, but just as equally mental. Likewise, why humans fight wars is beyond me and makes no sense.
Is one art better than the other? Does winning a competition make one a better person? To both of these questions, I sincerely answer: NO
It may be that I'm a practitioner of and believer in the the philosophy of classical martial arts. Or maybe it's my religious beliefs; that craving fame and money do nothing more than cause one to suffer if they can't have it.
With all these competitions, I see martial arts being used in the wrong way. Holding these matches which are now so popular is, to me, nothing different then having 'cock-fights' or 'dog-fights.'
As a martial artist, I do not wish to be compared or likened to these who compete. I am a warrior.