Some of the comments on this thread give me the feeling that I have just been stabbed in the eye - does that count??
Seriously, though, I think Bill is closer to my definition of it, if only in terms of the immediate threat to life aspect.
I will leave MMA out of it - I just don't think there is enough background here amongst most of the posters to properly address MMA in its combat-adapted format.
And, ahem, Dana White is NOT an MMA fighter....
Speaking from the LE/tactical perspective, simple threat of violence/presence of violence I do not define as a combative encounter. The potential is always there, but has to be realized in my mind for the definition to change.
I have been within feet of multiple people armed with knives in the midst of critical encounters. ALL were ended at gunpoint without anything more than proning out and a wristlock/pin prior to cuffing. Many, many more involving people armed with firearms, and even shots fired prior to arrival, or even shots fired after our arrival but which were resolved without anyone getting seriously hurt.
Was that combat? I think a Marine with experience in Fallujah would beg to differ.
Those were people who willingly submitted to authority and threat of danger to themselves. They weren't interested in fighting. The vast majority of police arrests involve zero or very little physical force - that isn't even a fight, let alone "combat."
We have a saying - I'd rather have a shooting than be in a gunfight. If I ended up shooting a man armed with an Airsoft pistol, though a legitimate legal shooting if I felt it was real and I was threatened - is that combat?
I have heard from people who've been there, that in extremely high stress combat (desperate, hand-to-hand combat) there is often yet another state of mind. This is the "last stand" mentality I referred to earlier. Your animal instincts are directing your actions and even though you have characteristically given up your hope of survival and a future, you will do anything just to keep fighting. Time slows down. Non-essential functions are shut down and a strange sense of calm is described by people who've experienced this.
There is another state of mind, but I wouldn't call it "last stand." If I have learned anything from a taste of that mindset, it would be that animal instincts will often get you killed - they are what allows people to be overwhelmed even in stress scenarios with simulated threats, let alone real ones. Besides, animal instinct is to run FROM threats (like gunfire), not run toward them. As a professional you are tasked to run into that gunfire and your training has hopefully prepared you to do so.
Appropriate training is what you must rely on to override animal instincts, while still being informed by them, because there is literally no time to think - all your thought processes must be on the tactical situation, improving it, and keeping from getting overwhelmed by it.
Do anything to keep fighting - absolutely! This is the default mindset and MUST be so ingrained that it is almost instinctive.
NEVER, EVER, EVER give up the hope for survival. Absolute wrong mindset to have. People with minor injuries have given themselves up to die, and done so, or done nothing to mitigate or improve their situation and only survived by luck. But luck more often favors the Prepared.
And would some of us like to be there again? It depends how you define it - like to? No. Willingly do so because it is a professional obligation? Because it validated your training and experience, and "if not me, then who?" Absolutely 100%
It depends on how you process what happens to you - how well prepared you were for it to begin with. Being absolutely willing to do it again is beyond the comprehension of many people that have never been there and never will - even fellow professionals who carry guns and go into harm's way.
Some people get it, and know exactly why.