Mixed martial arts History
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, including boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, kickboxing, karate, judo and other styles.
The roots of modern mixed martial arts can be traced back to the ancient Olympic combat sport of Pankration. Various mixed style contests also took place throughout Europe, Japan and the Pacific Rim during the early 1900s. The combat sport of Vale Tudo that had developed in Brazil from the 1920s was brought to the United States by the Gracie family in 1993 with the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which is currently the largest MMA promotion company worldwide. Prior to the UFC, professional MMA events had also been held in Japan by Shooto since 1989.
In due course, the more dangerous Vale Tudo style bouts of the early UFC's were made safer with the implementation of additional rules, leading to the popular regulated form of MMA seen today. Originally promoted as a competition with the intention of finding the most effective martial arts for real unarmed combat situations, competitors were pitted against one another with minimal rules. Later, fighters employed multiple martial arts into their style while promoters adopted additional rules aimed at increasing safety for competitors and to promote mainstream acceptance of the sport.
The name mixed martial arts was coined by Rick Blume, president and CEO of Battlecade, in 1995.Following these changes, the sport has seen increased popularity with a pay per view business that rivals boxing and professional wrestling.
During the Greco-Roman era there existed an ancient Olympic combat sport, known as Pankration which featured a combination of grappling and striking skills, similar to modern Mixed Martial Arts. This sport originated in Ancient Greece and was later passed on to the Romans.
No-holds-barred fighting reportedly took place in the late 1880s when wrestlers representing a huge range of fighting styles, including various catch wrestling styles, Greco-Roman wrestling and many others met in tournaments and music-hall challenge matches throughout Europe. In the USA the first major encounter between a boxer and a wrestler in modern times took place in 1887 when John L. Sullivan, then heavyweight world boxing champion, entered the ring with his trainer, Greco-Roman wrestling champion William Muldoon, and was slammed to the mat in two minutes. The next publicized encounter occurred in the late 1890s when future heavyweight boxing champion Bob Fitzsimmons took on European Greco-Roman wrestling champion Ernest Roeber.
Another early example of mixed martial arts was Bartitsu, which Edward William Barton-Wright founded in London in 1899. Combining judo, jujutsu, boxing, savate and canne de combat (French stick fighting), Bartitsu was the first martial art known to have combined Asian and European fighting styles,and which saw MMA-style contests throughout England, pitting European and Japanese champions against representatives of various European wrestling styles.
The history of modern MMA competition can be traced to mixed style contests throughout Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim during the early 1900s;In Japan these contests were known as merikan, from the Japanese slang for "American [fighting]". Merikan contests were fought under a variety of rules including points decision, best of three throws or knockdowns, and victory via knockout or submission.
As the popularity of professional wrestling waned after World War I it split into two genres: "shoot", in which the fighters actually competed, and "show", which evolved into modern professional wrestling.
In 1936, heavyweight boxing contender Kingfish Levinsky and veteran professional wrestler Ray Steele competed in a mixed match, which Steele won in 35 seconds.
In the late 1960s to early 1970s the concept of combining the elements of multiple martial arts was popularized in the west by Bruce Lee via his system philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. Lee believed that "the best fighter is not a Boxer, Karate or Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt to any style, to be formless, to adopt an individual's own style and not following the system of styles." In 2004 UFC President Dana White would call Lee the "father of mixed martial arts" stating: "If you look at the way Bruce Lee trained, the way he fought, and many of the things he wrote, he said the perfect style was no style. You take a little something from everything. You take the good things from every different discipline, use what works, and you throw the rest away".
Timeline of major events:
- Ancient Greece – Pankration
- Late 19th century – Hybrid martial arts
- Late 1880s – Early NHB and Mixed Style contests
- Early 1900s – Merikan contests
- 1920s – Early Vale Tudo and Gracie Challenge
- 1960s and 1970s – Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do
- 1970s – Antonio Inoki and Ishu Kakutōgi Sen
- 1985 – Shooto forms
- 1989 – First professional Shooto event
- 1991 – First Desafio (BJJ vs. Luta Livre) event
- 1993 – Pancrase forms
- 1993 – UFC forms Mid/Late 1990s – International Vale Tudo (WVC, VTJ, IVC, UVF etc.)
- 1997–2007 – PRIDE FC and UFC era
- 2000 – New Jersey SACB develops Unified rules
- 2001 – Zuffa buys UFC
- 2005 – The Ultimate Fighter Debuts
- 2005 – US Army begins sanctioning MMA
- 2006–Present – UFC dominance and international growth
- 2006 – Zuffa buys WFA and WEC
- 2006 – UFC 66 generates over a million PPV buys
- 2007 – Zuffa buys PRIDE FC
- 2008 – EliteXC: Primetime gains 6.5 million peak viewers on CBS
- 2009 – Strikeforce holds 1st major card with female main event
- 2011 – WEC merged with UFC
- 2011 – Zuffa buys Strikeforce
- 2011 – UFC on Fox gains 8.8 million peak viewers on Fox
The movement that led to the creation of the American and Japanese mixed martial arts scenes was rooted in two interconnected subcultures and two grappling styles, namely Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and shoot wrestling. First were the vale tudo events in Brazil, followed by the Japanese shoot-style wrestling shows.
Vale tudo began in the 1920s and became renowned with the "Gracie challenge" issued by Carlos Gracie and Hélio Gracie and upheld later on by descendants of the Gracie family. Early mixed martial arts-themed professional wrestling matches in Japan (known as Ishu Kakutōgi Sen (異種格闘技戦), literally "heterogeneous combat sports bouts") became popular with Antonio Inoki in the 1970s. Inoki was a disciple of Rikidōzan, but also of Karl Gotch who trained numerous Japanese wrestlers in catch wrestling.
Mixed martial arts competitions were introduced in the United States with the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993.The sport gained international exposure and widespread publicity in United States in 1993, when jiu-jitsu fighter Royce Gracie won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, subduing three challengers in a total of just five minutes, sparking a revolution in martial arts.
Japan had its own form of mixed martial arts discipline Shooto that evolved from shoot wrestling in 1985, as well as the shoot wrestling derivative Pancrase founded as a promotion in 1993. The first Vale Tudo Japan tournaments were held in 1994 and 1995, both were won by Rickson Gracie. Interest in the sport resulted in the creation of the Pride Fighting Championships (Pride) in 1997, where again Rickson participated and won.
In April 2000, the California State Athletic Commission voted unanimously in favor of regulations that later became the foundation for the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. However when the legislation was sent to California's capitol for review, it was determined that the sport fell outside the jurisdiction of the CSAC, rendering the vote superfluous.
In September 2000, the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board began to allow mixed martial arts promoters to conduct events in New Jersey. The intent was to allow the NJSACB to observe actual events and gather information to establish a comprehensive set of rules to effectively regulate the sport.
On April 3, 2001, the NJSACB held a meeting to discuss the regulation of mixed martial arts events. This meeting attempted to unify the myriad of rules and regulations which have been utilized by the different mixed martial arts organizations. At this meeting, the proposed uniform rules were agreed upon by the NJSACB, several other regulatory bodies, numerous promoters of mixed martial arts events and other interested parties in attendance. At the conclusion of the meeting, all parties in attendance were able to agree upon a uniform set of rules to govern the sport of mixed martial arts.
The rules adopted by the NJSACB have become the de facto standard set of rules for professional mixed martial arts across North America. On July 30, 2009, a motion was made at the annual meeting of the Association of Boxing Commissions to adopt these rules as the "Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts". The motion passed unanimously.
In November 2005, recognition of mixed martial arts effectiveness came as the United States Army began to sanction mixed martial arts with the first annual Army Combatives Championships held by the US Army Combatives School.
The sport reached a new peak of popularity in North America in the December 2006 rematch between then UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and former champion Tito Ortiz, rivaling the PPV sales of some of the biggest boxing events of all time,and helping the UFC's 2006 PPV gross surpass that of any promotion in PPV history. In 2007, Zuffa LLC, the owners of the UFC MMA promotion, bought Japanese rival MMA brand Pride FC, merging the contracted fighters under one promotion and drawing comparisons to the consolidation that occurred in other sports, such as the AFL-NFL Merger in American football.
Since the UFC's explosion into the mainstream media in 2006 along with their 2007 merger with Pride FC and purchase of WEC, few companies have presented significant competition.However numerous organizations have held shows of significance while competing against the UFC.
The most notable competition has included:
- Strikeforce (2006–Present)
- International Fight League (2006–2008)
- EliteXC (2006–2008)
- Bellator Fighting Championships (2008–Present)
- DREAM (2008–Present)
On April 30, 2011, UFC 129 set a new North American MMA attendance record, drawing 55,724 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto; the event also set a new MMA world record for the highest paid gate at $12,075,000 and is the highest gate in Toronto for any event.
Mixed Martial Arts competitions have changed dramatically since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993, specifically with the inception of the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. The overall injury rate in MMA competitions is currently similar to other combat sports, including boxing.
A study by Johns Hopkins University concluded, "the overall injury rate [excluding injury to the brain] in MMA competitions is now similar to other combat sports [involving striking], including boxing. Knockout rates are lower in MMA competitions than in boxing. This suggests a reduced risk of traumatic brain injury in MMA competitions when compared to other events involving striking."
While competition in the MMA have been occasionally depicted as brutal by the media,there were no documented cases of deaths after a sanctioned MMA event prior to 2007.
In the period of 2007 to 2010, there were two fatalities in mixed martial arts matches. The first was the death of Sam Vasquez on November 30, 2007. Vasquez collapsed shortly after being knocked out by Vince Libardi in the third round of an October 20, 2007 fight at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.Vasquez had two separate surgeries to remove blood clots from his brain, and shortly after the second operation suffered a devastating stroke and never regained consciousness.While questions have been asked about Vasquez's health before his final bout, no firm indications of pre-existing problems have yet surfaced. The second death stemming from a sanctioned mixed martial arts contest occurred in South Carolina on June 28, 2010, when 30-year old Michael Kirkham was knocked out and never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead two days after the fight.