History of Mixed Marial Arts

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full contact combat sport originating from Greek Pankration, a fighting competition dating back to 648 B.C. which combined Hellenic boxing and wrestling. Pankration was a very violent sport with its only rules being no biting or eye gouging. Fights could go on for hours as they didn’t end until a fighter either became unconscious or surrendered by raising his hand. Pankratiasts became heroes in ancient Greece, and due to their unarmed combat skills, Alexander the Great recruited them for his army. Martial arts were then brought to Asia when the ruler attacked India with his combat soldiers in tow.

Traditional martial arts flourished in Asia, while boxing and wrestling captured interest in the West. Not until 1925 did MMA reemerge from the shadows. The revival took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when a Japanese judo champion by the name of Mitsuto Maeda taught Carlos Gracie the art of his sport after Gracie’s father had aided Maeda with his business ventures in Brazil. Helio, Carlos’ younger brother, learned judo from Carlos, and then adapted it to suit his own strengths. The end result was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a style of martial arts that contributed greatly to the formation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and in turn the modern MMA era.

The UFC had instant success in the U.S., selling 86,000 pay-per-views for its first event which occurred on November 12, 1993. That number grew to 300,000 by the third event. Just like Pankration, the first six UFC competitions were governed by barely any rules. Weight class, time and round restrictions, along with required safety equipment were unheard of at the time. The UFC’s marketing campaign further emphasized the lack of rules by labeling the UFC as a blood sport. While this tactic might have drawn in viewers, it didn’t fare so well with the nation’s political leaders as Arizona Senator John McCain led a successful campaign in 1997 to put an end to the UFC. Consequently, an MMA blackout ensued when pay-per-view providers stopped airing UFC events. The blackout lasted several years and the UFC almost didn’t survive. Then Zuffa LLC, a media and casino management company from Las Vegas, bought the struggling franchise and helped turn it around by “cleaning it up” with the establishment of real rules. As a result, UFC was back on the air in 2001, and making more money than ever before.

Today, MMA is a fast growing sport, and is still aired regularly on TV with high viewer ratings. UFC is the leading MMA organization, but many more exist such as Affliction and Strikeforce. There are even female MMA competitions. Some MMA legends include Royce Gracie (who has the most submission victories in UFC history), Kazushi Sakuraba, Ken Shamrock, Mark Coleman, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, and Anderson Silva.