For many fight fans, the allure of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has surpassed a traditional boxing match in terms of action and excitement even though Mixed Martial Arts is nothing new. In a sense, all martial arts styles have guided us to the creation of what we now refer to as MMA. Along with this and for quite some time, possibly before history was ever documented, fighters of all levels and styles have been practicing and testing their skills. But with change in time, so did the sport in many aspects. Through the many years of evolution, Mixed Martial Arts is currently the most popular and the fastest growing sport in the world.
Having started around 648 B. C. in Greece, the most primitive contact sports or martial arts with few rules or a “no-holds-barred” concept was called pankration, placing itself amongst the other sports in the Olympic games. (Rousseau) It was an aggressive sport, a combination of boxing and wrestling techniques. In the 1800s, “no-holds-barred” events occurred when wrestlers who represented various martial styles competed throughout Europe. “Merikan” fighting in the early 1900s, which featured boxing versus Jiu Jitsu masters.
Bruce Lee was significant having influencing MMA as he conquered in boxing, karate, judo, and other styles and combined them to develop a form of fighting greater than any other. His contributions have not gone unnoticed, as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White has gone so far to call Lee, “the father of mixed martial arts. ” (“Mixed Martial Arts Timeline”, 2007) With a new legion of fighters who train in various styles, the sport of MMA has greatly come together, to include the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993, which quickly became an overnight success.
Mixed Martial Arts has “achieved a high level of popularity around the globe in recent years” thanks to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, especially being supported in Japan and the United States. With stars such as Chuck Liddell, Rampage Jackson, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Rashad Evans, and Wanderlei Silva leading the way, the sport was venerable to a break through and achieved mainstream popularity. Regular coverage on ESPN and promotion in the pages of such popular publications has shown mixed martial arts continuing its spectacular rise having “surpassed boxing in popularity and poised for bigger and better things”. Megamass). Besides being a real show of entertainment, MMA is a sport of high-performance. As was the case with most martial arts at the time, fighters were typically skilled in just one discipline and had little practice when facing opponents with different skills.
When the Ultimate Fighting Championship first started, there were few rules, no division of weight classes, time-sensitivity, or security equipment. For example, Keith “The Giant Killer” Hackney, with a 9” height difference and 400-pound weight difference, faced Emmanuel Yarborough at UFC 3. “UFC History”) Many martial artists held that having the skill could overcome such advantages, that a “skilled fighter could use an opponent’s size and strength against him. ” (“UFC History”). It was quickly proved with the many defeats by 170-pound Royce Gracie that the outcome is not always determined by the size of a person. The UFC hit success on Pay-Per-View and home video almost instantaneously due to the originality, realism, and wide press coverage, even though not all of it was positive.
The blood and brutality of the sport generated a loud and powerful backlash. The disposition of the rapidly increasing sport hastily brought attention to the authorities. UFC events were then banned in a number of States. In order to subsist, the UFC improved its cooperation and collaborated with the state athletic commissions and deliberated its rules to eliminate the less acceptable elements of fights, while preserving the core elements of striking and grappling. Weight classes were established, and gloves became mandatory.
Then there was the introduction of restrictions on permissible striking areas, barring head butts, groin strikes, strikes to the back of the neck and head, kicks to an opponent who was down, small joint manipulation, pressure point strikes, and hair pulling. When the time limit of five-minute rounds was introduced, the UFC had become acknowledged as a sport rather than an act or spectacle. By 2001, the UFC “brand” had completely restructured Mixed Martial Arts into a highly systematic and controlled combat sport. With Mixed Martial Arts booming with popularity, training centers and dojos are filling up with new students everyday.
Many of the professional fighters have opened gyms where they train the next generation of fighters to become the next champion. Amateur fight nights are organized all the time in order for the more novice fighters to work their way on getting recognized for a chance to go professional. Shows like Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV is an example of up and coming professional fighters training and fighting to win a chance at a professional contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. If not for the next championship title, many people fight for the fun nature of the sport.
Combat sports, even now with the rules and regulations, is still and always will be a popular blood sport. The fans are intrigued to see strength and skills prevail in fights. Adrenaline runs through the roaring crowds as they cheer on their best contenders. From the days of the Coliseum to “the Octagon” at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the quick rise in gym openings and more live-aired Pay-Per-View events, Mixed Martial Arts has become a prominent commonplace in both the martial arts world and the entertainment industry.