Mixed Martial Arts History - MMA History - Fighting - MMA - MMA Past - History - Mixed Martial Arts Past - History of Mixed Martial Arts
MMA History: Mixed Martial Arts Past
MMA Pre-modern History
Pankration was an ancient form of unarmed hand to hand combat resembling modern MMA.While different forms of unorganized, no-rules, unarmed combat predate history, civilization, and even the human species itself (even apes fight hand-to-hand), the earliest documented, organized, minimal-rules fighting event was the ancient Greek pankration, which was introduced into the Olympic Games in 648 B.C. Greek pankration later inspired the more violent Etruscan and Roman pancratium, an event showcased at the Roman Colosseum. Even as late as the Early Middle Ages, statues were put up in Rome and other cities to honour remarkable pankratiasts of Rome.
No-holds-barred events reportedly took place in the late 1800s 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. Reportedly, Roeber suffered a fractured cheekbone in this bout, but was able to get Fitzsimmons down on the mat, where he applied an armlock and made the boxer submit. In Europe, around the 19th century, the Italian Giovanni Raicevich, skilled in Greco-Roman wrestling defeated Akitaro Ono, a Japanese heavyweight fighter skilled in Jujutsu, Judo, and Sumo, throwing him on the mat by one-arm shoulder throw. In 1936, heavyweight boxing contender Kingfish Levinsky and veteran professional wrestler Ray Steele competed in a mixed match, which Steele won in 35 seconds. Another early example of mixed martial arts combat was the martial art of Bartitsu, founded in London in 1899, which 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.
Mixed style contests such as boxing vs. jujutsu were popular entertainment 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.
After 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 the late 1960s to early 1970s the concept of combining the elements of multiple martial arts had was popularized in America by Bruce Lee via his system and 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." In 2004 UFC President Dana White would call Lee the "father of mixed martial arts".
Modern History of MMA
The history of modern MMA competition can be traced to mixed style contests throughout Europe, Japan and the Pacific Rim during the early 1900s; the Gracie family's vale tudo martial arts tournaments in Brazil starting in the 1920s; and early mixed martial arts-themed professional wrestling matches (known as Ishu Kakutougi Sen in Japan) hosted by Antonio Inoki in Japan in the 1970s.
The sport gained international exposure and widespread publicity in the United States in 1993, when Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter Royce Gracie handily won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, subduing three challengers in a total of just five minutes, sparking a revolution in the martial arts. Meanwhile in Japan the continued interest in the sport resulted in the creation of the Pride Fighting Championships in 1997.
The movement that led to the creation of the UFC, and Pride was rooted in two interconnected subcultures. First were the vale tudo events in Brazil, followed by the Japanese shoot wrestling shows. Vale tudo began in the 1920s with the "Gracie challenge" issued by Carlos Gracie and Hélio Gracie and upheld later on by descendants of the Gracie family. In Japan in the 1970s, a series of mixed martial arts matches were hosted by Antonio Inoki, a former star of New Japan Pro Wrestling; this inspired the shoot-style movement in Japanese professional wrestling, which eventually led to the formation of the first mixed martial arts organizations, such as Shooto, which was formed in 1985.
Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz broke PPV records with their rematch at UFC 66.In November 2005 recognition of its effectiveness as a test 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.
Evolution of MMA Fighting
As a result of an increased number of competitors, organized training camps, information sharing, and modern kinesiology, the understanding of the combat-effectiveness of various strategies has been greatly improved. UFC commentator Joe Rogan has claimed that martial arts have evolved more in the ten years following 1993 than in the preceding 700 years.
"During his reign atop the sport in the late 1990s he was the prototype... he could strike with the best strikers; he could grapple with the best grapplers; his endurance was second to none."
~ describing UFC champion Frank Shamrock's early dominance
The early years of the sport saw a wide variety of traditional styles - everything from sumo to kickboxing - but the continual evolution of the sport saw many styles prove ineffective, while others proved successful on their own.
In the early 1990s, three styles stood out for their effectiveness in competition: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, amateur wrestling and submission wrestling. This may be attributable in part to the grappling emphasis of the aforementioned styles, which were, perhaps due to the scarcity of mixed martial arts competitions prior to the early 90s, unknown to most practitioners of striking-based arts. Fighters who combined amateur wrestling with striking techniques found success in the standing portion of a fight, whilst Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylists had a distinct advantage on the ground: those unfamiliar with submission grappling proved to be unprepared to deal with its submission techniques. Shoot wrestling practitioners offered a balance of amateur wrestling ability and catch wrestling-based submissions, resulting in a well-rounded skillset. The shoot wrestlers were especially successful in Japan. As competitions became more and more common, those with a base in striking became more competitive as they acquainted themselves with takedowns and submission holds, leading to notable upsets against the then dominant grapplers. Subsequently, those from the varying grappling styles added striking techniques to their arsenal. This overall development of increased cross-training resulted in the fighters becoming increasingly multi-dimensional and well-rounded in their skills. The changes were demonstrated when the original UFC champion Royce Gracie who had defeated many opponents using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fought the then UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes at UFC 60 and was defeated by a TKO from 'ground-and-pound'.