History of Mixed Martial Arts Fighting and the Evolution of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and No Holds Barred Fighting
by Stan Leung
Fighting-mma.com staff writer
Mixed Martial Arts or MMA, is a new term for combat sports which has been performed for thousands of years; even before the first Olympics. Fighting as a sport or prize money has been a part of culture and society since the dawn of man. The first forms of no-holds barred competition on record were the ancient Greek pankration matches. Martial arts grew as a result of man’s desire to become better at combat sports, resulting in a new and different style of fighting growing as societies and cultures evolved from one another. All traditional martial arts forms and disciplines have had their own mixing of other influences over time, as different methodologies, ideals and instructors added other styles to make new ones. For example, Tae Kwon Do is heavily influenced by Japanese karate, judo is a modified technique influenced by jiu-jitsu while the first “official martial arts” Chinese kung fu is influenced by Indian self-defense techniques that were brought from India to China. All in all, martial arts are, in a sense, mixed martial arts.
In modern combat , the deviations from the past and individual styles were separated. These forms of martial arts themselves were in fact a whole separate entity on their own. Activities, training, ideals, fundamentals were as far (yet similar) from each other and competed in their own competitions and titles.
Despite the individualization of martial arts there has always been an inclination to know which form and style of fighting or combat sport is the best. For example, in the 1800’s, wrestlers had a combat style called “catch” wrestling, which involved submissions and choke holds from judo and jujitsu. In 1887, John L. Sullivan the heavyweight boxing champion fought William Muldoon, a Greco-Roman Wrestling Champion. Muldoon thumped the champ by picking him up and slamming him into the mat in less than two minutes. In Brazil, vale tudo events have been held since the 1920’s, when fighters took up the Gracie family on their no-holds barred challenge. Gracie Jujitsu was a hybrid of Brazilian Jujitsu which was a hybrid of Japanese Jujitsu.
In the 70’s, professional wrestlers in Japan began to compete in shoot-style wrestling matches that became the organized discipline. This discipline, formed in 1985 was called Shooto. This is an organization and particular fighting system derived from shoot wrestling. Shooto combined theatrical professional wrestling with real combat fighting. Legal techniques include general grappling, chokeholds, joint locks, kicks, knee strikes, punches, takedowns and throws but hits to the face were disallowed. Shooto was aimed at having no predetermined results but had tag team matches and some forms of rules we see in modern professional wrestling like the WWE. For example, if a leg lock is applied and the Shooto fighter grabs the ropes the other fighter has to let go of the leg lock submission.
At no time in history has there been such a rapid and broad mix of martial arts as there has been in the last 15 years. The quest to become the best in not only their own martial arts but which particular martial arts was the best form of fighting overall. The Gracie family has had the biggest impact on the modern explosion of mixed martial arts with the creation of the Ultimate Fighting Championships and the display of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 1993. The UFC challenges all types of forms of martial arts and fighters top see which discipline as the best. Royce Gracie and the Gracie family wanted to prove to the world that their martial arts would prevail against all other forms of martial arts like, Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Kung Fu, wrestling or judo.
After the first couple of UFC’s, Gracie Jujtsu was the dominate form of martial arts, however, people were not sold on solely training for BJJ. Martial artists started to train for cage matches in multiple forms of martial arts. Four years later the Pride Fighting Championships were created in Japan, and modern mixed martial arts was born as the Japanese showed that BJJ combined with other forms of martial arts could beat traditional Brazilian Jujitsu in a full contact fight.
Fighters would take boxing lessons, muay thai kick boxing classes, jujitsu classes and Greco roman wrestling classes. In the early days, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and catch wrestlers dominated as disciplines, but today’s mixed martial artists must be well-rounded in numerous disciplines. Today, more and more MMA schools are popping up all over the world as they teach multiple forms of styles to create a well rounded fighter.
MMA has become the top earning pay per view promotion today, and is growing in popularity each day. History has shown us that man has always strived to prove who the best is at combat sports. Today martial arts has come full circle and from early day strength contest to deviation of different combat forms to a merging of modern day mixed modern arts.