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A (Very) Brief History of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Believe it or not, MMA isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around for hundreds of years in various forms and every country in the world has always had its own kind of martial arts. Without them, how could nations defend themselves from foreign invaders? We must remember that there hasn’t always been all of the modern warfare equipment and weaponry we see on battlefields today. The main difference with MMA today is the huge amounts of money involved; the massive media interest it garners; and the celebrity-esque status that modern fighters have achieved. Promotions like the UFC, Bellator, and the One Fighting Championship have glorified the sport and made a lot of fighters very wealthy individuals. But before all this hype and glamour there was a purer kind of MMA. One that has its roots as far back as 648 B.C. at the Olympic Games. Greek Pankration, as it’s known, is one of the first documented, full contact sports with few rules that existed in ancient history. Pankration events were notorious for their brutality and the Etruscan and Roman versions that followed were even harsher. pankration_at_Kylix-Fightlab2 Since then, measuring the power and effectiveness of one martial art or style against another has become a regular occurrence. For example, in 1887, the then heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan fought in a contest against Greco-Roman wrestling champion William Muldoon. The result? Muldoon reportedly slammed Sullivan to the canvas after a few minutes of them fighting. A little known fact is that fighting championships also popped up in England in the late 1800s in the form of Bartitsu events, which were designed to pit Asian fighting styles against European ones. Fast forward to 1914 and it was the teachings of a Kodokan Judo master named Mitsuyo Maeda that would shape the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu we know and love today. As a show of thanks for his help, Maeda taught Carlos Gracie the art of Judo. These teachings would then be refined by Carlos’s younger brother Helio to use less strength and more leverage – in an attempt to better suit his smaller frame. This is where Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with its use of choke holds and joint locks, spawned from and also where the technique of competing when on your back – in the guard – came from. Practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu became formidable opponents in the mixed martial arts arena and even today nearly every fighter boasts a high level of proficiency in BJJ. Boxing icon and former heavyweight champion of the world Muhammed Ali even fought in an MMA match against Antonio Inoki in Japan in 1976. However, the fight was seen as a bit of a farce and ultimately staged, but nevertheless still netted both fighters millions of dollars in the process. However, despite the controversial nature of the fight, it served to attract a huge amount of interest in the potential of pitting differing fighting styles against one another. The seed was sown and the first UFC event happened in 1993 – something that would see MMA become much more mainstream, but also draw some opponents to its creation…