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The Origins of MMA

Origins of MMA
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The Origins of MMA

What happens when two ‘unequal’ forces collide? What happens when a boxer fights a wrestler? What happens when a Muay Thai specialist meets a Brazilian Jui Jitsu specialist? Well, questions like these always puzzled coaches, fighters, and fans alike. Hence, to find the answers to the origins of MMA, a thought of pitting fighters of different styles against each other emerged.

The hybrid form of fighting finds its origins as early as 648 BC when the Pankration Training (a combination of boxing and wrestling with very few rules) of the Greek Army was considered as an Olympic Sport.

The spell of this popular form of combat, pankration, ended with the Roman emperors banning the Olympic Games in 393 CE. However, the end of pankration saw the emergence of boxing, wrestling, and several other forms of combat sports as stand-out single-discipline sports with no amalgamation of any two forms of combat styles. Hence, the hybrid form of fighting lost its shine.

Different parts of the world saw the acceptability and rise of various forms of combat sports. While boxing became a featured sport of the European region, wrestling found its roots in India and Russia, Kickboxing in Thailand-Malaysia (as Muay Thai), and Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Jui Jitsu, Taekwondo, spread across various geographies.  

The Resurgence 

Centuries later, the sport resurfaced at the beginning of the 20th century. But this did not give birth to the hybrid style at once. The rising popularity and evolution of professional wrestling as a sport and a spectacle led to developing interest in the ‘Anything Goes Matches’, which had disciples of various disciplines pitting against each other to settle the debate of ‘which discipline is the best.

Fast forward to the middle/late twentieth century, the spectacle of professional wrestling and the practicality of Judo gave birth to a new style of combat known as Jui Jitsu. Passionate about Jui Jitsu, Carlos Gracie along with his brother Helio Gracie started practicing and training people in Jui Jitsu in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The style soon gained massive popularity because of the issuance and marketing of the ‘Gracie Challenge’ in which they invited fighters of varied backgrounds to fight and defeat Jui Jitsu trained fighters for a cash prize.   

Finally, Royce Gracie (son of Helio Gracie) brought Jui Jitsu (also known as Brazilian/Gracie Jui Jitsu) to the United States, hence, bringing back the hybrid style combat to the spotlight again!

The Birth

Origins of MMA
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The massive popularity of this hybrid style of fighting gave birth to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993.

“The goal was to find “the Ultimate Fighting Champion” by staging a single-night tournament featuring the best athletes skilled in the various disciplines of all martial arts, including karate, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, grappling, wrestling, sumo, and other combat sports. The winner of the tournament would be crowned the champion.”

What’s notable is that neither the Fertitta’s nor Dana White were the founding fathers. UFC was founded by Art Davie (an advertising executive), Rorion Gracie (master of Jui Jitsu), John Milius (Director-Producer), Campbell McLaren (TV Producer), Robert “Bob” Meyrowitz, and David Isaacs (Media/Tech Entrepreneur).

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A Marketing & Brand Manager by profession, I find my inspiration through the world of sports.

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