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Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport based on striking, grappling and ground fighting, incorporating techniques from various combat sports from around the world. The first documented use of the term mixed martial arts was in a review of UFC 1 by television critic Howard Rosenberg in 1993.
Originally promoted as a competition to find the most effective martial arts for real unarmed combat, competitors from different fighting styles were pitted against one another in contests with relatively few rules. Later, individual fighters incorporated multiple martial arts into their style. MMA promoters were pressured to adopt additional rules to increase competitors' safety, to comply with sport regulations and to broaden mainstream acceptance of the sport. Following these changes, the sport has seen increased popularity with a pay-per-view business that rivals boxing and professional wrestling.
Another early example of mixed martial arts was Bartitsu, which Edward William Barton-Wright founded in London in 1899. Combining catch wrestling, judo, boxing, savate, jujutsu and canne de combat (French stick fighting), Bartitsu was the first martial art known to have combined Asian and European fighting styles, and which saw MMA-style contests throughout England, pitting European catch wrestlers and Japanese judoka champions against representatives of various European wrestling styles.
Sambo, a martial art and combat sport developed in Russia in the early 1920s, merged various forms of combat styles such as wrestling, judo and striking into one unique martial art. The popularity of professional wrestling, which was contested under various catch wrestling rules at the time, waned after World War I, when the sport split into two genres: "shoot", in which the fighters actually competed, and "show", which evolved into modern professional wrestling. In 1936, heavyweight boxing contender Kingfish Levinsky and professional wrestler Ray Steele competed in a mixed match, which catch wrestler Steele won in 35 seconds. 27 years later, Ray Steele's protégé Lou Thesz fought boxer Jersey Joe Walcott twice in mixed style bouts. The first match was a real contest which Thesz won while the second match was a work, which Thesz also won.
In the 1940s in the Palama Settlement in Hawaii, five martial arts masters, under the leadership of Adriano Emperado, curious to determine which martial art was best, began testing each other in their respective arts of Kenpo, Jujitsu, Chinese and American boxing and Tang soo do. From this they developed Kajukenbo, the first American Mixed Martial Arts.
During the late 1960s to early 1970s, the concept of hybrid martial arts was popularized in the West by Bruce Lee via his system 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, to be formless, to adopt an individual's own style and not following the system of styles." In 2004, UFC President Dana White would call Lee the "father of mixed martial arts" stating: "If you look at the way Bruce Lee trained, the way he fought, and many of the things he wrote, he said the perfect style was no style. You take a little something from everything. You take the good things from every different discipline, use what works, and you throw the rest away".
Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki took place in Japan in 1976. The classic match-up between professional boxer and professional wrestler turned sour as each fighter refused to engage in the other's style, and after a 15-round stalemate it was declared a draw. Muhammad Ali sustained a substantial amount of damage to his legs, as Antonio Inoki slide-kicked him continuously for the duration of the bout, causing him to be hospitalized for the next three days. The fight played an important role in the history of mixed martial arts.
The basis of modern mixed martial arts in Japan can be found across several shoot-style professional wrestling promotions like UWF International and Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, both founded in 1991, that attempted to create a combat-based style which blended wrestling, kickboxing and submission grappling. Another promotion formed around the same time by Akira Maeda called Fighting Network RINGS initially started as a shoot-style professional wrestling promotion but it also promoted early mixed martial arts contests. From 1995 onwards it began identifying itself as a mixed martial arts promotion and moved away from the original shoot style. Professional wrestlers Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki founded Pancrase in 1993 which promoted legitimate contests initially under professional wrestling rules. These promotions inspired Pride Fighting Championships which started in 1997. Pride was acquired by its rival Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2007.
The movement that led to the creation of present-day mixed martial arts scenes emerged from a confluence of several earlier martial arts scenes: the Vale Tudo events in Brazil, rooftop fights in Hong Kong's street fighting culture, and professional wrestlers, especially in Japan.
In the mid-20th century, mixed martial arts contests emerged in Hong Kong's street fighting culture in the form of rooftop fights. During the early 20th century, there was an influx of migrants from Mainland China, including Chinese martial arts teachers who opened up martial arts schools in Hong Kong. In the mid-20th century, soaring crime in Hong Kong, combined with limited Hong Kong Police manpower, led to many young Hongkongers learning martial arts for self-defence. Around the 1960s, there were about 400 martial arts schools in Hong Kong, teaching their own distinctive styles of martial arts. In Hong Kong's street fighting culture, there emerged a rooftop fight scene in the 1950s and 1960s, where gangs from rival martial arts schools challenged each other to bare-knuckle fights on Hong Kong's rooftops, in order to avoid crackdowns by colonial British Hong Kong authorities. The most famous fighter to emerge from Hong Kong's rooftop fight scene was Bruce Lee, who combined different techniques from different martial arts schools into his own hybrid martial arts system called Jeet Kune Do. Lee went on to popularize the concept of mixed martial arts internationally.
Regulated mixed martial arts competitions were first introduced in the United States by CV Productions, Inc. Its first competition, called Tough Guy Contest was held on March 20, 1980, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, Holiday Inn. During that year the company renamed the brand to Super Fighters and sanctioned ten regulated tournaments in Pennsylvania. In 1983, Pennsylvania State Senate passed a bill known as the "Tough Guy Law" that specifically called for: "Prohibiting Tough Guy contests or Battle of the Brawlers contests", and ended the sport.
Japan had its own form of mixed martial arts discipline, Shooto, which evolved from shoot wrestling in 1985, as well as the shoot wrestling derivative Pancrase, which was founded as a promotion in 1993. Pancrase 1 was held in Japan in September 1993, two months before UFC 1 was held in the United States in November 1993.
In 1993, the sport was reintroduced to the United States by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). UFC promoters initially pitched the event as a real-life fighting video game tournament similar to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. The sport gained international exposure and widespread publicity when jiu-jitsu fighter Royce Gracie won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, submitting three challengers in a total of just five minutes. sparking a revolution in martial arts.
The first Vale Tudo Japan tournaments were held in 1994 and 1995 and were both won by Rickson Gracie. Around the same time, International Vale Tudo competition started to develop through (World Vale Tudo Championship (WVC), VTJ, IVC, UVF etc.). Interest in mixed martial arts as a sport resulted in the creation of the Pride Fighting Championships (Pride) in 1997.
The first documented use of the name mixed martial arts was in a review of UFC 1 by television critic Howard Rosenberg, in 1993. The term gained popularity when the website newfullcontact.com, then one of the biggest covering the sport, hosted and reprinted the article. The first use of the term by a promotion was in September 1995 by Rick Blume, president and CEO of Battlecade Extreme Fighting, just after UFC 7.UFC official Jeff Blatnick was responsible for the Ultimate Fighting Championship officially adopting the name mixed martial arts. It was previously marketed as "Ultimate Fighting" and "No Holds Barred (NHB)", until Blatnick and John McCarthy proposed the name "MMA" at the UFC 17 rules meeting in response to increased public criticism. The question as to who actually coined the name is still in debate.
In March 1997, the Iowa Athletic Commission officially sanctioned Battlecade Extreme Fighting under a modified form of its existing rules for Shootfighting. These rules created the three 5 minute round, one-minute break format, and mandated shootfighting gloves, as well as weight classes, for the first time. Illegal blows were listed as groin strikes, head butting, biting, eye gouging, hair pulling, striking an opponent with an elbow while the opponent is on the mat, kidney strikes, and striking the back of the head with closed fist. Holding onto the ring or cage for any reason was defined as a foul. While there are minor differences between these and the final Unified Rules, notably regarding elbow strikes, the Iowa rules allowed mixed martial arts promoters to conduct essentially modern events legally, anywhere in the state. On March 28, 1997, Extreme Fighting 4 was held under these rules, making it the first show conducted under a version of the modern rules. 041b061a72