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What is MMA? Brief look at the History and Developement of Mixed Martial Arts

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

Brief History of MMA

What is MMA or Mixed Martial Arts?

MMA is simple the training of multiple martial arts to become an all around trained martial artist.  So being trained in two or more arts technically makes the person a mixed martial artist.  A popular choice now days due to UFC is to train in Muay Thai, Wrestling, and Jiu Jitsu.   However some train in Judo, Karate, Boxing, etc.  It really varies based on needs of the athlete and popularity of the art in the country to train in.   An example would be the popularity of Muay Thai Kickboxing in Thailand which is a national sport, compared with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) in Brazil.

Brief History of MMA

Contrary to what many believe, mixed martial arts was around before UFC.  The early beginnings of mixed martial arts can be traced back to ancient Greece Olympic events in a sport called Pankration.  During these events the contestants would battle hand to hand with only two rules implemented, which was no biting and no eye gouges.   Mixed martial arts would continue to expand over history amongst fighters and the world but most notably in Europe, Japan, and Brazil. 

There were many key points that have contributed to the growth and development of MMA.  To name a few was:

In 1887 heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan took on Greco-Roman wrestling champion William Muldoon.  Sullivan was slammed to the mat by Muldoon in two minutes into the match.

In 1899 in London England was one of the first known mixes of Asian and European fighting mma style type fights.  The matches had European fighters challenging East Asian fighters to test their style of fighting against each other and against various Greco wrestlers.

Early 1900’s with Vale Tudo in Brazil and of course the impact the Gracie Family had in the development with their jujitsu.  The branch of wrestling called Shoot Wrestling would one day collided with jujitsu and lead to 1970 fight that lead the sport to gaining international exposure.  

1985 The first mixed martial arts organization was formed in Japan called Shooto

Then in 1993 the first UFC mixed martial arts match was hosted.

In 2004 Diana White of Ultimate Fighting Championship called Bruce Lee the grandfather of mixed martial arts.  This was huge deal to many martial artists, as Bruce Lee often mentioned the need to train in many different styles and take away what is good and leave behind what does not work for you.  He has also been and still is an inspiration to many martial artists training.

In 2007 UFC would purchase the Multi-million dollar Pride Fighting Championship which was in Japan and at the time UFC leading competitor and one of the most popular MMA promoters.  


MMA has built a steady following, especially in United States, Japan, and Brazil.  UFC has steadily spread MMA and is growing more internationally and has expanded to hosting fights to Europe, South Africa, and Canada.  As UFC grows in popularity so does the popularity of MMA and martial arts training.  Only time will tell how big MMA will get as sport and with every year the athletes who train in MMA get better as well.



Jan 23, 2014 5:12am
Good article, and good to see some many MMA fans here !
May 5, 2014 9:29am
Thanks for the feedback Yngwie
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