History Of MMA

The History of MMA

A while back it would’ve been perfectly okay to not have a clue what Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was all about. But thanks to the UFC, it’s become one of the most popular sports across the world. Some of the major players like Ronda Rousey have millions of fans across the world. MMA is a combat sport in the same league as boxing, taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, and other forms of martial arts. It’s a brutal sport and had a shaky start due to that. Critics had major concerns about the sport but its gaining acceptance today ranking among the best. 

Currently, in the UFC, Jon Jones holds the record for the most number of wins. He has won 14 championships followed closely by George St. Pierre with 13 wins. Demetrious Jones has had 12 wins in his MMA career. The three are regarded as some of the best MMA fighters of all time. The UFC is the most famous when it comes to MMA matches but others such as Pride are also world-famous. 

In the UFC, Donald Cerone and Jim Miller currently hold the record of the most bouts fought on the UFC with 34. They are closely followed by Jeremy Stephens with 32 bouts. As of 23rd April, Donald Cerone held the title of most wins in the UFC with 23 wins followed by Damian Maia with 22 wins. The title for most consecutive wins still belongs to Anderson Silva with 16 wins. The second position is held by John Jones, Demetrious Johnson, George St. Pierre, and Max Holloway with 13. 

The fighter with the most recorder takedowns is George St, Pierre with 90 followed by Gleison Tibau with 84. The most title reigns go to Randy Couture with 6. George St. Pierre comes in 2nd with 4, and third place is a tie among Jon Jones, Conor McGregor, and Jose Aldo with 3 each. 

History of MMA

The ancient Olympic Games in 684 BC are credited with the start of MMA among the ancient Greeks. They engaged in what was known as pankaration that the Greek armies incorporated as part of their training routine. It was a contest full of sheer brutality that only the strongest survived. It consisted of street fights, wrestling, and boxing without any rules unlike what you see today. This training routine called for hitting and kicking a downed opponent showing no mercy as part of the training regimen. Only biting and gorging out an opponent’s eyes were forbidden, everything else was fair play. 

When fighters faced it other, they fought until one was down and unresponsive, only then did it come to an end. Many fighters lost their lives in these matches even though this was one of the most enjoyed parts of the Ancient Greek Games. Later on, in 393 BC, the Olympic Games were outlawed by the Roman Emperor Theodosius 1which ended pankaration. 

The mid-19th century saw new sport gain traction and was called savate. It was part of combat sports and most popular in France. The goal of many French savate fighters was to test their skills against the common martial arts at that time. This led to one documented match between fighters from France and Britain. British fighters were skilled in bare-knuckle boxing and French in savate. This match was organized in 1852 where Dickinson from Britain fought Rambaud from France. The first match went to the French savate fighter but the following 4 match-ups were won by Dickinson. The contests between French savate fighters and other martial artists were prominent in the 19th and 20th centuries. These were precursors of modern-day MMA. 

20th and 21st Century MMA

It’s only later that the pankaration style of fighting emerged in Brazil. This was at the start of the 20th century. It was in the form of a fighting style called vale tudo and was made famous by Helio and Carlos Grazie. The two were brothers who in 1925 founded a jiu-jitsu school in the capital city of Brazil. 

They became a household name in no time once they started popularizing the school in the local newspapers with attractive adverts. Their main aim was to attract challengers and they set up their main matches to resemble pankaration. The matches grew in popularity that later their studio couldn’t hold the crowds. They moved them to the bigger stadiums in Rio. 

In the 1990s, the Grazie family made the decision to bring the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu fighting style to North America. This was the first time the continent came into contact with these forms of Martial arts. The first contender was Royce Gracie who was the son of Helio who engaged in the first tournament in 1993. The match took place in Denver Colorado and became the UFC 1 match. The abbreviation UFC stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship and is the leading promoter of MMA in the world. 

The UFC started out as an event organizer where fighters of different martial arts faced one another. Back then wrestlers could face boxers with the only rules being no biting or gorging each other’s eyes out. The only way to end the match was for one fighter’s corner to throw in the towel or to accept defeat and submit. UFC 1 was won by Royce Gracie and the match was the initial cage match fought in the US at the Denver McNichol’s Arena. The event was the first pay per view event organized by the UFC and attracted a total of 86000 viewers. The events became popular with the 3rd one engaging more than 300000 viewers. 

The start of the UFC in the US was crude and it mainly marketed its events as ones where anything goes. The sport was a no-holds barred one but it came under heavy criticism at this early stage. The sport was so brutal that many sought its banning. The cage matches resembled cockfighting and many leaders decried of its brutal nature. This made the UFC take a different stand and change management in 2001. New management sought to change the rules and make MMA less brutal and crude. This was the start of such characteristics as weight classes, time limits, and rounds. A new list containing many more fouls was drawn up and brawlers stopped being the main UFC feature. 

The UFC sought to bring on fresh talent which consisted of fighters with various martial arts skills. They consisted of experts in wrestling, boxing, jiu-jitsu, taekwondo among others. This was the new face of the UFC that called for all participants to train extensively for their matches. Only the best made it to the UFC. Organizations that regulated boxing and wrestling in the US became the regulatory bodies for MMA and all the progress didn’t go unnoticed. The biggest critic of MMA at the time was US Senator John McCain who dropped his opposition in 2007. This was after the US took major strides to revamp its image. 

The start of the UFC was not profitable and it faced numerous tough financial times. MMA wasn’t as popular as it is today meaning not many viewers tuned in to their events. It was overshadowed by other sports such as American Football. That was not the case for long as it’s managed to rank among the most popular sport in the US today. Both the UFC and MMA benefitted from the three fights fought between 2003 and 2006. They were between Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture who were considered great sportsmen in America. The matches took place at UFC 43, UFC 52, and UFC 57 making the game popular among many. 

The Ultimate Fight is a TV reality show that has greatly contributed to the rise of MMA. It came on air back in 2005 and still airs to date. It consists of fighters who are seeking a chance to make it as professional MMA fighters. The show brings on celebrity coaches who are famous MMA fighters to train the new fighters. The new ones are split into teams and housed under one roof. They fight each other in a format that consists of knockouts until only one winner remains who gets to sign a contract with the UFC. Before 2013 the show only consisted of male fighters but this changed. Women fighters take part in the show too. 

History of Women in the MMA

Female athletes are part of the MMA although that was not always the case. Female participation in the MMA has been present for some time now with the earliest documentation coming from Japan. This was in the 1990s when female professional wrestlers and kickboxers dominated. The first major all-female event was created in 2001 and dubbed the Smackgirl competition. The event became the main promoter of female MMA fighters. 

Other organizations in Japan that managed to promote female fighters included Ladies Legend Pro-Wrestling, K-Grace, U-Top Tournament among others. Despite there being all-female organizations, male-dominated ones had female line-ups as well in Japan at this time. Female competitions started gaining traction in the US after the start of The Ultimate Fighter reality show. This was the show that launched MMA into mainstream media and has greatly contributed to the success of female fighters. 

More coverage of female fighters was felt from the turn of the century. Major organizations encouraged female fighters to take part in competitive MMA. They included Bellator Fighting Championships, Strikeforce, Shark Fights among others. When Zuffa bought Strikeforce in 2011, female fights began rising in popularity. One of the most renowned female fighters of all time came up from this and is known as Ronda Rousey. She became one of the biggest draws out of this promotion there ever was. 

MMA Rules and Regulations

There was no standard set of rules governing MMA on a global scale. Other organizations that organized MMA events relied on their rules and regulations. As organizations started organizing international events, a need for one standard set of rules was felt to better the game. The UFC pushed for these new rules which were known as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. Many organizations across the world including the UFC embraced them by 2009. 

The new rules dictated how the game was set up and fought. The participants were expected to fight either in a cage or a ring. All fighters wore and still ear fingerless gloves on the ring. However, no one was permitted to wear shoes or headgear during the match. Every fighter was allowed to kick, grapple, strike, and throw an opponent. You could launch an attack either from the ground or when standing against the opponent. Many other forms of attacks were not allowed including biting, eye gorging, head butting, pulling an opponent’s hair, and kicking then on the groin area. All these led to fouls that cost fighters points. 

Many other forms of fighting were restricted including striking each other on the throat, striking downward with the elbow, and hitting an opponent’s spine which could result in serious injuries. To date, these rules apply helping the game move away from the brutal image it had in the beginning. Any foul is seen by the referee who deducts a fighter’s points. Any fighter who intentionally acts in a prohibited manner on the ring or cage is automatically disqualified. 

MMA fights are categorized as Championship and non-championship matches. Non-championship matches last for five minutes per round. There are three rounds per match and each round is given 1 minute as break time. When it comes to championship matches, they last for 5 rounds with each round lasting 5 minutes. A 1-minute break must be given at the end of each round. This is according to the Unified rules agreed by all MMA organizations in the world. 

An MMA fighter is said to have won a match after knocking out their opponent. Another way is by forcing them into submission. A fighter submits by verbally submitting or tapping with his/her hand. As per the Unified Rules, a winner can be decided by the three-panel judges present at each match. The judges used the boxing 10-must point system to award fighters points. A winner has 10 points while the loser getting less than 9 points. In the US MMA is controlled and all judges and referees are vetted by the State Athletics Commission. This is also the same body that ensures all fighters are tested for drug use and get regular medical checkups. 

MMA Organization in the US and Other Parts of the World

The UFC is the main promoter of MMA in the US and is based in Las Vegas. It is the organization that gave Americans their first pay per view MMA event back in 1993 and has grown immensely ever since. The UFC is responsible for all the live MMA events that take place annually. It has an extensive per-view cable TV network that broadcasts to fans in over 100 countries around the world. 

The UFC underwent major changes in 2001 from new management and new rules that made MMA less brutal. It was purchased by Zuffa Inc. for $2 million under the new president Dana White. He remains the face of MMA in the US to date. The UFC was sold later in 2016 for $4 billion to WME-IMG. In a bid to become the face of MMA, the UFC went on a buying spree in 2006 scooping up many other MMA organizations. Some of those that were bought by the UFC include WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting) and WFA (World Fighting Alliance). The WFA was disbanded and its players assimilated into the UFC. The same didn’t happen to WEC that remained operational until 2010. 

In 2007, the UFC went on an international buying spree purchasing Pride Fighting Championship in Japan. The Pride purchase had numerous challenges and it was not possible for the UFC to acquire all top fighters from the organization. The UFC is the main organization associated with MMA in the US but it’s not the only one available. Other top MMA organizations are Bellator MMA based in the Newport Beach California and ONE championship from Singapore. Many Asian fighters are represented by ONE championship. For female fighters in the US, an organization solely dedicated to them was formed known as Invicta Fighting Championship. It was officially launched back in 2012. 

A global governing body for amateur MMA exists and was formed in 2012. It’s called the IMMAF (International Mixed Martial Arts Federation) and serves to grow MMA. The body is based in Sweden and maintains one of the best MMA rankings for amateur MMA fighters. Its membership is made up of more than 40 MMA federations from across the world. Its main aim is to have the MMA secure a position in the Olympics. 

MMA is legal in some parts of the world, tolerated in others, and illegal in some countries. In the US it’s governed by the Association of Boxing Commissions. 


MMA is making great strides and has become a globally respected sport despite being illegal in some countries. Much more needs to be done to make it more acceptable and have it included in the Olympic Games.