Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Rise of Mixed Martial Arts

Hey everyone, this is an article I wrote a while back for a website, obviously alot of things have changed since then(like some people thinking Fedor isn't number 1 anymore), but its an educational article for someone who may be new to MMA.

In the early days of mixed martial arts the concept was simple. Fighters used their specific fighting discipline against an opponent with a different fighting discipline. To prove their style was better they simply got in the ring and used the only style they had trained in for years. This mix of styles often resulted in boring matches. In November of 1993 the first event was held by entrepreneur Art Davie and son of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu creator Helio Gracie's son Rorion Gracie. They named their event Ultimate Fighting Championship now known as the UFC.

The only rules in these fights were no eye-gouging and no biting, but other than that anything else was allowed including groin shots and head butts. The event became popular as people were drawn to the violence and technique. Then came politics as many politicians denounced the sport for its brutal nature. Senator John McCain was so adamant about banning the UFC he was successful in making it illegal in all but 3 states. McCain, who is known for having connections in boxing, also had it removed from 90% of pay-per-view providers. While the UFC was struggling mightily, a promotion in Japan called Pride Fighting Championship was flourishing.

Pride fights were fought in a traditional ring and had slightly different rules than UFC. The UFC was bought by the Zuffa organization in 2001 a company with money and connections. Zuffa is owned by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta with Dana White being the president. Zuffa was able to get the sport sanctioned in most states that McCain got it banned from. They also inserted boxing like rules with a point system, weight classes, outlawing techniques such as kicking a downed opponent along with rules that were already in place such as glove wearing, no groin shots and no head butts. With these rules in place viewers were able to see the amazing techniques used by the fighters realizing it wasn't just an all-out street brawl with no abilities. Fighters now combined many different fighting styles in fights including jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, muay thai, judo, sambo, greco-roman wrestling, submissions and other forms. Fighters in Pride and UFC became celebrities.

UFC owners Zuffa bought Pride recently and is now able to have Super-Fights that many people thought would never happen. Some examples would be Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlai Silva(Now on for December 29th at UFC 79), Fedor Emelianenko vs. Randy Couture and Couture vs. Silva. One of the things that makes MMA so popular now is the fact that there is a consensus greatest fighter in the world in Fedor Emelianenko. Boxing was at its finest when there was one man on top and Fedor is considered unbeatable by most, so if he does lose it would be a major shock. The allure of one guy dominating a sport like Tiger Woods or Roger Federer always makes the sport more popular because everybody is after him but no one can beat him. This sport will continue to grow as the reality TV show "The Ultimate Fighter" on Spike TV lets people in on the world of MMA. MMA is NOT a fad that will go away, its here to stay.

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