MMA is an acronym for a sport that is generally classified as mixed martial arts. The history of this eclectic blend can theoretically be traced back to the invention of a form known as Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee. He was one of the first mainstream practitioners to develop a fighting style that incorporated various arts under one discrete approach. However, it was not until the first half of the 1990s that MMA gained a wider following.
Most fans will state that they initially became aware of MMA when the first Ultimate Fighting Championship aired on television in 1993. However, this early competition was hardly what one would define as true mixed martial arts. It exhibited a number of different fighters and fighting styles, but many felt that the tournament was rather crude and underdeveloped. Furthermore, there were several serious injuries incurred as a result (one of which was a tooth flying out of the mouth of a competitor when he was brutally kicked in the head). Critics dubbed the entire sport “brutal” and “savage”. Still, MMA had entered into the mainstream spotlight.
The Gracie Influence
It was during this first event that a small man by the name of Royce Gracie stepped into the arena. While he did not appear very threatening, he was a master practitioner of Jiu Jitsu (a style of ground fighting that intends to subdue or choke out an opponent). To the surprise of many fans, Mr. Gracie emerged as the winner. This was a clear signal that ground fighting and grappling had a clear place in the world of MMA.
As the years passed by, more competitions were held at various venues throughout the United States and other parts of the world. The “octagon” became symbolic of the well-rounded fighting styles that came to dominate most tournaments. Stand-up brawlers were quickly replaced by skilled practitioners who exhibited a speed and stamina that would have been unheard of in the 1990s.
In the past decade, modern MMA has given rise to a massive industry. Not only has the prize money involved in the competitions grown, but the exposure of the winners has transformed them into real-life celebrities. The industry was quick to capitalise on this success and the merchandising alone now equates to millions of dollars each year.
Still, competitors care little about prize money or fame. Most will state that the one-on-one battles are what drives their motivation. MMA has now become one of the most popular sports in the entire world and its fan base is growing by the day.