I'm sorry, but I take exception when I hear or read someone saying that the UFC was the birth of MMA and especially when I hear how Dana White or the Fertitta Brothers created MMA. (Not that I am saying that anyone in this thread has said that. I do understand that people in this thread, especially the original poster was mearly stating they were influencial people in MMA which I am not disputing).
OK, a brief history of MMA ...
One of the earliest forms of widespread unarmed combat sports with minimal rules was Greek pankration, which was introduced into the Olympic games in 648 B.C.
No-holds-barred events reportedly took place in the late 1800s when wrestlers representing a huge range of fighting styles met in tournaments and music-hall challenge matches throughout Europe.
The first major encounter between a boxer and a wrestler in modern times took place in 1887 when John L. Sullivan, then heavyweight boxing champion of the world, entered the ring with his trainer, the Greco-Roman wrestling champion, William Muldoon, and was slammed to the mat in two minutes. The next publicized encounter occurred in the late 1890s when future heavyweight boxing champion Bob Fitzsimmons took on European Greco-Roman wrestling champion Ernest Roeber. Reportedly, Roeber suffered a fractured cheekbone in this bout, but was able to get Fitzsimmons down on the mat, where he applied an arm lock and made the boxer submit. In 1936, heavyweight boxing contender Kingfish Levinsky and the veteran professional wrestler Ray Steele competed in a mixed match, which Steele won in 35 seconds. In all three of these 'mixed-matches', the wrestler won. (So much for the Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki match in 1976 being the first)
Another early example of MMA combat was the martial art of Bartitsu, founded in London in 1899, which was the first martial art known to have combined Asian and European fighting styles and which saw MMA-style contests throughout England, pitting European and Japanese champions against representatives of various European wrestling styles. (So much for the theory that Bruce Lee developed the first MMA fighting style with Jeet Kune Do.)
Boxing vs. jujitsu contests were popular entertainments throughout Europe, Japan and the Pacific Rim during the early years of the 1900s. In Japan these contests were known as Merikan. Merikan contests were fought under a variety of rules including points decision, best of three throws or knock-downs, and knock-out/submission.
Modern mixed martial arts are rooted in two interconnected movements. First were the vale tudo events in Brazil, followed by the Japanese shoot wrestling shows. Vale tudo (meaning 'anything goes') began in the 1920s with the famous "Gracie challenge" issued by Carlos Gracie and Hélio Gracie and upheld later on by descendants of the Gracie family. In Japan in the 1970s, a series of mixed martial arts matches were hosted by Antonio Inoki, inspiring the shoot-style movement in Japanese professional wrestling, which eventually led to the formation of the first mixed martial arts organizations, such as Shooto, which was formed in 1985. (1985, hmmm that beats the UFC by 8 years and it beats the Fertitta owned UFC by 16 years).
PRIDE Fighting Championships was initially conceived in 1997 by Kakutougi Revolution Spirits to match popular Japanese pro-wrestler Nobuhiko Takada with Rickson Gracie, the purported champion of the Gracie family of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. The event, held at the Tokyo Dome on October 11, 1997 attracted 47,000 fans, as well as Japanese mass media attention. The success of the first event enabled its promoters to hold a regular series of mixed martial arts events, and a year later in 1998, promote a rematch between Takada and Gracie. With K-1 enjoying popularity in Japan, PRIDE began to compete with monthly showings on Fuji Television, as well as pay per view on the newly formed satellite television channel SKY PerfecTV. (Couldn't talk about MMA without mentioning Pride which enjoyed immediate popularity and never was saddled with the "Bloodsport" stigma that UFC and other US based companys faced in North America)
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