Mixed martial arts (MMA) burst on the American sports landscape in 1993 when a lanky Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner from Brazil named Royce Gracie ran through the competition to with The Ultimate Fighting Championship (now referred to as UFC 1). The Gracie family created the event to showcase their family’s own martial arts style, Gracie Jiu Jitsu. The Gracie’s learned a form of Japanese Jiu Jitsu from a Japanese champion named Esai Maeda (also known as Conde Koma) and they modified the techniques to create their own style rooted in the principles of efficiency, patience and control.
Over the years the UFC’s growth was up and down, even getting to a point where it almost went out of business. Then along came a couple of billionaire brothers and their friend Dana White, who had a vision to take this UFC thing in a new direction. The brothers bought the UFC, revamped its image and marketing strategy and the real growth story began.
Mixed martial arts has gained much more mainstream acceptance and popularity in recent years, but there have been people combining techniques from different styles for many years. Some would argue Bruce Lee was the first high profile proponent of mixing different martial arts. He often referred to his own art of Jeet Kune Do as “the style of no style”, and his philosophy was that you should take what works best for you from any style and adapt it to your own strengths. Lee went very much against the grain in the martial arts world, which had always been typified by each style’s practitioners professing their style was the best and most effective of all styles. Masters of a given style even frowned upon students practicing other styles.
So, why has MMA become so popular and accepted in the mainstream? One of the biggest reasons it has become more popular is pure and simple entertainment. While there is a virtually limitless number of arts and styles used in MMA, many people agree that the four main styles most MMA fighters consistently train are Western wrestling (like you see in the Olympics), Muay Thai (Thai Kickboxing), Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Western Boxing. The combination of these styles incorporate strikes, takedowns, and submission techniques. Strikes can include punching, kicking and elbow and knee strikes. With such a huge variety of techniques, an MMA fight makes for great entertainment.
For those who have taken their interest in MMA a step beyond being a spectator, they have become students of MMA and started training in the techniques. These fans, turned athletes, have realized that MMA is much more than just a way to entertain people. It is a phenomenal way to stay in shape and it teaches philosophies that can reap benefits in every area of one’s life. Once these fans got a taste of MMA training they became the sport’s most vocal advocates.
With all these things going for it, MMA is poised to shift into even higher gear in the growth of its popularity. With the UFC recently signing an agreement with FOX to bring the UFC to the network, even more people will have access to the highest quality MMA events on the planet on a regular basis. So, if you are one of the few people who has not already become an MMA fan, my bet is it’s only a matter of time.