Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), hybrid combat sport incorporating techniques from boxing, wrestling, judo, jujitsu, karate, Muay Thai (Thai boxing), and other disciplines. Although it was initially decried by critics as a brutal blood sport without rules, MMA gradually shed its no-holds-barred image and emerged as one of the world’s fastest-growing spectator sports in the early 21st century. MMA events are sanctioned in many countries and in all 50 U.S. states.
History of MMA
Mixed martial arts was believed to date back to the ancient Olympic Games in 648 BCE, when pankration—the martial training of Greek armies—was considered the combat sport of ancient Greece. The brutal contest combined wrestling, boxing, and street fighting. Kicking and hitting a downed opponent were allowed; only biting and eye gouging were forbidden. A match ended when one of the fighters acknowledged defeat or was rendered unconscious. In some cases, competitors died during matches. Pankration became one of the most popular events of the ancient Olympics.
In 393 CE Roman emperor Theodosius I banned the Olympic Games, spelling the end of pankration as a popular sport. However, this style of fighting later resurfaced in the 20th century in Brazil via a combat sport known as vale tudo (“anything goes”). It was popularized by brothers Carlos and Hélio Gracie, who began a jujitsu school in Rio de Janeiro in 1925. The siblings garnered attention by issuing the “Gracie Challenge” in area newspapers, proclaiming in advertisements: “If you want a broken arm, or rib, contact Carlos Gracie.” The brothers would take on all challengers, and their matches, which resembled those of pankration, became so popular that they had to be moved to large soccer (association football) stadiums to accommodate the crowds.