MMA is the abbreviation used in place of “mixed-martial-arts” to describe a full contact sport that allows both striking attacks as well as grappling techniques as well as standing and ground attacks. It combines several forms of fighting techniques, hence the name “mixed-martial-arts.”
A look at Hand-To-Hand Combat
Hand-to-hand combat dates all the way back to the Ancient Greeks, to an Olympic sport known as Pankration. Featuring both striking and grappling one might argue that it is less like the classic pugilist fights of early America and more like the modern MMA we know today.
Over time, of course—and all over the world—hand to hand combat continued to develop. In Asian countries, obvious, combat forms took to systems of evasion, blocking, grappling, and striking that we think of as “martial arts” today, though many countries outside of Asia have also developed their own forms.
MMA: The Origins
During the early 20th century, several mixed-technique style fighting contests took place throughout Japan, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. These remained mostly unregulated (and relatively unknown) until roughly 1980, when CV Productions created the very first regulated MMA league in the United States. First named “Tough Guy Contest,” the Ring Odds bouts were later called “Battle of the Superfighters,” when ten tournaments were sanctioned in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania State Senate passed a bill which prohibited the violent sport, in 1983.
Within the next ten years, though, the Gracie family brought a Brazilian martial art form called vale tudo, from the 1920s, to the United States. This is when they formed the Ultimate Fighting Championship, known more commonly today as UFC. And it was through a 1993 review of UFC 1, by television critic Howard Rosenberg, that the term “mixed-martial arts” entered the common American vernacular. While it is still debated today who actually first coined the term, it was after this moment that the competition started to pick up speed.
The MMA Today
Of course, these days MMA continues to be a popular spectator sport, perhaps more interesting than traditional boxing because of the number of techniques involved. Much like boxing, though, contests always occur between fighters in the same weight class. Unlike boxing, though, fighters are compared against each other not only according to physical characteristics (height, weight, reach, etc) but also the fighting styles they employ (grappling, standing strikes, ground attack, reversals, etc).