A Brief History
On November 12, 1993, Denver, Colorado became the site of the first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship event, titled UFC 1, what has become the premier promotion of mixed martial arts fighting. Starting what would become a regular routine, the event was broadcast live on Pay-Per-View, had a live audience, and was later released on video.
This initial UFC event was an 8 man tournament, with eventual winner Royce Gracie of Brazil taking the top ($50,000) prize. The other big name fighter to go on to great things was Ken Shamrock, known as “The World’s Most Dangerous Man.” Gracie and Shamrock would go on to become 2 of the most famous and celebrated MMA fighters of all time, and 2 of the best draws in the sport.
This inaugural event had a live audience of 7800 and another 83,000 paid to watch the event on home television. One of the television commentators for the event was the former Cleveland Browns running back, Jim Brown, lending his star power to the spectacle.
In the early days, MMA fighting was not as refined as it has become, and there were no weight classes, resulting in enormous mismatches in the size of competitors. Today there are not only 10 weight divisions, there are also female competitors (that fight only other females). Fighting rules have also been refined in an attempt to make the fights safer for the fighters, fairer in scoring, and more palatable to those people that oppose fighting type violent sports. Fans in at least 150 countries watch the UFC events today, and fighters from around the world compete.
With all sorts of fighting backgrounds, from Asian martial arts techniques such as Karate, Kung fu, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Sambo, Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do, to mainstream Western sports such as wrestling and boxing, the proponents of each fighting sport hotly debated which technique was superior. Styles such as Shoot fighting, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kick Boxing, and a myriad of techniques named after their inventor have emerged. For the most part, MMA fighting is now a blend of almost all the various techniques adapted to their best use within the rules of MMA.
Originally, fighters could wear whatever clothing they thought was appropriate (no shoes), and did not wear gloves. Just about the only rules were no biting and no eye gouging, with head butts, hair pulling and groin strikes allowed. There were no “rounds,” as the fighters fought until someone was knocked out, choked out, or tapped out, or the referee stopped the fight.
Today only approved shorts and gloves are allowed to be worn (females have more leeway), and many sorts of strikes and techniques are banned to protect the fighters.
Although many different MMA promotions rose during the 1990’s the UFC began to dominate the sport and bought up many competing promotions, becoming a sort of “major league” of fighting with the other promotions carrying the role as minor league “wanna bes.” In May of 2016 the sale of the UFC to WME-IMG for a record sports franchise price of $4 billion was announced, an indication of just how big a business MMA fighting and the UFC has become. MMA fighters have now often appeared in movie roles, an indication of their fame.
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