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What Is Mixed Martial Arts?

Mixed martial arts, the astoundingly popular brand of fighting most recognized today through the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is an art that has been around since the Ancient Greeks started the Olympics.

While Mike Tyson was shouting "Ludicrous" and laying down opponents with a vicious right hand in the United States, the rest of the fighting world took it to the mat in a different way.

The ancient pankration of the Greeks - dating back to 648 B.C. - eventually transformed into a more violent fighting art known as Etruscan and the Romans' pancratium - which was constantly on display in the Roman Coliseum. The fighting was no-holds-barred with very little rules in place. In the ancient times, as one might suspect, the idea was primarily to kill, or, at the very least, incapacitate your opponent.

Throughout the 1800s, fighters of different calibers and various styles used to meet via tournaments. One of the earliest and most famous of these tournaments was in 1887, when USA-born boxer John L. Sullivan entered the ring against a Greco-Roman wrestling champion, William Muldoon. Sullivan lost the fight quickly and decisively. Around 1900, another similar bout took place, featuring boxing champion Bob Fitzsimmons vs. another Euro Greco-Roman champ, Ernest Roeber. Roeber promptly hooked Fitzsimmons in an armlock, forcing his submission.

These displays of mixed fighting styles eventually gave birth to what we know today as mixed martial arts. In the early 1900s, mixed-style contests held throughout Japan, other areas of Asia and Europe, and the Pacific Rim started to increase in frequency. The famous Gracie Family's vale tudo martial arts tournaments starting being held in Brazil in the 1920s, and in Japan - where mixed martial arts was known as Kakutougi - the sport gained recognition and reached climax in the 1970s.

In 1991 Art Davie met Rorion Gracie, and after deciding that mixed martial arts tournaments were sure to be a crowd pleaser, the UFC was born. In the first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, Royce Gracie, a prize Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter, easily won by submitting three opponents in under 5 minutes. The UFC and the Pride Fighting Championships quickly propelled the sport to new heights.

Today's mixed martial arts fighters use a range of styles. From the ground-and-pound techniques of Jiu-Jitsu fighters and wrestlers to the slug-it-out style that boxers with minimal martial arts experience bring, any spectator is bound to find an eclectic mix of fighting styles during any given match.

The best fighters of MMA today display multiple skill levels in multiple styles. Wholly unlike Bruce Lee movies of the past, MMA fights give spectators a true glimpse of what martial arts battles are like. They're rugged, raw, and unless a person has ample training, they can be extremely dangerous. In fact, even the most skillful fighters are at high risk. As such, the overseeing of fights is a huge concern. There have been many rules put in place to protect fighters, and the referees will not hesitate to stop a fight.

MMA is still exploding all over the world. The pay-per-view events take in millions of dollars and entire movies, novels and television series have been dedicated to the art. No matter where you're from in the world and no matter what style of fight you use, you're welcome to test your skills in an MMA ring.

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