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The History Of MMA

Home » The History Of MMA

History of MMA

MMA has become one of the most exciting and popular sports in the world, but how much do you really know about its history? Let’s dive deep and explore the fascinating evolution of mixed martial arts. From the early days of Pankration and Vale Tudo to the formation of MMA organizations, the history of MMA is a thrilling journey filled with incredible fighters, legendary battles, and stunning victories. So grab a seat and get ready to learn about the origins, evolution, and impact of mixed martial arts, the ultimate combat sport.

The Ancient Times

I’ve always thought that in order to understand where we are going it is necessary to understand where we are coming from. Regarding our sport, Its roots come from a distant past. Despite its recent popularity, as well as the sport with the greatest growth in the last 20 years, MMA is a sport that makes use of all the faculties and parts of the human body.

Fighting was the first sport where the fighters were fighting hand-to-hand, the same structure of the human body makes us understand that the trunk is the most powerful and extended part, if we watch children play, they will imitate gestures of grappling, they will roll and push, this because it is an innate instinct in the human being.

Pankration in ancient Greece

The First Testimonies come to us from ancient Greece exactly from the 7th century B.C. where Pankration was practiced, which literally means “All Power” Pan: All , Kratos: Power.

Greek Pankratiasts (“The Wrestlers”)

Prelude of Every Fight Pankration had very few rules, actually it had exactly two rules:

No Bites, No Fingers in the Eyes

It was fought with naked hands and the fighters were naked themselves (in fact the word Gymnasium means “place to practice sport” and comes from Greek Word “Gymnos” which means “Naked” with the modern word known as Gym) and fighters were covered in olive oil to avoid abrasion, and it took place until the surrender of one of the two contenders.

It was a unique show for the spectators of that time who crowded the arenas and the amphitheatres, the sport was also understood as a great attraction at the Olympics. Sometimes in the pankration fight was included the “Caestus”, a form of antique glove made of leather strips but we will talk more about this in the next article about the evolution of the fighting gloves.

Who won the pankration matches was not simply a champion but a Hero! As evidence we have a statue “the Boxer at rest” Greek bronze statue from the fourth century before Christ that is in Rome, the Subject a Boxer at rest during a fight is sitting and full of wounds and wearing the caestus, what is very interesting is also the presence of cauliflower ears common feature of many practitioners of wrestling and MMA nowadays.

In Ancient Greece, the homeland of Divine Ambition, every warrior chases glory with his own strength, and it was this fame and the extension of the Greek colonies that made the sport known outside of Greece. After the Greeks, the Romans perpetuated the tradition of pankration in their games , and in the training of their troops, but a substantial difference was made by the wearing of the “Zoma” a Strap Of leather to Cover the Pelvic Area. These forms of fighting, even though not very regulated, became bloody and counterproductive. So in Rome Emperor Theodosius The First, banned hand-to-hand combat in 393 A.D.

MMA in the ancient times

MMA in ancient China

In Ancient China since the time of the Qin Dynasty 221 B.C., there was a method of combat that combined traditional Chinese martial arts with forms of boxing and wrestling and sometimes even weapons the “leitai” that among all the sports was the most popular. The leitai was a raised square-shaped platform without ropes or obstacles of 7 meters on each side and raised from the ground 1.5 meters, where the fighters challenged each other in various forms of combat.

With Chinese boxing, Kung fu, Shuai Jiao a form of wrestling with a reinforced kimono only in the upper body, the Fighters had no protection whatsoever and they won either by surrender or inability to continue the opponent or to be thrown off the platform, there was a referee and judges on each side who were usually the elders of the Village, who simply started the match and declared a winner. The Modern Descendants of this discipline are Sanda and Wushu.

MallaYuddha in India

Some Evidence from the 5th Millennium Before Christ (referred to epic poems but written centuries after) tells us that in India there was a Discipline called “MallaYuddha”, In Sanskrit, mallayuddha literally translates as “Wrestling fighting”. Strictly speaking, the term indicates a single boxing match or prize fight rather than a style or school of wrestling. It is a tatpurusha compound of malla (wrestler, boxer, athlete) and yuddha or juddho (fight, battle, conflict). The compound is attested for the first time in the Epic Poem of Mahabharata referring to boxing matches. The first written attestation of the term mallayuddha is found in the Ramayana epic, in the context of a wrestling match between the Kings for the Dominion of a Region.

The Hanuman God was the Protector of this Art, while the God Krishna fights several times defeating his opponents with knees on the chest and Punches to the head, it is said that Siddharta Guatama was also a wrestler, a skilled archer and swordsman before becoming the “Buddha”. In addition to these Ancient Cultures we have evidence of similar Disciplines in Ancient Egypt and Japan.

The Middle Ages

For many centuries in the Middle Ages, the traces of a sport that included Striking and Grappling techniques together, at least in the Western world, were lost. In Asia there are testimonies of Contact Martial Arts and one in particular was born in the Empire of Pyu (later Kingdom of Burma and Current Myanmar) from 2sec A.D. to Our Days but widely spread in medieval age the “Lethwei”. This style imposes kicks, punches, knees, elbows, and head butts, the matches had no time limit and they fought in the sand without any protection until one of the fighters was knocked out or surrendered.

In the Kingdom of Siam today Thailand, the Muay Boran was a sport developed as a precursor of the modern Art of 8 limbs Muay Thai. The first evidence dates back to the 16th century where this art was used to train troops in combat, including punches, kicks, elbows, knees and throws, the efficiency and spectacularism of this style, who used hemp ropes wrapped in his hands and forearms with knots on his knuckles the ”Muay Khat Cheauk” , was such to influence similar disciplines in the neighboring countries with the arts of Tomoi in Malaysia, Pradal Serey in Cambodia, Muay -Lao in Laos and a style totally dedicated to the military forces and still in use today by the Thai army Muay -Lerd Rit , but we will talk about it in more detail in the next articles.

A period of Interstice match

The first to launch this fashion were the French. The middle of the 19th century saw the emergence of the new Savate sport in the circle of combat sports. The French Savate fighters wanted to test their techniques against the traditional fighting styles of their time. Savate is a style of kicks and punches where kicks were applied only with the foot, but covered with shoes, in fact savate means in French “old shoe or boot”.

In 1852, a competition was held in France between the French savateur and the English bare-handed boxers in which the French fighter Rambaud, alias the Resistance, fought the English fighter Dickinson and won with his kicks. However, the English team also won the other four match-ups during the match. They also challenged Japanese karateka and judoka, as well as professional boxers, with mixed results.

Catch Wrestling born in 1870 by J.G. Chambers and initially called “Catch as catch Can” was an English discipline that combined a series of English wrestling styles from Lancashire, Cumberland & Westmorland and Devonshire, the Irish style of “collar and elbow“ and also techniques from the Indian discipline of “Pehlwani”.

A period of Interstice match

They began to challenge every discipline to improve their techniques and will be fundamental in the modern MMA training. But the most illustrious Inter style match was the one in the United States, the first big fight between a boxer and a wrestler in modern times took place in 1887 when John L. Sullivan, then heavyweight boxing world champion, stepped into the ring with his trainer, wrestling champion William Muldoon, and was knocked on the canvas in two minutes.

In 1898 an English pioneer engineer who had lived in Japan, Edward William Barton-Wright, invented Baritsu by combining catch wrestling, judo, boxing, savate, jujutsu and canne de combat (French stick fighting) techniques, also mentioned in Sir Doyle’s Stories in his Sherlock Holmes is the first example of a true mixed martial art. He had a decade of success in the suburbs of London with his own Gym and some tournaments, but was abandoned and rediscovered as a style in the 2000s.

The development of MMA in the XXth century

Later the Japanese created tournaments called “merikan” from the slang of American where mixed fighting could be carried out matches that ended in submission or knock out. In Russia around 1920 a new style of Sambo was successful, combining Judo techniques, wrestling and striking in a new way, in the same year in Brazil the movement of Vale Tudo “Everything Goes” bare-knuckle fighting with very few rules and all the admitted styles that will inflame his nation and that will be of fundamental importance for Modern MMA, we will discuss in depth in the next articles.

In 1951 we find a great match that will be the crossroads of modern martial arts between Masahiko Kimura against Hélio Gracie, fought in Brazil between the judoka Masahiko Kimura and the founder of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Hélio Gracie. Kimura defeated Gracie using a gyaku-ude-garami armlock, which later became known as the “Kimura” in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Between the 60s and 70s a certain Bruce Lee with his Discipline the Jeet Kune Do carries on a fundamental principle still recognized today as one of the pillars of the MMA culture, the concept of being as adaptable as water. In fact Lee believed that “the best fighter is not a boxer, a karateka or a Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt to any style, be shapeless, adopt an individual’s style and not follow the style system”.

In 1976 we have a Historical Boxing Champion Muhammed Ali match against Antonio Inoki Legendary Japanese Wrestler all played in Japan with a draw after a battle of 15 rounds, the match inspired Inoki students Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki to found the Pancrase in 1993, which in turn inspired the foundation of the Pride Fighting Championships in 1997.

In 1985 the Shooto was born in Japan.

The Modern Times 1985/93


Satoru Sayama – Wrestler Tiger Mask

So in 1985 Shooto in Japan was born, from an idea of Satoru Sayama Japanese Wrestling Champion better known as “Tiger Mask”, with the intention of creating a new sport that could become an effective martial art. Initially called “New Martial Art” the name was changed to “Shooting” from the word “shoot” which meant in Wrestling “Serious Match”. Often confused the name Shooting with Shooting Sports the name was definitely changed to Shooto.

In 1986 there was the first amateur tournament and in 1989 the First Professional Event. Since 1994 the Shooto hosted the first event in Vale Tudo Japan where for the first time in Shooto matches the fighters were allowed to hit the face from a grappling position, which was forbidden until then.

1996 saw the creation of the World Shooto, the Shooto Assosiaciton and the International Shooto Commission from that moment on through these governmental bodies the Shooto became a fighting sport and its champions officially “World Champions”.

The Shooto disembarked in America through a student of Sayama, Nakamura who went to Dan Inosanto’s gym in the late 80’s, in South America instead Shooto Brasil is managed by Andre Pederneiras founder of Nova Uniao in Rio De Janeiro one of the legendary schools of MMA.

The Rules of this sport ancestor of MMA included grips, chokes, joint locks, kicks, knees, punches, takedowns and throws. While the techniques of elbows, head butt, hair pulling, groin strikes, fingers and small joints finishing, eye poke, forearms and throat strikes, bite, and on the ground knees or kicks are banned, only since 2008 was introduced the rule not to hit the back of the head. In Class A Shooto was introduced the rule of 5 minutes x 3 rounds.

In Brazil a crucial event in the Rivalry between the growing styles of BJJ and Luta Livre, more than a simple rivalry, the two styles, one with kimono and the other with nothing but shorts, also imposed a clash of classes, the rich with the poor and for this reason touched the spectators of all kinds.

The boiling of rivalry began in the 80’s and grew in 1991 with the Desafio event in Rio de Janeiro. The show saw three Jiu-Jitsu Fighters against Luta Livre in an attempt to determine the superior style once and for all. The competitors were: Wallid Ismail (Jiu-Jitsu) against Eugenio Tadeu (Luta Livre), Murilo Bustamante (Jiu-Jitsu) against Marcelo Mendes (Luta Livre) and Fabio Gurgel (Jiu-Jitsu) against Denilson Maia (Luta Livre). With a net 3 to 0 for Jiu-Jitsu, until 2008 the Desafio continued in its Mixed Events, but these results together with the landing in America with UFC 1 and the Gracie Family made Luta Livre almost disappear.


In 1993 Pancrase was born in Japan, from two of Antonio Inoki’s students, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki, inspired by his interstyle matches in the 70’s. Based on the name of the ancient Pancration, the rules were those of professional wrestling, moreover, closed-fist blows were allowed, with the exception of blows to the face where you hit only with the palm of the hand, no elbows, kicks or knees on the ground, there was a count of 10 seconds in case of knock down as in boxing, if the opponent was able to continue a point was subtracted, if a submission came to the ropes you had to let go, But if an adversary explicitly touched the ropes to escape the submission he was subtracted one point, if he continued to do so up to 5 times he was awarded the defeat, in untitled matches there was only one round of 15 minutes while in title matches there was only one round of 30 minutes, in case that none of the fighter won after the time the count was calculated by the judges from the lowest number of points lost, if none of the fighters had lost points the match was declared as a Draw. The Promotion Champion became “King of Pancrase”.

It was only in 1999 that the rules were adapted to those of Mixed Martial Arts similar to those of Pride FC but without knees to the head in the ground game. In 1993 the First event took place in Tokyo and all the machts ended by submission or KO. In 2014 the “Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts” were adopted and in 2015 Pancrase signed a partnership agreement with UFC Fight Pass remaining one of the most important acronyms in Japan and Asia.

In 1993 the UFC was born.

The meaning of MMA and its basic rules?

Alright fight fans, let’s break it down: Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA for short, is a combat sport that involves a combination of striking, grappling, and ground fighting techniques. It’s a beautiful blend of different martial arts styles that come together to create a unique form of competition.

So what are the basic rules of MMA, you ask? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. The fight takes place in a cage, also known as an octagon, and the winner is determined by either knockout, submission, or judge’s decision. Fighters wear small fingerless gloves to protect their hands and must follow a set of rules, which include:

  • No biting
  • No eye-gouging 
  • No strikes to the groin

Elbows to the head are usually prohibited in amateur fights, but are allowed in professional bouts.

Which Country Started MMA?

While Brazil and the Gracie family are often credited with the creation of MMA, the roots of this sport go much deeper. In fact, it was Japan that began to lay the foundation for what we now know as modern MMA. The Japanese Pancrase and Shooto organisations were the first to combine different martial arts styles in a competitive setting, creating a new form of combat sport that would later be adopted and developed in the United States with the birth of the UFC. 

which country started MMA

However, it was in Brazil where modern-day MMA, as we know it, truly began to take shape. Helio Gracie, regarded as the founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, was instrumental in developing the fighting style that would become a key component of MMA. Gracie believed that the most efficient way to win a fight was by grappling and submitting an opponent, which is why his martial art focused on ground fighting and submissions.

Brazil also became home to Vale Tudo, a no-holds-barred fighting style that emerged in the early 20th century. It was essentially a mix of boxing, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu, and eventually evolved into modern MMA. Vale Tudo was first introduced to the United States in 1993, during the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event, which was held in Denver, Colorado.

Who Invented MMA? When was Mma Established?

You might be surprised to learn that the concept of MMA dates back to ancient Greece, where the combat sport known as pankration was practised. However, the modern version of MMA that we know and love today was not officially established until the early 1990s.

While many people contributed to the creation of MMA, the Gracie family is often credited as the inventors of modern MMA. It was the legendary Helio Gracie who laid the foundation for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which became a crucial element of the sport.

In 1993, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) held its first event, which is widely regarded as the official birth of modern MMA. The UFC was founded by Art Davie and Helio’s son, Rorion Gracie. The event was a tournament-style competition that brought together fighters from various martial arts disciplines, including boxing, wrestling, karate, and jiu-jitsu.

Since then, MMA has grown in popularity and has become a global phenomenon, with numerous organizations and promotions popping up around the world. But it was the innovative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit of the Gracie family and their collaborators that laid the foundation for the sport we all know and love today.

Organization of the sport

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as a combat sport is incredibly complex and requires fighters to have diverse skills in various martial arts. Because of this, the sport had to adapt to ensure the safety of fighters.

Nowadays, MMA is under the umbrella of numerous professional organizations, such as UFC, Bellator MMA, and ONE Championship, among others. These organizations are responsible for regulating the sport, setting rules, and ensuring that everyone follows them. The rules vary somewhat from organization to organization, but they generally prioritize striking, grappling, and submissions. Fighters must abide by strict weight classes and guidelines to ensure their safety.

This typically includes drug testing, medical evaluations, and meeting specific training requirements.

There are also smaller organizations that focus on developing up-and-coming fighters. Overall, MMA has come a long way since its early days, and the sport is now well-organized with a focus on promoting its legitimacy as an exciting and legitimate competition while keeping the fighters safe.

Most Popular Countries that play MMA

As discussed above, MMA has become a popular sport worldwide, with fans and fighters all around the globe. Here are some of the most popular countries where MMA is played:

The Era Of The Mixed Martial Artist (2000-nowadays)

The modern mixed martial artist is more than just a fighter. Today, combat athletes have become strategists and brands. They must build and maintain their personal brand, train in a variety of disciplines, and handle the stress of competing in front of a worldwide audience.

Ronda Rousey, Georges St. Pierre, Conor McGregor, and Khabib Nurmagomedov are just a few of the mixed martial artists who have dominated the sport in the modern era. Their contributions have elevated the sport to new heights, bringing in new fans, and making it the global success that it is today.

With the rise of new technologies and promotions, it will be fascinating to watch how MMA develops over the next few years.

MMA nowadays


MMA has come a long way since its early beginnings, evolving into an enthralling and exhilarating sport. Its origins in ancient martial arts have transformed into a modern spectacle, complete with legendary fighters and rising stars. Thanks to the establishment of well-known promotions, and new stars on the rise, it is obvious that MMA will continue to influence the world of combat sports for years to come.

So, are you ready to step into the cage and become an MMA fighter? It’s not for the faint of heart, but for those who have the dedication, passion, and skill, it’s an incredible sport that will challenge you like nothing else!


When was MMA invented?

MMA as we know it today was invented in the 1990s. However, it has its roots in ancient combat sports such as Pankration in Greece and MallaYuddha in India.

Who invented MMA?

MMA was not invented by any one person. It evolved over time from various combat sports such as boxing, wrestling, and martial arts.

Who was the first MMA fighter?

There is no one person who can be considered the first MMA fighter. The sport evolved over time, and many athletes have contributed to its growth and development.

Was there MMA before UFC?

Yes, there was MMA before the founding of the UFC in 1993. In fact, MMA has its roots in ancient combat sports and has been evolving over time.