The addition of gloves were a controversial choice. It came about because anti-MMA politicians, most notably John McCaine and Rudy Giuliani, saw the sport as brutal and dangerous (both are also avid supporters of boxing). Bur MMA professionals argued that a glove serves to protect the striker's fist, not someone's face and adding gloves would lead to harder punches. While fighting barefisted in the first UFC, Dutch karate expert Gerard Gordeau broke several of his knuckles during his first two fights, but still continued to face Royce Gracie in the finals (but the exclusion of gloves was a matter of dispute amongst the UFC 1 combatants). Gloves first appeared in UFC 6.
Gracie: MMA Royalty Judo Created MMA
In the 1800s Japanese fighter Jigoro Kano studied various forms of martial arts from the dying Samurai tradition, creating "The Gentle Way", better known as Judo. His student Mitsuya Maeda would later travel the world and teach the style to everyone, eventually to the family of prominent Brazilian politician Gastao Gracie. The Gracies would go on to establish their own style, known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Leap forward to the 1980s and Rorion Gracie ventured to the US to expand the Gracie schools there. In an attempt to promote Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, he joined forces with ad executive Art Davie and director John Milius and sold the idea of a oneoff tournament where different disciplines fight it out to prove who the best. They pitched the idea to pay-per-view producers SEG, who agreed and came up with the tournament's name: The Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The Shamrock Legacy
Ken Shamrock, a salted fighter who cut his teeth on the Japanese leagues of Pancrese and Pride, competed in the first UFC (losing to Royce Gracie in the semi-finals) and would go on to headline fifteen UFC shows (and become a UFC Hall Of Famer). He also formed The Lion's Den, a notorious training dojo that produced six middle and heavyweight champions, such as Guy Mezger and Vernon White. His brother, Frank Shamrock, went on to win four middleweight and light heavyweight championship belts in the UFC, WEC, Pancrese and Strikeforce leagues. Unfortunately the Lion's Den disintegrated when the UFC's fortunes were floundering and both Shamrocks have fallen out with the current UFC management.
The Ancient Greeks had their own form of MMA, known as Pankration. It mixed boxing and wresting – and was very brutal. There were no rules, other than no weapons were allowed, and victory can from submission, passing out or death. One legend even tells of a fighter who won even though he was dead: Arrhichion broke his opponent's toes to break a chokehold on him – the opponent tapped out due to the pain, but Arrhichion had already died from the hold. He was still crowned the victor. It is said that the Spartans refused to participate, as they also eventually did with Olympian boxing, because Spartan competitors refused to give up and concede defeat – often leading to their deaths. 34
Today's UFC shows are several individual fights, but not very long ago the events were full tournaments where fighters fought through stages to reach the finals. Today's single fights were originally known as "Superfights", a special fight during a tournament where two opponents would face each other as part of the event, but they did not compete in the tournament itself. The first Superfight was between Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie at UFC 5. It was created because the two, for a variety of reasons, never managed to meet up in a tournament match in the three previous UFC events.
The Gracie family not only had a hand in creating the modern MMA sport, they have also been an everpresent force. Royce Gracie fought in the first five UFC tournaments – due to a disagreement over UFC rules he would only return much later in UFC 60. Various Gracies have competed in the former Japanese MMA leagues Pride and Pancrese. Direct Gracie Jiu-Jitsu alumni include champions B.J. Penn and Vitor Belfort, while even more champions have learned the Gracie style from other Jiu-Jitsu dojos.
Jonathan Snowden We might as well fess up: most of what you read on these pages we got from Snowden’s excellent book charting the history of modern MMA. Starting from its beginnings and going through the stories of the UFC, Pride, RINGS and Pancrese, it’s a must-read for any fan of the sport.
The Hollywood Connection
MMA and Pro-Wrestling
The Greeks Did It
HIT THE PAGES
Modern MMA can in many ways thank its survival to the faux-sport of Professional Wrestling. While former WWE star Brock Lesnar is the new UFC poster boy, pro wrestling in the Nineties was a means for fighters to pay the bills: guys like Ken Shamrock 'fought' in the then-WWF and later TNA. When the loss of ECW and WCW left a gaping hole in cable network Spike's schedule (and revenue stream), the UFC found a perfect partner to join and grow with, giving the league a vital shot in the arm. In Japanese leagues like RINGS MMA fighting and pro-wrestling elements were both readily used, often featuring matches with fixed outcomes but using real fighting.
Several UFC stars have appeared in movies – most recently Quinton "Rampage" Jackson appearing in the new A-Team movie. But there are a few older links to the big screen as well. Before Rorion Gracie helped stage the first UFC, he was tasked with choreographing the final fight scene in Lethal Weapon. John Mulius, who helped conceptualise the first UFC and came up with the idea of an Octagon-shaped fighting area, was the director of Conan The Barbarian. Zane Frasier, a UFC 1 competitor, got the spot because he previously beat Frank Dux, the man who inspired the movie Bloodsport. And David “Tank” Abbott got his nickname from Every Which Way But Loose, in which Clint Eastwood brawls against a street fighter called Tank.
GOT FIGHT? Forrest Griffin
The funniest thing we have read so far this year is the TUF winner and former UFC light-heavyweight champion’s ‘self help’ book to how to be a man through the principles of hand-toface combat. You’ll enjoy this even if you don’t watch UFC. But you have to pass the manhood test in the front section first... Books from Kinokuniya, Dubai Mall (4-434-0111) APr 2010 35