History of Mixed Martial Arts | Sunday Observer

History of Mixed Martial Arts

1 May, 2022

Mixed Martial Arts or MMA as it is more popularly known, is a full contact hybrid combat sport incorporating techniques from a variety of other combat disciplines.

Unlike the relatively rigid traditional martial arts and combat sports like boxing or karate, MMA serves to combine the strengths of other martial arts into forming a more practical and formidable martial art, boiling all its techniques down to the basics of striking, grappling and ground fighting.

MMA is a relatively modern martial art that’s become increasingly popular as a spectator combat sport, drawing in audiences rivaling the likes of boxing and pro wrestling.

Modern incarnation

While the modern incarnation of MMA is a more recent development, the idea of a no holds barred combat sport incorporating multiple already existing martial arts has been around for centuries, with records of such sports dating all the way back to ancient China with lei tai and ancient Greece with Pankration.

Since then, more similar precursors to mixed martial arts were observed spontaneously developing all over Europe and Asia throughout history. As it happens, the concept of taking inspiration from other martial arts and combining them was an obvious idea, though it would be considered controversial by the more rigid communities of traditional martial arts that valued purity over practicality.

Jeet Kune Do

Bruce Lee famously supported the idea of taking from other styles, popularizing the idea of taking what works and dropping what doesn’t.

Jeet Kune Do, the style that Bruce Lee developed, reflects those ideas, as it is not a rigid ‘style’ but more a martial arts philosophy. Due to these ideas of combat pragmatism, modern MMA practitioners consider Bruce Lee to be the father of MMA, though Lee would have passed decades before the term MMA would be coined for the UFC.

The UFC, or the Ultra Fighting Championships, and MMA have been inextricably linked since its inception in 1993. While many mixed martial arts communities existed before the UFC, like the Vale Tudo from Brazil and the Shoot style (matches for the purposes of competing rather than entertainment) Wrestling scene of Japan.

But none would really reach mainstream popularity outside of their own countries until the UFC. Initially, rather than a competition between martial artists practicing mixed martial arts, the UFC pitted existing martial arts styles against each other to see which was truly the strongest, promoters even comparing the event to fighting video games of the time like Street Fighter.

Eventually, competitors started utilizing techniques from other martial arts, taking what works best within the UFC octagon for the best results.


With time, UFC competitors would go on to narrow down a comprehensive set of techniques that would form its own style, calling it Mixed Martial Arts.

Though modern MMA is a globally enjoyed spectator sport, it has been plagued by stigmas from the beginning as a lawless sport without a real definition.

Looking from the outside, MMA fighting might seem like a brutal bloodsport without any real rules or limits, especially when compared to relatively cleaner sports like Boxing, Karate and Wrestling.

This is not helped by the very real injuries competitors regularly suffer. It is more than likely that an MMA fight concludes with at least one fighter bloodied to a big extent. However, MMA has come a long way, establishing its own regulatory bodies and rules to protect its fighters from any real harm.

In some ways, MMA is one of the safer combat sports, as matches end the moment a fighter is deemed unfit to continue, and the lack of padding in their equipment means fights end quicker, making them much safer.