Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is an amalgamation of relevant and effective techniques picked up from various disciplines across the world. The modern phenomenon of globalization has played a pivotal role in the emergence of MMA as one of the most exciting spectator and combat sport in recent times. Before the advent of television or more recently the Internet, it was difficult for martial artists from two separate corners of the world to study and learn from each other’s style. But now since the world is a smaller place, a lot of cross training has become possible.
Bruce Lee was perhaps one of the earliest and the most glamorous exponents of Mixed Martial Arts. Originally a Wing-chun practitioner under the infamous Ip Man, he was greatly influenced by fencing, which made him adopt a predominantly strong hand forward stance in Jeet-Kun-Do. He also began incorporating various locks and holds into his repertoire showcasing an arm bar for the first time in his movie ‘Enter the Dragon’. If not for his premature death one can only speculate what an impact he would have been in today’s genre of Mixed Martial Arts.
Modern day MMA competitions can draw their roots from ‘Vale Tudo’ tournaments in Brazil
. The first mention of Vale Tudo (which literally translates to ‘anything goes’) can be found as early as the early 20th century, as fighting sideshows that became popular in Brazilian carnivals and festivals.
UFC 1 in the United States was essentially a Vale Tudo tournament hosted by the Gracie Family
to showcase Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as the most superior martial art. It was through the efforts of UFC in America and other such promotions like PrideFC in Japan that boosted MMA into more mainstream culture with the introduction of weight classes and a set of rules that made the sport less brutal.
Image source: rogergracie.com
Watching the few available videos of these early day productions of Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, you could notice how one-dimensional each fighter was. Through the years fighters like Randy Couture, Chuck Liddel started showcasing how far the sport had evolved in such a short time. Randy Couture mixed up dirty boxing to complement his wrestling pedigree, while Chuck Liddel used his wrestling base to prevent his opponents from taking him down and kept the fight standing where he was strongest. The term ‘sprawl and brawl’
was coined for him.
- the PrideFC heavyweight champion (and arguably the greatest ever exponent of MMA) - using his sambo background was exceptional wherever the fight went. But most fighters in that era were still predominantly stronger in one discipline. This formula held through for the next generation of fighters that began to make a name for themselves. George St. Pierre and Anderson Silva both preferred the fight to be in their realm of expertise. Finally, we make our way to the current stable of fighters. Jon Jones, Chris Weidman, Cain Velasquez, Ronda Rousy: all champions that dominate fights wherever they go.
The entire evolution of the sport can be witnessed if you put each of these fighters under the microscope. Going back to their early fights you can see each of them evolving from fighters that were exceptional in only one discipline to the complete fighters they are today. Each and every one of them transitioned from a different background into Mixed Martial Arts and only then started cross training. Ronda Rousy an Olympic bronze medalist in Judo won her first 10 bouts by arm-bar. But lately she’s been dominating fighters standing too.
That’s evolution in a nutshell.
The next breed of fighters will be those that have begun training in Mixed Martial Arts from the get go. Nine year-old kids that walk into the gym and train in all aspects of martial arts, be it striking wrestling or submissions. They will walk into the cage from the get go as Mixed Martial Artists. And I would like to be bold in my predictions that the future generation of champions will be those that don’t adhere to certain styles or rigid stances. They will switch and flow and be confident enough to do whatever their bodies tell them to do during a fight. Connor McGreggor jumps into my head here. It might have been a little early to push him into the limelight right now, especially against Jose Aldo but there will come a time when his continuous evolution will make him one of the deadliest fighters to ever grace the cage. As spectators of the ultimate form of combat, the future of the sport promises some exciting times ahead for us.