The expansion of MMA began in the late 1990s and in a very short time, it became the most popular martial art in the world. This is the sport with the fastest growing popularity nowadays, measured in millions of fans and practitioners. MMA is strictly defined by the rigorous rules that have raised this skill to the level of sport, so today there are world and European championships where many countries take part. Since 2013, there have been intense negotiations on the sport’s Olympic future.
A distant ancestor of mixed martial arts is considered to be ancient Greek martial arts Pankration. In 648 BC, the Greeks introduced Pankration to the Olympics. The word itself is a combination of two Greek words: pan, meaning everything, and kratos, meaning power or strength. It is a pretty good description of the sport itself, as it was a combination of Hellenic boxing and wrestling. This port had only two rules – no biting and no eye gouging, though these techniques were allowed by the Spartans. Of course they were. The matches would only end if one of the contestants ended up unconscious, or if he would surrender by raising his hand. Often, these fights would last for hours, sometimes ending with the death of one or both competitors. This sport has become the most popular event in the Olympics, and throughout Greece.
The contemporary example of modern MMA is the Vale Tudo (ruleless fighting), which gained enormous popularity in Brazil in the early 20th century. The sport achieved international success only in 1993 through the UFC Tournaments (Ultimate Fight Championship), launched in America by Rorion Gracie.
Unlike today’s MMA competitions, there were no weight categories in the UFC tournaments at that time, so often the difference in weight between the two competitors exceeded 40 kilos. Like Pankration, UFC tournaments only had a few rules: no eye gouging, no biting, and no limit on the duration of the fight. The efficacy of this skill has made Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ), which formed the basis of Vale Tudo and UFC competition, known worldwide.
After these beginnings, many significant representatives of the sport around the world appeared on the MMA scene. These modern gladiators are very different from the BJJ fighters of the early 1990s. Numerous, very successful emerging fighting styles are quickly emerging, the most famous of which are chute-box, shooto and shooter styles.
Winning tournaments and championships today is almost impossible unless the fighter excels both in BJJ and hitting techniques (boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, Karate…) and wrestling. That is why the term MMA has become standard in the world for this type of fighting. This term best describes the concept of a free fight, where various martial arts are incorporated into one whole, thus creating a combat system that combines wrestling and striking techniques, and the fight is conducted at all distances and levels.
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