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Who created the sport of MMA

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He is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based martial arts promoter, producer and author of Godfathers of MMA.

Latest posts by Bill Viola Jr. (see all)

Mixed Martial Arts History:

Who really invented the “sport” of MMA in America? 

“It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite — that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.”   ―Mark Twain

Most mixed martial arts fans simply aren’t concerned with revisionist history, but we still have a duty to preserve the integrity of sport.  Note “sport” is a very specific label not to be confused with methodology that would include an analysis of Pankration, Vale Tudo, and any number of distant relatives that inspired modern MMA competition in the United States (long before we knew it as mixed martial arts). The “invention” of mixing martial arts dates back to the dawn of mankind, but the “creation” of an American sport has direct lineage. The field of pioneers runs deep including everyone from Bruce Lee to Judo Gene LeBell setting the tone with exhibitions, but their contributions, although groundbreaking, do not constitute sport.  Like stick-and-ball games, baseball didn’t become a sport until the emergence of a diamond, 3 strikes and 4 bases and MMA is no different.  While the UFC popularized the idea of MMA, the “sport” was created a decade earlier (MMA’s best kept secret).  CV [Caliguri and Viola] Productions provided the blueprint for a multi-billion dollar business in 1979; the first league of its kind.  They were ultimate fighters ahead of their time (no pay-per-view or the internet to spread their message).  The revolution was repressed, now passed off as mere urban legend, but it’s time to look past the fairy tale version you’ve been brainwashed to believe.

The UFC’s Maiden Voyage   

Art Davie thought he had entered uncharted waters in 1993 when he created the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but another ship set sail years before him.  Davie planted his flag in Denver, Colorado thinking he had discovered new land, but in reality MMA’s story began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania more than a decade earlier. It’s not up for debate; there is overwhelming evidence that a UFC-esque company thrived before Rorion Gracie and Art Davie collaborated.  CV [Caliguri and Viola] Productions was a premonition of the Zuffa era, built as sport from the ground up, while UFC 1 was devised as a spectacle, slowly transforming to sport over time.  The former isolated in Pennsylvania, the latter seen in every major market in America. One forgotten, the other larger than life.

In 2014 Art Davie released his book aptly titled “Is This Legal” reminiscing about UFC’s heyday and staking his claim to have created MMA.  While Davie, a true innovator, certainly pitched the idea of Ultimate Fighting and popularized it on television, his vision “There are no rules” was a far cry from anything that resembled sport.  His baby would eventually morph into a sport, a billion dollar behemoth, but it too had a precursor. Yes, he co-created the UFC (the most famous 3 letters in combat sports) but he wasn’t the first to “package MMA.” It may be hard to fathom that sport existed before the UFC, but it did. Ironically Davie is compared to Abner Doubleday on his book jacket, fitting since neither of them invented a sport, but he may be ignorant to that fact. Mr. Davie was the first to introduce MMA to the “world” (via pay-per-view) but remains the runner up in “America.”

Most media outlets believe, “Mixed martial arts competitions were introduced in the United States with the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993.” This just isn’t true; a major milestone yes, but a major misnomer.  They, the press, got it wrong in ‘93 and have been wearing blinders ever since.  A more accurate description might have been, No Holds Barred competitions were introduced in the United States with the first UFC but mixed martial arts as sport began in 1979 under the banner of CV Productions. Too late, once the ripple effect set in (print, reprint, reprint) the UFC became the first of its kind.  Positive or negative press, the public is prone to believe what news they hear first.  Ask any politician who’s been on the wrong end of a juicy scandal; truth becomes relative depending which way the press leans.  It’s equally hard to buck that trend if you are an inventor or explorer playing catch up.

The perception of the UFC and CV Productions is very much in line with Christopher Columbus and Leif Eriksson.  While the Vikings didn’t have a clever rhyme, Columbus did, sailing the ocean blue in 1492. The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s ploy of course was shock and awe, broadcast live and in bloody color.  UFC, like Columbus, won the media’s attention and was accepted into an exclusive club with “lifetime” membership—pop culture. The New World may have been discovered 500 years before Columbus was born, and likewise MMA created while Dana White was still in grade school, but once America makes up her mind she is stubborn.

History does seem to iron itself out, but first impressions still carry a lot of weight. What’s right is right and President Lyndon Johnson declared October 9th to be Leif Eriksson Day, just a few days earlier than Columbus Day observed on the 12th. However, unless you’re Norwegian, Columbus still takes the first place for being second. CV Productions is yet to get its official proclamation, but their day is coming.

Read the untold story:

father of mma

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He is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based martial arts promoter, producer and author of Godfathers of MMA.

Latest posts by Bill Viola Jr. (see all)

  2015  /  MMA Origins  /  Last Updated January 30, 2015 by Bill Viola Jr.  /  Tags: , ,