Mixed Martial Arts History:
Who invented mma and who created the “sport” of MMA in America are two different topics?
“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, training, or brutal contests 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 rise of humanity, 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 and challenges, but their contributions, although groundbreaking, do not constitute an “open” regulated 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 Productions provided the blueprint for a multi-billion dollar business in 1979; the first league of its kind with no pay-per-view or the internet to spread their message. The Super Fighters 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—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 promotion thrived before Rorion Gracie and Art Davie collaborated. CV 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.
While Davie, a true innovator, certainly pitched the idea of cage fighting and popularized it on television, his vision “There are no rules” was a far cry from anything that resembled sport. His version would eventually morph into 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. Art Davie and Rorion Gracie were the first to introduce modern MMA to the “world” (via pay-per-view) but remain the runner up in “America.”
Most media outlets tell us, “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 the modern sport of mixed martial began 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, 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.
Today, CV Production’s “anything goes” creation has evolved into one of the fastest growing sports in the world, albeit under the auspices of the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Nearly thirty years before the UFC garnered real mainstream acceptance, CV set up shop as the first mixed martial arts company in American history. Although enshrined at Heinz History Center in association with the Smithsonian Institution, you’ve likely never heard of them—until now. MMA is the sport of the 21st century: WOW Promotions popularized it, SEG Entertainment refined it, Zuffa LLC monetized it, but CV Productions created it. This is your exclusive ticket to travel back in time and relive the epic journey of the Godfathers of MMA.
Q: Who invented the sport of MMA in America?
A: Not the UFC
Who really created the “sport” of MMA in The United States? It wasn’t the UFC. A new book, Godfathers of MMA, is set to release early 2015 and reveals the answer. This is the birth of an American sport…
Long before the Octagon was in vogue or Royce Gracie made his pay-per-view debut; decades before the UFC became a household brand and while the likes of Dana White were still in elementary school; two martial arts entrepreneurs pursued a dream that would change the sporting world forever. Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri, promoters from Pittsburgh, set out to prove once and for all who the “Toughest Man on the planet” was by inventing a radical new “sport.” Groundbreaking—sophisticated—progressive; their competition transformed the barbaric spectacles of an earlier era into a modern franchise more akin to the NFL than the Roman Coliseum.
CV [Caliguri and Viola] Productions created the blueprint for a multi-billion dollar business in 1979 by launching the first mixed martial arts league in United States history only to ignite a bitter turf war with a jealous boxing community over money, power and respect. Mixed Martial Madness reveals a clandestine plot that subverted a martial arts revolution that was poised to challenge boxing for preeminence as the king of combat sports.
The rise and fall of the first Mixed Martial Arts championships in the United States is nothing less than a spectacular David-and-Goliath story populated by a colorful cast of characters who bring the drama of MMA to life. Professional athletes, barroom brawlers, collegiate wrestlers, self-proclaimed bad asses, and aspiring “Rockys” all went toe-to-toe in what was the first legal “anything goes” competition in America. The testosterone-laced rollercoaster ride was ultimately buried by back alley politics and special interests in an effort to protect the “sweet science.”
In 1983, with the stench of corruption still in the air, the Pennsylvania legislature banned the new sport en route to setting the first legal precedent for MMA—ever. Outlawed and blacklisted by the “Good ol’ boys,” Mixed Martial Arts would sit idle until an upstart UFC finally emerged in 1993. Unfortunately, their “No Holds Barred” format was light-years behind CV Productions in terms of rules, regulations and safety precautions. It would take nearly thirty years of “catching up” for MMA to come full circle and gain mainstream acceptance. Godfathers of MMA is the untold story of the men who changed the game and a sport that was born ahead of its time.
Godfathers of MMA is approximately 90,000 words in manuscript form; 367 pages including a liberal number of photographs and other illustrative items included with the text. If you are a member of the media or industry professional and would like to request a preview copy for review, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or for more info on who invented the sport of mma visit Godfathers of MMA
Copyright © 2013 Pittsburgh MMA Inc. All rights reserved.
CV Productions Inc. “C” Frank Caliguri and “V” Bill Viola
CV Productions, Inc., is a Pittsburgh, PA based mixed martial arts company, founded in 1979. It is considered the first MMA based company in the United States and responsible for creating the blueprint for modern mixed martial arts competition. The company promoted the first regulated league of mixed martial arts style competitions beginning in 1980 with the intention of creating a new sport. The Pittsburgh, PA-based mixed martial arts company was founded in 1979. CV Productions was the first grass roots movement to develop mixed martial arts into a modern mainstream sport. The World Martial Arts Fighting Association (WMAFA) sanctioned all CV Productions events. This was the first regulatory body for mixed martial arts and oversaw the Tough Guy, Battle of Brawlers and Super Fighter events “Super Fighters League” (SFL).
MMA Pioneers: The Firsts
CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions is credited as the first MMA based promotional company in American history, established in 1979.
Bill Viola Sr. wrote the first codified set of mixed martial arts rules in 1979; implemented in over 130 bouts. Those standards parallel the unified rules of today.
The World Martial Arts Fighting Association (WMAFA) sanctioned all CV Productions events and was the first regulatory body for mixed martial arts in the United States.
CV Productions introduced open regulated mixed martial arts competitions to the United States March 20, 1980 in Pittsburgh, PA with the inaugural “Battle of the Tough Guys” championship. This was the first commercial MMA success and the beginning of a new sport.
Later in 1980, the “Tough Guys” were rebranded as Super Fighters to accommodate a professional fighting image: The “Super Fighters League” (SFL). This was the first MMA league of its kind and set the tone for mainstream mixed martial arts.
Pennsylvania became the first state in history to set a legal precedent for mixed martial arts, officially banning the sport of MMA with the passage of Senate Bill 632 (Session of 1983 Act 1983-62).
The groundbreaking law was drafted specifically to outlaw CV Productions’ events and provided detailed language that defined mixed martial arts competition by prohibiting:
“ANY COMPETITION WHICH INVOLVES ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT BOUT BETWEEN TWO OR MORE INDIVIDUALS, WHO ATTEMPT TO KNOCK OUT THEIR OPPONENT BY EMPLOYING BOXING, WRESTLING, MARTIAL ARTS TACTICS OR ANY COMBINATION THEREOF AND BY USING TECHNIQUES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PUNCHES, KICKS AND CHOKING.”
Ten years after the passage of Senate Bill 632, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) would debut in 1993.