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Happy Anniversary to the Sport of MMA

Mixed Martial Arts as an organized sport began March 20th 1980 -Pittsburgh, PA 44 years ago today!

The first regulated mixed martial arts (MMA) competition in the United States, known as the Tough Guy Contest, was held on March 20, 1980, in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh. This event was organized by CV Productions, Inc., marking a significant moment in the history of MMA, over a decade before the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) would bring the sport into mainstream consciousness .

The Tough Guy Contest, referred to as the first regulated MMA competition in the U.S., was created by Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri. It aimed to find the toughest and best fighters by allowing competitors from various martial arts backgrounds to compete under a unified set of rules that allowed striking, grappling, and submissions, similar to modern MMA.

This series of events started in 1980 and was held in various locations around Pennsylvania, including New Kensington, near Pittsburgh. However, it faced legal and regulatory challenges. By 1983, Pennsylvania passed a bill that effectively banned no-holds-barred fighting, which put an end to the Tough Guy Contest series. This legislation mirrored the challenges MMA would face over the next decade in gaining legitimacy and acceptance.

march 20th 1980

Despite its short-lived run, the Tough Guy Contest played a crucial role in the evolution of mixed martial arts in the United States. It was a precursor to the more structured and widely recognized competitions that would emerge in the 1990s, most notably the UFC, which held its first event in 1993. The Tough Guy Contest demonstrated the viability and excitement of a sport that combined multiple martial arts disciplines, contributing to the foundational development of MMA as we know it today.

The Tough Guy Contest held in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, on March 20-22, 1980, at the Holiday Inn ballroom, was a landmark event in the history of mixed martial arts (MMA). It was a 3-day event featuring two 8-man tournaments to crown the “Toughest Guy” in both heavyweight and lightweight divisions. The winners of these divisions were awarded $1,000 each and the opportunity to participate in the state-wide Tough Guys championships, which were yet to be scheduled at that time. This competition is considered the first regulated MMA competition in the United States, organized by CV Productions, Inc. The event was significant because it allowed martial artists from various disciplines to compete against each other under a unified set of rules that permitted striking, grappling, and submissions, laying the groundwork for modern MMA competitions​​.

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