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Tag: MMA history

Who’s the Real “Father of MMA”? — 10 Fighters More Deserving of the Title Than Bruce Lee


(Dat. Pizza. Dough.)

By Seth Falvo

Though current bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw will not be a playable character in EA Sports UFC when it hits the shelves two weeks from now, Bruce Lee will be. Perhaps equally ridiculous is that Bruce Lee isn’t being treated as a novelty addition to the roster, but rather as “the father of Mixed Martial Arts,” something Dana White has also called him. Giving credit to only one person for the creation of MMA is absurd enough, but painting Bruce Lee as that person is just preposterous.

Then again, it really isn’t hard to understand why Zuffa would want to make someone like Bruce Lee an ambassador for our sport. Lee was — and still is — an instantly recognizable celebrity. His body was ripped and athletic. He knew how to wrestle, sure, but also understood that most people would rather watch him throw flashy kicks. His affirmations were deep enough to look good on playing cards and posters, but not too profound for the bros curling in the squat rack to comprehend. In other words, he appeals to a much larger audience than Edward William Barton-Wright and Tommy Tanaka do.

Even with all that in mind, there are figures in combat sports history who not only did more to mold modern MMA than Bruce Lee, but can also be worked into the charmingly revisionist Zuffa account of history just as well. The following list will focus on the accomplishments of these individuals, as well as the arguments for why they should be repackaged as the fathers of MMA. Let’s start with the oldest candidate, and work our way towards the modern era…

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A Brief History of MMA — The Real Version, And the Zuffa Version


(Commodus: The original Just Bleed Guy.)

Note: This timeline of MMA’s history is extremely abridged for the sake of brevity. If you’re interested in the topic, Jonathan Snowden’s Total MMA and Shooters, and Clyde Gentry’s No Holds Barred cover MMA history in detail better than I ever could.

By Matt Saccaro

MMA History

684 BCE: Pankration—a hybrid martial art whose name means “all powers”—is introduced into the Olympic games.

19th century: Various mixed rules contests take place throughout the United States, ultimately morphing into what we now call professional wrestling. (Seriously, I can’t recommend Shooters enough for information about this phase of combat sports’ evolution.)

1898: Edward William Barton-Wright invents Bartitsu–a martial art combining boxing, judo, savate, and stick fighting and one of the first dedicated “mixed martial arts” in the entire world. This mixing of styles occurs 42 years before the birth of Bruce Lee, the so-called “father of MMA.”

1905: President Theodore Roosevelt conceptualizes MMA on a whim in a letter to his son, Kermit. “With a little practice in [jiu-jitsu], I am sure that one of our big wrestlers or boxers, simply because of his greatly superior strength, would be able to kill any of those Japanese,” he says in reference to watching a Japanese grappler submit an American wrestler named Joseph Grant.

1914: Judo ambassador and all around tough guy Mitsuyo Maeda arrives in Brazil. In the coming years, he’ll begin teaching the Gracie family judo techniques, planting the seeds for BJJ.

Early-mid 20th century: Vale Tudo competitions emerge in Brazil, and ultimately gain popularity. The Gracie family rises to prominence and enjoys success in these “everything allowed” contests.

1963: Gene Lebell fights Milo Savage in North America’s first televised mixed-rules fight.

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The Five Best MMA Fighters Who Only Fought Once


(Photo via Susumu Nagao)

By Mark Dorsey

One unfortunate aspect of MMA is that far too many fighters continue to compete long after they should have hung up the gloves. It’s hard to watch once-great athletes tarnish their legacies and put themselves at risk for dementia pugilistica. That’s why it’s so refreshing when fighters decide to retire at the right time. Even rarer are the ones who taste success just once before walking away. Here’s our tribute to a few legendary fighters who were literally one-and-done.

Rulon Gardner has faced more hardship throughout his life than most men could ever survive. As a kid, he was punctured in the abdomen by an arrow during show-and-tell at school. As an adult, Gardner survived crashing into a freezing river in his snowmobile after getting lost; he wasn’t rescued until almost two days later, by which point he had suffered hypothermia that would later cost him a toe. Gardner also survived a motorcycle crash and a small plane crash that plunged him into Lake Powell, Utah, and forced him to swim for an hour in order to reach safety.

Despite these tremendous survival stories which could earn any man a made-for-TV movie, Gardner is best known for wrestling the most dangerous man to ever don a wrestling singlet. In one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history, Gardner defeated Aleksandr Karelin in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. What made the upset so incredible was that Karelin, the three-time defending gold medalist, was undefeated for 13 years going into the match. Hell, Karelin hadn’t even given up a single point in six years. Yet somehow, Gardner, a pudgy farm boy from Wyoming, managed to shut down Karelin’s offense, making him an unlikely Olympic Gold Medalist.

After winning Bronze four years later at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Gardner left his wrestling shoes on the mat in a symbolic gesture of retirement. However, the competitive urge persisted and Gardner was convinced to compete in an MMA match at Pride Shockwave 2004. His opponent in that classic freak-fight was Hidehiko Yoshida, a judoka and a fellow Olympic gold medalist. Yoshida was a serious submission threat who entered the fight coming off a win over Mark Hunt and a draw against Royce Gracie. However, Gardner had been training with Bas Rutten which paid off, as he managed to win a rather boring unanimous decision victory over Yoshida. Gardner controlled the match and showed that he had a promising combination of raw skills and incredible strength. However, despite his potential as an MMA fighter, Gardner never competed in the sport again. In an interview with Ariel Helwani, Gardner admitted that he didn’t have the killer instinct for MMA because he didn’t really enjoy hitting people or getting hit.

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Reliving Chuck Wepner vs. Andre the Giant: The Great American Freakshow We Somehow Forgot


(Wepner was tossed out of the ring in the third round, and lost the fight by count-out. Seems legit. Video of the fight is available after the jump.)

If you happen to be a connoisseur of MMA freak show bouts, it’s likely that you recognize June 25, 1976 as the day that “The Greatest of All Time” Muhammad Ali took on Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki in a mixed rules bout. The fight itself may have been an unwatchable display of bizarre kicks from Inoki – who was only allowed to kick if one of his knees was touching the mat – but it’s remembered as one of our sport’s first genuine freak show bouts.

Yet often forgotten by even the most die-hard fight fans among us is that the undercard for Ali vs. Inoki contained a match between Chuck Wepner (the boxer/liquor salesman whose bout against Ali served as the inspiration for the Rocky series) and Andre the Giant broadcast live from Shea Stadium. Before we go any further: Yes, you read that last sentence correctly, and yes, we’ll have video evidence of this after the jump.

By 1976, Andre the Giant had established himself as an unstoppable juggernaut in professional wrestling, to the point that simply getting in a few good shots in a losing effort against him could put another wrestler over. He may not have been professional wrestling’s first “unbeatable giant” character, but he was certainly the most successful and popular portrayal of it. Naturally, when Vince McMahon Sr. faced the dilemma of finding an opponent for the division killer, he got the idea of having him defeat a real fighter. Chuck Wepner – who coincidentally was considering becoming a professional wrestler by this point in his career – was the ideal opponent.

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On This Day in MMA History: Carina Damm, The Amelia Earhart of WMMA Steroid Busts

“On This Day in MMA History” pays tribute to some of the more bizarre and infamous news stories of MMA’s past. The following article was originally published on May 15th, 2008, five years ago today.

Carina Damm Proves That Steroid Controversies Aren’t Just For Men Anymore

It’s almost always a good thing to be the first woman to do something. That’s because usually, if a woman hasn’t done that thing yet, it means that it’s either really hard or men have been real jerks about it and kept women out like ten-year-olds with a clubhouse. Well, Brazilian Carina Damm just etched her name in the record books by becoming the first female MMA figher to test positive for steroids. That is not the clubhouse you want to be hanging out in. Not unless you love powerlifting and back acne.

Sherdog reported today that Damm tested positive for Nandrolone (that’s right, the same thing Sean Sherk tested positive for) after her April 3 victory over Sophie Bagherdai at Femme Fatale Fighting 4 in Los Angeles. This news comes at a particularly bad time for Damm, since she was recently signed to take on Debi Purcell on an Elite XC card on June 27. Purcell seemed annoyed, though not surprised by the news.

“It was obvious she was doing it [steroids], but I was just going to out-cardio and out-muscle her anyways. I’ve been lifting for my whole life, everyday for I don’t know how many years. People have accused me of doing steroids because I have muscles, which isn’t fair. But you can’t go have a normal body and two months later be huge.”

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CagePotato Tribute: The 50 Worst Fighters in UFC History

Every great sport has been built on the backs of men who absolutely sucked at it — athletes whose hapless failures made the champions’ triumphs look even more outstanding by comparison. Baseball has its Mario Mendozas, its Bob Kammeyers, its Pete Rose Jrs. We have our Joe Sons, our Tiki Ghosns, our James Toneys. So in honor of the brave competitors who proved that MMA is even harder than it looks, we humbly present this “tribute” to the worst UFC fighters of all time.

A couple of notes to start: 1) We chose fighters solely based on their performances inside the Octagon. Some of these fighters achieved great things in other organizations, before or after their time in the UFC; for the purposes of this feature, we’re not really interested in that. 2) Instead of ranking one form of suckitude against another, we’ll group the 50 fighters into sections and arrange them chronologically. Use the links below to navigate, and if we omitted anybody notable, please let us know in the comments section.

- Ben Goldstein

Page 1: The Pre-Zuffa Punchlines
Page 2: The One-and-Done Wonders
Page 3: The Repeat Offenders
Page 4: The Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time TUF Guys
Page 5: The Barely-Worth-Mentioning Washouts

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On This Day in MMA History: The Godfather of North American MMA, ‘Judo’ Gene Lebell Was Born in 1932


(Video courtesy of YouTube/TheFightNerd)

If the first MMA fight you ever watched was Stephan Bonnar versus Forrest Griffin, chances are you have no clue who “Judo” Gene LeBell is, but pull up a chair because you’re about to learn about the man in the pink gi.

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Video Timeline: MMA’s Greatest Techniques of the Year, 1993-2011

Nick Diaz Takanori Gomi PRIDE 33 gogoplata
(Ah, 2007. A very fine year for gogoplatas. / Photo via Sherdog)

By Ben Goldstein

Over the last two decades, MMA has evolved so consistently that fighters are still finding new and unexpected ways to destroy their opponents — while causing fans to spit their beers in shock. We decided to take a lil’ spin through MMA history and identify the single most awe-inspiring technique from each year since the sport’s modern inception. We expect you to disagree with us; there’s a comments section just for that purpose. And away we go…

1993: Royce Gracie’s Rear-Naked Choke
vs. Ken Shamrock @ UFC 1, 11/12/93

(Fight starts at the 3:54 mark)

You have to remember that in the early ’90s, a well-placed roundhouse kick to the head was considered the pinnacle of martial arts. What Royce Gracie introduced to fight fans in his early UFC run was something much more practical, less flashy, and a little bit scary. Gracie’s submission of Ken Shamrock — and the similar hold he used to stop Gerard Gordeau in the finals — proved that skill beat size, and pajamas beat man-panties.

1994: Dan Severn’s Suplexes
vs. Anthony Macias @ UFC 4, 12/16/94

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Interview: “Big” John McCarthy Talks His New Book, Dana White and Fighters Crapping Themselves

By Jason Moles

Somewhere in the back your mind is a Mt. Rushmore of MMA, one for fighter and one for non-fighters. On the latter, you’d undoubtedly have Dana White in addition to your pick of Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr., Bruce Buffer, or Joe Rogan. However, you only get to pick two of the guys I’ve listed because the second spot on the mountain is reserved for the most recognized referee in all of MMA, “Big” John McCarthy.

No one has had a bigger impact on the sport of mixed martial arts without having actually fought someone or having the last name of Fertita or White. Few have stepped inside the Octagon more times than McCarthy and almost no one has helped grow the sport from birth to the dark ages and into the mainstream arena that it is in today. And you thought he just asked the fighters if they were ready and raised the winner’s hand?

“Big” John McCarthy was kind enough to sit down with CagePotato recently to discuss his new book ‘Let’s Get It On!‘ which can be purchased on Amazon. The book is 50% MMA history lesson, 50% autobiography, and 100% worth every penny spent to own a copy and every minute spent reading. So, without further adieu, let’s get it on!

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Historic Video of the Day: A Young Frank Trigg Wrestles a Judoka and You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next

Here’s a interesting little piece of video that we haven’t seen circulating in a while: a wrestler and a judoka mix it up at a style vs style martial arts event from 1995. Taking place at something called “ACE World Series of Martial Arts” promoted by Dale Cook, it was something of a precursor to the rise of MMA.

At the time of the video, Trigg was a collegiate wrestler at the University of Oklahoma, still four years away from his MMA debut. It’s also worth noting that Trigg started training in judo in 1995 under Patrick Burris, a two-time Judo Olympian, although whether Twinkle Toes had already started training, or this fight inspired him to start, is unclear.

Either way, it’s an interesting little tidbit of history that isn’t usually included in Frank’s bio (but for some reason, his appearance on the VH1 show “Keptis mentioned, which is just bizarre), so you may have missed it.

Now you know.

[RX]

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