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Is MMA Here to Stay?

What's the future of MMA? Is it just a flash in the pan sport that will eventually die out, or is it the wave of the future? Many have differing opinions on this phenomenon that has become the darling of Pay Per View audiences everywhere.
Will it ever replace boxing as the fighting sport of choice? With talented new fighters signing on every day, it just doesn't seem likely.
So, what's all the hype about with mixed martial arts? Where did it come from, and how has it become as popular as it is today?

History of Mixed Martial Arts

In the beginning, there were the Gracies.

Carlos and Helio Gracie began their first jiujitsu academy in 1925, in Brazil. Redifining and adding to the art of judo, which had been taught to them by Japanese judo champion, Mitsudo Maeda, the Gracies early on took the judo they learned and morphed it into their own fighting style by adding locks, chokes, strikes and submissions to the discipline.

To gain more students and make a name for themselves, they began having competitions in which they would challenge all martial artists far and wide, from all fighting styles. Thus, was born, the "Gracie Challenge". These matches gained huge popularity in Rio de Janeiro, soon becoming popular enough to be held in soccer stadiums. The draw was the fact that the Gracie's style of fighting proved invincible against opponents of all styles, sizes and skill levels. Soon, the art of Gracie Jiujitsu began attracting opponents from all corners of the globe, especially Japan. Martial artists from every style and discipline came to defeat this new system of fighting.
As the Gracie style was shown to be superior, and the Gracies unbeatable, their number of students grew, and the Gracies were able to open more schools, a few of them also in the United States.

Beginning of the UFC

Once in the US, Rorion continued the Gracie challenge and took it to a whole new level, offering $100,000.00 to anyone from any style that could beat him or his brothers.
This concept took off like wildfire. Competitors from around the globe showed up to win the money and defeat the Gracie system. Following this success and wanting to capitalize on the sport's potential, Rorion, along with two media executives, Bob Meyrowitz and Art Davie, together established the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

In the beginning, there were few rules, no weight classes and no time limits for bouts. The fights took place in a cage which was called The Octagon, and winners were determined by knock out, submission or stoppage by the referee.
The fights were televised by Pay Per View, where they gained an even larger audience.
In the beginning the contests were viewed as somewhat of an oddity in the world of sports.

Flash forward to 2001, and the UFC had gone through its share of controversy and opposition from certain segments of the public. It was considered by many pure brutal spectacle, and not a sport. Many states began to ban UFC events, making it more and more difficult for the organization to gain legitimacy and also to find viable fighting venues.
That all began to change in 1993 when it was bought by Zuffa, owned and run by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta. With their experience in media promotions, they repackaged and revamped the entire concept of ultimate fighting, making it more mainstream and palatable to the public. With UFC president Dana White at the helm, the UFC soon cleaned up its image and regained popularity.

The Ultimate Fighter

The next move proved ingenious; the creation of The Ultimate Fighter reality series.
In The Ultimate Fighter, 16 young men of the same weight class would have to compete and fight each other through eliminations to be the last man standing, thus becoming The Ultimate Fighter. The series became so popular that the UFC gained a whole new legion of fans. From that point on, Pay Per View sales began to skyrocket, and the UFC franchise became even more popular worldwide. With each new season of The Ultimate Fighter creating new young fighters for the public to get to know and embrace, the sport has grown exponentially, with no end in sight.

It was estimated that in 2007, the UFC made a staggering $321,000,000.00 in gross earnings. Having created household names and superstars like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Ken Shamrock, Curtis "Rampage" Jackson, Matt Hughes, George St. Pierre and Anderson Silva, there appears to be no end in sight for the popularity of mixed martial arts and the UFC.

Today's ultimate fighter is a well trained, thoroughly conditioned, multi disciplined, strategizing athlete, and the level of talent and ability far surpasses that of the fighters of the past, simply because the new guys are so well rounded. Attention is carefully paid to all aspects of the sport; striking, submissions, ground game, and much training time is spent on intense conditioning. The result of that has been awesome, exciting fights with well rounded, talented fighters, and it is this that has caused the sport to now rival the popularity of boxing on Pay Per View.
In fact, that's the argument lately; will the popularity of mixed martial arts ever overtake that of boxing? In my opinion, it already has. Boxing, while certainly an exciting and popular sport, is pretty much old school to many. 'The sweet science', boxing, is now viewed as one dimensional, while in UFC fights, you get to witness all aspects of fighting. Ultimate fighting is the fresh, young, new kid on the block, with some big muscles and a pocket full of skills.

Is MMA here to stay? I would have to say, yes. With the fighters becoming more and more skilled, dedicated and well known daily, there is no end in sight for this amazing contest of physical might, skill, strategy and toughness that is known as ultimate fighting. I think that it only gets bigger and better from here!

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