Mixed Martial Arts has come an extremely far way since its most basic style was introduced in the 1880s. NHB fighting, which stands for "no holds barred," took place as early as the 1880's and incorporated different types of wrestling techniques. The first report of this new conglomerate of styles that we now call mixed martial arts took place in 1887 and displayed a classic match up: wrestler vs. boxer. John L Sullivan, who was the heavyweight world boxing champion was set to face his long time trainer, William Muldoon, who was a Greco-Roman wrestling champion. Thus the sport was born.
Within two minutes of the opening bell, Muldoon slammed the boxing champion to the ground. Years later, other forms of NHB fighting sprung up in London and were called Baritsu which was founded by Edward William Barton-Wright. Bartitsu went outside of the framework of simply wrestling vs. boxing and included other disciplines such as judo, jiu jitsu, kickboxing, and savate. This is when MMA really started to take form as we know it today. Slowly and surely this idea of combined martial arts grew in popularity from the late 1800's and into the mid 1900's. Bruce Lee was an advocate of combining techniques from multiple martial arts to form a system philosophy that was well rounded. His system was called Jeet Kune Do. Dana White, who would eventually become the president of the most popular MMA league, stated that Bruce Lee was the "father of mixed martial arts."
This idea of mixed martial arts has been around for centuries, but it lacked a framework for consistent competition. This is when the UFC started in the 1990's and would grow to be one of the most popular sports for young adults. The UFC gained publicity from jiu jitsu legend Royce Gracie, when he won the first UFC tournament. Viewers were amazed that the minority, yet calculated movements of a smaller fighter could be so devastating upon a larger, and stronger man. Regardless, the framework was set, and the sky was the limit for the UFC and mixed martial arts as a sport.
The early UFC rules were gray, and did not prioritize safety among fighters. The original tagline of the UFC was, "There are no rules!" Of course that was exaggerated a bit, but the graduation of their marketing tool held valid. The rules were simple – no biting, and no eye gouging. Techniques such as groin strikes, head butting, fish-hooking and more were frowned upon, but were not deemed as illegal techniques. In the late 1990's the UFC was surrounded by controversy regarding the lack of rules and disregard for competitor safety. Through political campaigns, thirty-six states banned NHB fights. The UFC knew the longevity of their business success was contingent upon reform. Between the events of UFC 12 and UFC 21, weight classes were introduced, gloves were mandatory, and rules were added to make groin strikes, head butting, fish-hooking, and many more illegal.
After the UFC went through this reformation process, they started to gain respect as a sport and not simply a barbaric competition. Athletic Commissions around the country started to realize that the sport was not nearly as barbaric as it was in the past, and they put a huge emphasis on the safety of the competitors. From here on out, UFC events were sanctioned in several states. Although the UFC has exploded into a worldwide interest, it is still banned in several states today which legislators and attorneys are working to disband.