The history of MMA can be traced back to the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which was the first MMA event in the United States. The UFC has been sold and bought several times by several different people. Today however, few people know how it all got started.
The Gracie family created the UFC back in 1995. The purpose of the UFC was much different back then than what it is today. Today, the UFC is a legitimate sport where all the fighters get paid and thus are able to train full time as their job. But when it all began, the only person receiving a paycheck was the winner of each event.
The Gracie family first created the UFC with one purpose in mind; to showcase their arts effectiveness to the world to open their eyes as to the effectiveness of ground grappling as the most effective form of self-defense known to man. Before the first UFC, most people thought a striker (such as a boxer, or Karate practitioner) would easily defeat a grappler (such as a wrestler, etc.). That is why the Gracie's felt it necessary to create an event such as the UFC. It was the only way they could possibly change the thinking and mindset of millions of people and martial artists from around the world. And that's exactly what the first UFC did.
The star of the first UFC was the youngest of the Gracie brothers, Royce Gracie. They chose Royce to showcase their art because he was the least skilled, smallest, and youngest member of the family. They didn't want people to think such things as, "he won because of his size or strength", or "he won because he is bigger than the other guys", etc.
The world was taken by storm and the martial arts world was turned upside down on its head when they first witnessed Royce Gracie (then only 19 years old) take on and defeat much larger and much stronger grown men many who held black belts in other martial arts styles.
Today the UFC has weight pisions, fighters wear protective gloves, mouthpiece, etc. and only fight one fight per event. But when the UFC first began, things were much different. Back then it was an 8 man tournament in which fighters fought fight after fight until they either lost or advanced to the semi-finals. There were no weight classes, no protective gloves, no mouthpiece required, no time limits, and no rules. So the strategies played out by each fighter were much different than what we see today as a result of these very different early rules.
Royce Gracie shocked the world when he won match after match of the first UFC and advanced tot he semi-finals and then onto the finals eventually to win the first ever UFC championship title belt. A few months later, Royce came back to enter and win the second UFC in the same impressive fashion. Royce also entered the tthird UFC but had to withdraw in the middle of the event due to total exhaustion after his fight with Kimo.
Then in UFC 4, the "superfight" was created. Mainly, because Ken Shamrock didn't get a chance to fight Royce in UFC 3 due to his withdrawal and was so disappointed that he himself withdrew from the event. So they created a superfight in UFC 4 just for Ken to have a chance to redeem himself from his early loss against Royce Gracie in UFC 1.
After UFC 4, the Gracie family felt that they had accomplished what they had set out to do by creating the UFC in the first place and that was to spread the word of the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-jitsu (sometimes known as Brazilian Jiu-jitsu). By that time people were beating down the doors so to speak at their school wanting to sign up to learn this most effective style of martial art. In fact, there were more people signing up at that time than there were instructor's. It wasn't long before some of the Gracie members began to branch out on their own and start their own schools and then their own associations.
The first to do this was none other than Rickson Gracie, who created the Rickson Gracie Jiu-jitsu Association. Representative's were established across the country and soon Gracie Jiu-jitsu was within the grasp of most people living near a major city in the United States.
The UFC kept going after the Gracie family sold it. However, it would be an uphill battle before the UFC would come to be known as the sport we see today. In fact, most of the States banned the UFC from being hosted in their state. Eventually, all but a few of the United States had outlawed the UFC because they felt it was too barbaric and bloody, which was a direct result of the lack of rules in the early UFC's.
The UFC changed hands several times over the years, and eventually was bought up by the Fertetti brothers and Zuffa entertainment with Dana White as the president. Dana came from background in boxing and had been a promoter of that sport. He convinced the Fertetti brothers to invest in his dream of reviving the UFC and building it up to the point where it is today; one of the fastest growing sports in the world and is believed by experts to someday even surpass the popularity of football in America. Time will tell, but the sport is well on its way.
Dana was able to work closely with the boxing commission to create new rules and regulations including time limits, weight pisions, and mandatory equipment such as gloves, mouthpiece and cup to protect the fighters and help prevent serious injury. Once Dana had satisfied the boxing commission, he was able to then work towards gaining the respect and acceptance of most of the state's that had once banned the sport. One by one, each state began to come around and state by state, the UFC started to make a comeback. Now the sport is once again legal in almost every state.
Dana's next step was to get increase the frequency that the events would take place. Up until that time the UFC would happen once, maybe twice a year. With Dana's help, the UFC began to air more and more frequently. Today the sport is on pay-per-view almost once a month!
Dana's next step would be to get the sport on reality t.v. He was able to convince Spike t.v. to give his reality t.v. show a shot and the reality t.v. show, TUF (The Ultimate Fighter) was born. This was a huge step forward in the progress of the sport. Today, TUF is watched by millions from all over the world. A few years ago, no one knew what the UFC was. Now its hard to find someone who hasn't at the very least heard the name UFC.
Dana went on to create memorabilia with the UFC logo on them such as coffee cups, t-shirts, back packs and more. They even sell UFC action figures now! He also went on to work with game developers to create the UFC fighting game for Xbox 360 and PS3 where fans can play as their favorite fighter or reenact act historic matches that actually took place.
Over the years since the founding of the UFC, other events like it have come and gone most notably Japan's "Pride" event. Along side the UFC, there are other events like it still standing such as WEC, Strike Force, and others. In the future more MMA style events may come and go as well but the sport of MMA is here to stay.