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History Of Mixed Martial Arts
"If you want your face beaten and well smashed and your arms broken, contact Carlos Gracie at this address.”

With that newspaper ad in the 1920's, Carlos Gracie and his family laid down a gauntlet for all those who questioned the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in a real fight. Even heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis got an invite when at the height of his powers in the 40's, one that he never responded to.

And those who did respond to the ad got a lesson they would not soon forget, usually from the lanky and unintimidating Helio Gracie, who won challenge match after challenge match against fighters from different combat sports disciplines over the years in bouts that were soon dubbed ‘Vale Tudo', for anything goes.

By 1951, these matches had gained national attention, with Gracie's bout against Japan's Masahiko Kimura drawing 120,000 people to Maracana Stadium in Brazil. The Gracies were national celebrities, even garnering television shows such as Vale Tudo on TV and Heroes of The Ring.

And while the Gracies were doing well at home, the American market was tougher to crack, until 1991, when California advertising executive Art Davie publicized a videotape entitled Gracies in Action which featured the family's challenge matches.

Sales of the tape went through the roof, and Davie and Helio's son Rorion came upon an idea to put together an event pitting eight fighters of different martial arts styles against each other in a tournament format to determine which style was best.

Entitled, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, fans packed McNichols Arena in Denver, Colorado in November 12, 1993 and saw a skinny kid from Brazil, Royce Gracie, beat bigger, stronger, and faster opponents with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to win the tournament.

And not only was a star born that night, but so was a sport – mixed martial arts. The UFC shows became must see TV for fans of combat sports, but in the early years, the lack of state regulation and a significant set of rules led to the show being taken off cable television.

But after a series of ‘dark years', a company named Zuffa (which is Italian for "fight”) took over the nearly bankrupt company in 2001, a set of unified mixed martial arts rules were implemented, and suddenly MMA was no longer a spectacle, but a sport.

Along the way, television got back on board, with a hit reality show, ‘The Ultimate Fighter', truly bringing MMA into the mainstream in the United States, while events around the world continue to pack in the fans from the UK to Japan.

As for the action in the Octagon or ring, fighters have evolved, knowing that one particular style will not work in competition on a consistent basis. This means fighters must learn boxing, wrestling, kickboxing, and jiu-jitsu just to compete on a level playing field with similarly skilled athletes.

"A bunch of television guys got together with the Gracie family and wanted to answer the age-old question of which fighting style is the best,” said current UFC President Dana White. "Could a boxer beat a wrestler? Could a karate guy beat a kung fu guy? They put on their first event and it was so successful that they did another and another and another. What they never realized is that they were creating a sport. Because the answer to that age-old question is…no one fighting style is the best. You need a little piece of everything to be a complete fighter.”

Needless to say, MMA has come a long way and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

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