The history of mixed martial arts goes as far back as the martial arts themselves. Those who study the way of the warrior have always sought to hone their skills. Whether it was to learn more about their opponents, or to adopt the techniques themselves, many practitioners would observe arts that they had no personal knowledge of, and some would even seek out training in these disciplines. The earliest example of an organized martial art that had a broad mix of different standing and grappling elements was probably Pankration in the Greek Olympic Games (around 648 BC). They have continued to evolve in both eastern and western cultures ever since, with official and unofficial events held all over the world for centuries.
The recent return of Mixed Martial Arts to the mainstream was helped by the popularity of a competitive sport called Vale Tudo in Brazil. Though more raw than modern MMA, Vale Tudo briefly made the transition from underground sport to open spectator event in the late 1980's and early 1990's. This inspired some members of the famous Gracie fighting family to bring the sport to the United States, but in a safer and more consumer friendly package. The Gracie's helped found the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993, which gained a foothold in North America. Ironically, the safety rules adopted by the UFC were shunned by the major Vale Tudo organizations (The WVC and the IVC), and the sport mostly went back to its underground roots by the late 90's after the state of Sao Paulo refused to sanction the events in Brazil.
The UFC was joined by new Mixed Martial Arts organizations springing up all over the world, the largest early booms happening mostly in Japan, Canada, and the U.S. Now there are dozens of MMA organizations, all with their own ideas of the best rules, safety features, fighter promotion, and compensation.
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