50 Part Series of the History of MMA in United States: California

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This is the fifth of a 50 part series documenting the history and the current state of MMA for each of the 50 states in the United States of America. Each part will chronicle the history of MMA as well as several notable fighters and camps in each state. States will be completed in alphabetical order. Be sure to check out the previous part on Arkansas. This is the history of California MMA.

History of California MMA

California, the 31st state to join the Union, has an absolute wealth of MMA talent and camps from the early days of MMA all the way to the current. The state with the largest population in the United States offers quite the talent pool of fighters past and present. The California State Athletic Commission is also copied on its weight cutting measures. The fighters and camps within the state’s borders can arguably be called the greatest overall of any state.

California State Athletic Commission and Its Effects on MMA

The CSAC began sanctioning MMA bouts in 2006 with the Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie card being the first in the sanctioning age of MMA in the state. The commission actually voted in early 2000 for regulations for the sport of MMA which would later become the bases for the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts accepted today. It was determined, after being sent to the state capital, that the CSAC did not have jurisdiction over the sport so their votes were deemed worthless on the matter. The eight-person board is headed by Executive Officer Andy Foster.

During the summer of 2017, the CSAC unveiled its 10-point plan that would address the ever-rising issue of weight cutting in the sport. Some of the major points of the plan involve stiffer fines for those who miss weight. The creation of weight classes is also one of the main points. The plan adds a 165-pound and 175-pound division while eliminating the 170 pound weight class. Another major point to the plan is fight day weigh-ins. If a fighter is more than 10 percent of their previous day weigh in weight, the commission will recommend they move up in weight class if they return to the state.

Event and Bout Highlights Within the State’s History

Strikeforce beat UFC to the punch hosting the first state sanctioned event on March 10, 2006. The event would occur at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Hometown favorite Frank Shamrock would headline against Cesar Gracie. Shamrock took the victory with a first round TKO. This would also mark the debut of MMA legend Cung Le. Other Californians such as Gilbert Melendez and Nate Diaz would also compete on the card with both earning victories. This card would set an all-time attendance record for an MMA event in North America with 18,265. The event sold 17,465 of those tickets. This is still a record for an indoor MMA event in the United States.

The UFC would follow shortly behind hosing their own event on April 15, 2006. UFC 59: Reality Check would be headlined by the heavyweight title bout between champion Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia. Sylvia would claim the title with a first round TKO. This event would feature the other Diaz brother, Nick Diaz, who would lose a decision to Sean Sherk in the co-main event. The first of trilogy fights between Forrest Griffin and California’s Tito Ortiz would take place with Ortiz getting his only win of the trilogy at this bout. UFC 59 would not be able to crack Strickforce’s attendance record only bringing in 13,814 into the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.

Since these debut events, the UFC has been to the state of California 26 times. Bellator has held 31 events within the state. The UFC has UFC 227 planned for Los Angeles in August 2018 at the Staples Center. Bellator has Bellator 205 slated for September 29, 2018, at the SAP Center in San Jose.

The Fighters and Camps that Make Up California

California can arguably win the “who’s who” of MMA fighters if all states were pitted against each other. No one embodies the image of California to people outside of the state like “The California Kid” Urijah Faber. The UFC Hall of Famer Faber is one of the major players in getting smaller sized fighters into the spotlight. Not only does Faber hold the UFC bantamweight division records for most finishes, most submissions, and most wins but he is responsible for running one of the most talent filled camps in all of MMA, Team Alpha Male. The camp has developed such fighters as former champion Cody Garbrandt, Chad Mendes, Paige VanZant, among many others.

Another very successful team in the state is that of The Alliance MMA. Faber’s feud with Alliance member, Dominick Cruz, is not only one of the biggest MMA feuds in the state’s history but in the history of MMA as a whole. Cruz, a former WEC and UFC bantamweight champion, trains alongside his own cast of standout fighters. Those include former Bellator champion Phil Davis, KSW heavyweight champion Phil De Fries, and knockout artist, Jeremy Stephens.

There is one other team you must mention if you speak of MMA in California. That would be the Caesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fight team. This is the home team of Nick and Nate Diaz. Other standouts on the team include fellow Scrap Pack members Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez. UFC welterweight rising star Yancy Mederiros and Glory kickboxing star and Bellator middleweight Joe Schilling also call this team home.

Part six of the 50 states series will be the state of Colorado. Check back with MMASucka to keep up with the series.

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Matt's love and passion for martial arts began at the age of four with Taekwondo. Matt later trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu while serving nearly ten years in law enforcement. Matt has just recently discovered his passion of writing on mixed martial arts.

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