History of MMA in United States: Georgia

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This is the tenth 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. This is the history of Georgia MMA. Be sure to check out the previous part on Florida.

History of Georgia MMA

Georgia, the fourth state to join the Union, has contributed some successful fighters to the world of the UFC and has hosted events for all of the big organizations. The state has also given the world of MMA a UFC Hall of Famer and the man arguably responsible for helping save the UFC.

Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission

The Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission is the governing body for combat sports within the state. The commission is made up of five commissioners with one appointed as chairperson. Georgia is one of the states with an actual requirement to apply for a professional license to fight within its state. You must have competed in at least five amateur fights and three of those must be state-sanctioned official events. The commission does not make it a requirement but recommends having a winning record before applying for a license in their state.

Major Events in the State of Georgia

The UFC has made Georgia home for six events and Bellator has been within the state on two occasions.

UFC 11: The Proving Ground was the organization’s first venture into the state of Georgia. The event took place in the Augusta Civic Center on September 20, 1996, in Augusta, GA. The 4,500 in attendance witnessed Mark Coleman win the eight-man tournament by default. This was the only time a tournament winner was crowned by default. All of the alternate fighters were injured and no one was able to move on to the final round with Coleman who won both of his contests by submission. Tank Abbott was also in the tournament but lost in the semi-finals to Scott Ferrozzo by unanimous decision.

Bellator in Georgia

Bellator has only hosted one actual event within the state. The other event held was part of the Monster Energy Bellator MMA Fight Series. In previous series, the events were held prior to NASCAR races in the centerfield of the race tracks. For the 2018 series, the events were held prior to motorbike Supercross events. Bellator 88 was held on February 07, 2013 in Duluth, GA at The Arena at Gwinnett Center. The opening round of the season eight featherweight tournament was held as well as a middleweight title match for the vacant title. Alexander Shlemenko knocked out Maiquel Falcao in the second round to win the championship. Shlemenko kept the title until he was defeated by Brandon Hasley at Bellator 126.

Three bouts took place at the at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA. The event occurred on March 03, 2018 just prior to the supercross races. Joseph Creer defeated Devorious Tubbs in the main event by split decision.

Fighters and Camps In/From Georgia

Georgia has produced some heavy hitters and has some young talent on the rise as well. The state is also home to a Straight Blast Gym International and American Top Team Atlanta.

Jared “Nite Train” Gooden is the number one ranked pound for pound fighter in the state of Georgia per Tapology rankings. The 24-year-old future star is currently 11-2 in his pro career winning his last four in a row for the National Fighting Championship organization based out of Georgia. “Georgia is a very martial arts devoted state. Most events are always jam-packed,” Gooden told MMASucka. “A lot of fans train at a gym or have martial arts backgrounds. They have very good knowledge of what’s going on in the fight. But even the fighters of Georgia are MMA fans too. A lot of us go to every event, support our friends and teammates, and just love to see an epic fight.”

The current NFC welterweight champion also feels he can help the state sell out a major event. “I believe the next major show would be sold out, especially if it featured The Nite Train,” Gooden stated. UFC 201: Lawler vs. Woodley, which took place on July 30, 2016, was the last major event within the state. Gooden was in attendance for that show and is hoping the next time there is a major show within the state, he is on the billing.

Georgia’s MMA Hall of Famer

UFC Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin is also from the state of Georgia. The former University of Georgia police officer had a record of 9-2 before joining the first The Ultimate Fighter. His only two losses came to Jeremy Horn and Dan Severn by decision in his MMA debut. Griffin’s TUF 1 Finale bout with Stephan Bonnar is credited by many for saving the UFC under the Zuffa banner. Griffin ended his career with a record of 19-7, a UFC light heavyweight title reign, and an induction into the UFC Hall of Fame.

MMA Gyms in Georgia

One of the most dominant fight teams in MMA history, American Top Team, has a gym in Atlanta. American Top Team Atlanta is run by BJJ ace Roan “Jucao” Carneiro. Carneiro is a veteran of the UFC and holds notable victories in his career over Mark Munoz and Rich Clementi. Another popular gym in the state is Straight Blast Gym Buford, which is the home gym of Jared Gooden. The gym is run by 2016 Georgia Martial Arts Trainer of the Year Phillipe Gentry.

Part 11 of the 50 states series will be the state of Hawaii. 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.

1 comment

  • Tom Nguyen says:

    Thanks for writing this. I was an MMA fighter in Georgia from 2004-2009, and I’m proud to be part of Georgia MMA history. There’s more to Georgia MMA history than Forrest Griffin and Jared Gooden.

    I run, a website with a Georgia MMA fight video library and MMA gym directory.

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