History of MMA in United States: Mississippi

Mississippi MMA
Jason Knight warms up backstage during the UFC 214 event inside the Honda Center on July 29, 2017 in Anaheim, California.

This is the 24th 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. You can find the rest of the series to date here. Each part will chronicle the history of MMA as well as several notable fighters and camps in each state. This is the history of Mississippi MMA. Be sure to check out the previous part on Minnesota.

History of Mississippi MMA

Mississippi, the 20th state to join the Union, has recently made the news a couple of times this summer. The state has also provided some of the hottest young talents in the world of MMA as well.

Mississippi Athletic Commission

The Mississippi Athletic Commission is made of up three board members and 14 deputy commissioners responsible for sanctioning combat sports within the state. Mississippi has been a home for the UFC since it’s early days and is also a pioneer state for an “alternative MMA” as described by their legislation.

Looking to Make Money

After the recent ban lift by the federal government allowing state governments to decide if their state will allow betting on sports, Mississippi was quick to the draw to join behind Nevada and New Jersey to fully legalize sports betting. A handful of other states, mostly in the northeast, have passed bills to legalize sports betting. So how much money could this make for the state? Per a report from postandcourier.com, Delaware made around $875,000 in its first 20 days of legalization during the summer. Most of sports betting money is in American football so when the football season comes, look for that number to greatly increase on a per month income basis.

Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship

Bare Knuckle FC will make its second showing in Biloxi on August 25, 2018. Mississippi is the second state (behind Wyoming) to legalize bare-knuckle fighting. Mississippi has a clause in their laws stating the commission has control over events deemed “special bouts” which is the category being used for bare-knuckle fighting. It is not being run under boxing rules. These laws can be seen under title 75 section 103 of Mississippi code.

The first Bare Knuckle FC event took place on June 02, 2018 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. BKFC 2: A New Era is set to take place at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi. The card is set to include the semi-finals of the heavyweight tournament. Several stars from the MMA world are set to appear such as Bec Rawlings, Chris Lytle, Kendall Grove, and Charles “Felony” Bennett.

Major Organizational Visits to The Magnolia State

Mississippi was an early stopping point for the UFC with two visits all before UFC 20. Bellator has also made a few visits with the state hosting three events.

UFC Make Their Two Very Early Visits

The UFC first came to the state for UFC 15 in October 1997 at the Casino Magic Bay St. Louis in Bay St Louis, Mississippi. The event was headlined by Maurice Smith defeating Tank Abbott for the heavyweight championship. Dan Severn was supposed to be Smith’s opponent but pulled out with an injury. Randy Couture defeated Vitor Belfort in the co-main event to earn the number one contender spot. The event is also important in the UFC’s history as it was the first event to make moves such as hair pulling, head stomps, and kicks to downed opponents illegal.

The Second and Last Visit by the UFC

UFC 19 returned to Casino Magic Bay St. Louis in March 1999. UFC 19 was the television debut of Chuck Liddell who lost by submission to Jeremy Horn. The main event saw Tito Ortiz defeat Guy Mezger by TKO 9:55 into the matchup. This event was also the beginning of the Tito Ortiz/Ken Shamrock feud as the two began arguing after Ortiz’s victory.

Bellator Makes Their Long-Awaited Visit

12 years after the UFC made their last visit, Bellator brought Bellator 38 to Tunica in March 2011. The card featured several “local feature fights.” The main card featured four light heavyweight quarterfinal matchups. Tim Carpenter defeated Daniel Gracie in the main event. D.J Linderman, Rich Hale, and Christian M’Pumbu also won their quarterfinal matchups.

The Last Major Visit to Mississippi

Bellator 120 came to Southaven, Mississippi in May 2014 to an attendance just over 8,000. The card featured a stacked 14 fight lineup with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson defeating Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision. Due to an injury to Eddie Alvarez who was forced to withdraw from the co-main event. Lightweight Will Brooks stepped up defeating Michael Chandler for the interim light heavyweight championship.  The event also marked the Bellator debut of Tito Ortiz who defeated Alexander Shlemenko at the light heavyweight class. Ortiz won by rear naked choke in the second round.

Fighters and Camps In/From Mississippi

The state has contributed a handful of solid UFC fighters. The state also has many casino hotels that host local events such as WFC, Atlas Fights, Summit FC, and Blood & Sand.

The Tandom From D’Iberville

D’Iberville, a city with a population less than 10,000 according to a 2010 census, has given the UFC world two fighters. Jason Knight, with the amazing fighting nickname “Hick Diaz,” is a featherweight with a 4-4 record in the UFC. Two of his wins have brought him Performance of the Night awards. He has also collected a Fight of the Night award. The former Atlas Fights featherweight champion earned his Fight of the Night with Jim Alers at UFC on Fox: Holm vs. Shevchenko in July 2016.

“The Vanilla Gorilla” Chase Sherman is also a D’Iverville native. The UFC heavyweight 2-4 in the organization and is widely known for his social media presence. Sherman did earn a Fight of the Night award for his second round knockout of Rashad Coulter at UFC 211.

Alan Belcher MMA Club

The Alan Belcher MMA Club is located in, as you could guess, D’Iberville. Alan Belcher, a former UFC veteran of 15 fights founded the fight team which is home to the state’s top talents. He also won two Submission of the Night awards and two Fight of the Night awards. Though he lost his UFC 100 bout with Yoshihiro Akiyama by split decision, the pair took home Fight of the Night on one of the most stacked cards in UFC’s history. The team also offers after-school programs, summer camps, and training in individual art forms.


Part 25 of the 50 states series will be the state of Missouri. Check back with MMASucka to keep up with the series.

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