Colorado, the birthplace of MMA?

UFC 23 - Birthplace of MMA
SAITAMA - FEBRUARY 26: General view of the Octagon ring before the match with Takeya Mizugaki and Chris Cariaso during the UFC 144 event at Saitama Super Arena on February 26, 2012 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

“Fighting – I don’t care what color you are, or what language you speak, or what country you live in, we’re all human beings and fighting’s in our DNA. We get it and we like it.” – Dana White, president of the UFC.

As Mr. White suggests, fighting is in our DNA which translates across the whole world regardless of what nation or ethnicity one is. As humans, we’ve been fighting for as long as we can remember. Dating back centuries, I believe it’s one of our primal instincts to want to fight and be captivated by the art of fighting. 

Concepts of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) have been around since ancient civilization – the concept of mixing different forms of fighting with many different variations. Whether it be mixing together striking with kicks, punches along with the grappling such as throws or pinning opponents to the floor and looking for submissions. While these concepts existed, the term MMA was not used until the 1990s. Fans of the sport can try their luck by betting on MMA and with DraftKings Sportsbook Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other states it is now legalized.

MMA, as we know it today, is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world with millions of fans tuning in from every corner of the world, rivalling some of the most popular sports like basketball and football. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has been and still is the biggest and most successful MMA promotion. They have been the driving force of the growth of MMA for the better part of the last two decades. Under the UFC president Dana White since 2001, the company has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. 

So where is the birthplace of MMA? Colorado?

UFC 1

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) held their very first event on November 12th 1993 at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. So does that make Colorado, the birthplace of MMA? Arguably yes. The citizens of Colorado can proudly claim their city gave birth to MMA and I’ll explain why.

The UFC held an eight-man tournament with fighters from all different types of discipline to compete against one another from karate, sumo wrestler, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), boxer to wrestler and so on to see which was the superior fighting discipline. Whilst this was the concept, the rules within the octagon enabled fighters any way of mixing in different martial arts to get the win. Hence you got MMA. Granted, there wasn’t much mixing different disciplines because every fighter was determined to prove their martial art was the best. The concept of mixing in different disciplines was just new and no one had deciphered it so it wasn’t utilized. Everyone including the fighters, the fans, spectators, anyone involved in the sport were figuring MMA out as time went on. 

Is Colorado the birthplace of MMA?

You look at the sport of MMA now which is constantly evolving still and realize not many fighters can get away with being single disciplined in their fighting approach. Everyone needs to know how to strike, wrestle, BJJ, defend takedowns, etc; or they’ll be exposed in quick fashion. Every hole in their game must be filled. However, I would say there are a few fighters who are so dominant and levels ahead in one discipline that they have massive success such as Khabib Nurmagomedov with his wrestling and Israel Adesanya with his kickboxing. It’s not like they don’t use other disciplines, they’re competent in other areas of MMA but they don’t have to use them as much since they’re so supreme in their own respective style. I like to view them as specialists. Perhaps a little throwback to UFC 1 when everyone was a specialist in their particular martial art. 

Now you may look back at UFC 1 and be shocked at the pure brutality of the fighting that took place. When you watch UFC 1 and compare it to MMA today, they could not be any more worlds apart from each other. I have always thought that no other sport has evolved as quickly as MMA in the last 20 years. No one knew what to expect for the first UFC event.

The first UFC fight ever showcased sumo wrestler Tela Tuli got his tooth kicked out by Dutch karate star Gerard Gordeau which pretty much set the tone for what was to come. It was violent and as a result, the marketability of the early UFC was very much based on shock value. The UFC marketed their brand as a “no holds barred” meaning that anything goes and no rules or restrictions would get in the way of a pure, brutal fight. And it was bloody brutal. There were only two rules, no eye-gouging and no biting meaning yes, fighters could go for nut shots. Matches could only end by submission, knockout or corner stoppage. Basically, there was no time limit and it only ended until the other guy could not continue to fight.

In the end boxing, karate, wrestling, all the martial arts that came forward at UFC 1, were all beaten by BJJ when a 170 pound “small guy” Royce Gracie strolled through and proved to the whole combat world that fighting wasn’t just about punching and kicking but ground game was equally important. He wrapped them up like a Cobra on the ground and choked them out with BJJ submissions. It was easy for Gracie once the fight hit the mat because no one understood the power of BJJ. That set off a whole generation to practice BJJ and in a sense MMA because it showed that fighters had to be competent in all different areas of fighting. Strikers started to learn grappling and the ways of BJJ whilst competent grapplers improved their striking flaws. 

Colorado was the birthplace of MMA.

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