Evolution of MMA
The process of natural selection has proven over and again that given the right environmental factors and a combination of climate, timing and genetics, nature will to streamline an organism’s most natural path into its 2.0 version. Refute science if you will but, the need for consistent growth and adaptation is the unmistakable and well documented process by which earth decides the survival of a species. The vast expanses of MMA are no exception as they continue to grow and evolve in an almost Darwinian fashion.
Let’s begin at the dawn of an age called the early 90’s. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) then called NHB was a wild landscape born of the need for a competitive outlet which often resulted in primal and sometimes unrefined displays of theory-based techniques. This is not to say that credible representatives for its given disciplines were absent, quite the contrary, but in stark comparison to those of today, many participants were relative hobbyists and streetfighters interspersed with a few genuine articles.
Of those who would go on to certify themselves as the real deal however, one name stands above all others. The Gracie family ruled the wilds of the NHB period like a t-rex on flakka. Boxers, Kickboxers, Judoka and bouncers all fell prey and as their legacy spread, so too did the need to level the sports playing field and unto this, came the art of ground and pound.
With MMA’s growing popularity came the need to recruit an exciting new talent pool which would not only keep its growing fan base engaged, but solidify their continued support using patriotism as the hook. Since UFC one, Brazil had been its dominating force, but U.S. consumers, sponsors and potential investors required more U.S. heroes at the helm. This meant that competitors had to be stronger and more athletic than had ever been known prior and with that, came evolution.
Elite wrestlers, who were by now cross-training on a broader scale found that by establishing positional dominance, controlling hips using the fence and negating sub attempts they could invariably rain down heavy shots to shut down the game of their Brazilian counterparts. The Heavyweight tourney of UFC 14 heralded the arrival of the next super predators and names like Kerr, Randleman and Coleman would go on to establish the longest reign of the sports still young history. As all things do, time changes and the winds of change would soon blow.
Coming Full Circle
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) today are part and partial of modern sports. UFC is known to many as both a discipline and a brand (I always love those who ask if I “Train UFC”) and contrary to those of the past, today’s athletes are a continual product of evolving science, performance and pursuit to see what is truly possible in combat sports. To this end, fantastical displays of technical striking are now on almost weekly display thanks in part to the sprawl and brawl efforts of kickboxer Maurice Smith. (Who could forget his monumental KO of Mark Coleman!?)
No longer just competing to prove or disprove theory and or familial pride, fighters today are personalities, each with their unique backstories. They are celebrities and far beyond what any of their predecessors could have ever imagined.
Modern strikers now exhibit solid standing game balanced with an advanced repertoire of wrestling and high level BJJ yet, it is only the latest progression of man’s quest to wage war for sport. Where will we go next?