MMA finds its history in ancient sports like pankration and wrestling and more recent sports like boxing, muay thai, karate, jiu-jitsu, Taekwondo, sombo, and judo. In 1993, a tournament called UFC 1 was held in Denver to answer the question of which martial art is the best in the world. At that time, unlike today, various combat sport practitioners were only versed in one discipline. So, the idea was born that if world-class athletes from each discipline were allowed to fight, the world would once-and-for-all know which combat sport was the best.
At that time, the sport did not have some of the rules or the weight classes that it does today, as it has matured. But much to everyone’s surprise, it wasn’t the much bigger and more physically imposing men who won the tournament. Instead, it was a slender 175-pound Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert from a renowned combat sporting family named Royce Gracie. He continually defeated much larger men by taking them down and putting them in submission holds most of the world had not seen.
I’ve been a fan of MMA since the early days of the sport, renting DVDs years ago of MMA pioneers Royce Gracie, Tank Abbott, Kimo, Ken Shamrock, and Don Frye. I also was a big fan of Pride Fighting during its run.
Today, there remains much controversy around the sport due to what I believe are two primary reasons. One, many people simply do not understand the rules in place to help make MMA safer for the athletes. Two, it’s a new sport and will take some time and the kind of exposure that main events on FOX will provide to quiet some critics.
Things began to change for MMA when Spike TV aired the first season of the reality series The Ultimate Fighter in 2005. The show followed a group of UFC hopefuls as they competed for a contract with the organization. Fighters divided into different training camps and at the end of each episode a member from one team fought someone from the other team. The winner would stay in the competition, and the loser would go home. The show marked the first time viewers could watch MMA outside of pay-per-view and helped to educate viewers about the UFC. The Ultimate Fighter served as a catalyst to make MMA a mainstream, popular sport, and great advertising and publicity for the sport followed the advent of the show. The tipping point of popularity came when Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar stood toe-to-toe in an epic battle of heart and will in the first Ultimate Fighter championship bout.
In the US, MMA has gained mainstream popularity, and the UFC specifically now has cable-television and pay-per-view contracts on six continents. Programming can also be found on Spike, Versus, FOX, and ESPN in over 170 countries worldwide. There are several flourishing MMA organizations in existence apart from UFC, such as K-1, DREAM, and Bellator. These are just a few of many, as the sport now has smaller regional shows all over the world.
Mixed martial artists are also acquiring celebrity status and accepting lucrative endorsements for gear, workouts, and dietary supplements. MMA has a presence with DVDs (nearly all UFC events have been released on DVD), video games (e.g., UFC: Tapout, UFC: Throwdown, UFC: Personal Trainer), books (autobiographies and histories), and even action figures (e.g., of fighters such Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Matt Hughes, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, and Anderson Silva). Further, MMA personalities are gaining exposure in various forms of media. For instance, Tim Kennedy made a guest appearance on an episode of “Deadliest Warrior” on Spike TV, simulating combat tactics.
 Jonathan Strickland, “How the Ultimate Fighting Championship Works: The Future of the UFC,” How Stuff Works, How Stuff Works: A Discovery Company, accessed Aug. 31, 2011, http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/ufc6.htm.
“The following is taken from an article at http://pastormark.tv/2011/11/09/a-christian-evaluation-of-mixed-martial-arts Dated: November 9, 2011 written by Pastor Mark Driscoll. Its a lot to read, but check it out if you have the time. Its good stuff and will help ya learn more about MMA. It will also help you better understand why The UFC is so exciting to the folks in your community right next door to your church.”