When we left off the British had developed catch wrestling, which later became recognized as “freestyle” and carnival wrestlers had moved to the Americas.
The Leap to Pro-Wrestling
The popularity of carnival wrestlers was at an all-time high. With this came the ability to make a living for many of them. Unfortunately, this also came with wear and tear on the body. The spirit of competition was what sparked the initial popularity, but a change in mindset for some wrestling started to take place.
Some camps began to view wrestling a bit differently from their predecessors. These performers would up the drama and extravagance of their matches, take fewer hits with intent to hurt and perform their matches with predetermined outcomes. This style of wrestling still brought crowds to shows. Thus, professional wrestling was born.
Professional Wrestling’s Mark on MMA and an Unlikely Challenger
While many in the mixed martial arts community view the set winners, drama and antics of professional wrestling in a negative light, MMA owes its existent to the sport. As the sport gained popularity its practitioners traveled to many countries and it became a place for former amateur wrestlers to continue athletics after they were finished competing.
All the while wrestling is gaining popularity in the states a young Judoka is making his way to a colony in Brazil. Once there, he will teach the art to some students and it will be passed to their families. This is the starting point of the Gracie legacy. They’ll go on to challenge other styles dominating the martial arts scene in the process. The dominoes are falling into place at this point.
Some of these wrestlers made their way to Japan after the second world war. The country fell in love with the western import and began to develop it. From this came multiple styles and these styles went on to challenge regional styles in legitimate and scripted competition often prevailing.
From these challenges came the mostly unknown but wildly popular bout between Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki. Mixed rules competitions were becoming popular in both hemispheres and the Japanese wrestlers began catching wind of the efficacy of the Gracie fighting style. A contest was in order.
The Popularity Boom of Mixed Martial Arts
At this point in time, Vale Tudo and mixed rules competitions were common occurrences. There were few rules and the Gracies were usually dominant. Ultimate Fighting Championship 1 aired with a Gracie winning the tournament. This spread their fame globally and the wrestlers of Japan, privy to there being no wrestlers of any sort in the tournament wanted to fight.
A popular and talented wrestler began to taunt a young Rickson Gracie. After having his provocations ignored he’d flown himself, his crew and some media to Rickson’s gym to challenge him. This ended in a horrible beating and disgrace. He returned to Japan and the news spread.
Promoters jumped on the opportunity to make something of this and invited Rickson to Japan for a tournament of their own. He was to compete against multiple fighters to include wrestlers. This was the first Pride Fighting Championship event.
While it wasn’t the first at that time it was the greatest in terms of spectacle. With the UFC in legal battles fighting for its existence, Pride was able to fill a niche and become what many still consider the greatest. MMA found it’s audience and the rest has been history.
As mixed martial arts developed and people learned Gracie jiu-jitsu, wrestling became mandatory learning. If you’re interested in learning a vital skill for modern martial arts take some lessons in Wrestling at London Fight Factory.