Mixed martial arts (MMA) is believed to date back to the ancient olympic games in 648 BC, when pankration was considered the combat sport of the Ancient Greek armies.
This style of combat later resurfaced in the 20th century in Brazil via a combat sport known as vale tudo (“anything goes”), and pancrase in Japan.
MMA first came to the attention of an American audience after the Gracie family decided to showcase its trademark Brazilian jujitsu in the USA in the 1990s. Royce Gracie represented the family in a 1993 that came to be called UFC 1. The name referred to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), an organization that became the leading promoter of MMA events. The earliest aim of the UFC events was to pit fighters of different styles against each other—such as wrestler against boxer and kickboxer against judoka. As the UFC’s first TV pay-per-view event, the tournament attracted 86,000 viewers. That number increased to 300,000 by the third event.
In 2001 new UFC management (Zuffa) created rules to make the sport more palatable for a wider television audience. It added weight classes, stricter rules, rounds, and time limits. The revamped UFC now featured newer fighters who were more skilled as boxers, wrestlers, and jiu jitsu players, and they were forced to cross train extensively to ensure peak physical condition. In the United States the sport came to be regulated by the same bodies that governed boxing, including the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board.
On the professional level, the UFC, based in Las Vegas, is the leading MMA promotion worldwide. It produces many live events each year, and its pay-per-view cable television broadcasts have reached viewers in some 130 countries around the world, recently securing landmark deals with FOX and ESPN. The organization, founded in 1993, was purchased by Zuffa Inc. in January 2001 for $2 million and as the popularity of the sport sky-rocketed, it was announced in 2016 that the UFC was being sold to the talent agency WME-IMG for over $4 billion.