The history of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) dates back to the Olympics of ancient Greece. Mixed Martial Arts fights originated as hand-to-hand combat performed as a sport called pankration, from the Greek words pan and kratos, meaning “all powers.”
The Greek competitors had only two rules: no biting and no eye gouging. Pankration was a popular event, and the competitors became heroes and the subjects of legends.
The teachings of ancient Greek pankration spread to India thanks to Alexander the Great and his habit of recruiting athletes as soldiers because of their strength and combat knowledge. A Buddhist monk traveling through India picked up on aspects of pankration and brought that knowledge to China, where it birthed Asian martial arts such as kung fu, judo, and karate.
As people branched into new lands, they took these arts and built on them, often creating a new style or form of martial art. For example, an expert in judo traveled the globe and ended up in Brazil to spread his teachings, an act that gave birth to the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
As martial arts spread, so did the idea of mixed-style competitions. Often a practitioner of one martial art challenged a practitioner of a different one for ultimate bragging rights. These mixed-style competitions took place worldwide for several decades, eventually gaining intense popularity in the United States.
Participants in these competitions learned from their opponents and began to realize that in order to become well-rounded fighters, they must study any combative art form that could give them an edge in the game.
For instance, if a kickboxer was matched with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, the kickboxer would realize that he must become more adept at defending takedowns, thus prompting him to train with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters. (Jiu-Jitsu ground fighting incorporates various submission holds, such as joint and compression locks and chokes.) From that point forward, competitions were no longer between athletes who focused on a singular martial art but between two mixed martial arts athletes.