With international TV deals, record pay-per-view numbers, and several role-model ambassadors, the UFC has done a lot in recent years to bring MMA into the mainstream and distance itself from its more spectacle than sport past. And while the company hasn't managed to free itself from controversy entirely, they certainly present a more palatable product for the wider masses with the action in the cage.
But MMA hasn't always been a codified sport in the west.
After its inception in North America in 1993, early UFC events more closely resembled ancient Greek pankration then a regulated sporting event. Bare knuckles, kicks to the head of a grounded opponent, attacks to the groin, and more, were not only tolerated but heavily advertised as part of the action during the early days, with many competitors taking the lax ruleset to their advantage in the cage.
However, despite the relative inexperience of the competitors involved, sometimes the lack of rules led to some truly classic encounters inside the Octagon. Although the well-rounded skillsets of fighters seen in modern MMA were often absent, these guys came to scrap simply for the love of competition and these fights are great evidence of that.