MMA has come a long way since 1993. In fact, looking back, MMA today bears about as much resemblance to its former self as Art Jimmerson does to Jon Jones.
Today, MMA is a multi-billion dollar industry, but we all know that it wasn’t always like that, partly because men like Dana White keenly remind us that this is a self-made sport. The UFC even made a documentary about their own rise to fame. And they are right: the sport didn't receive much help along the way.
Then again, MMA would not have developed into what it is today without professional wrestling.
In the nineties, MMA was not seen as a sport in the United States, infamously being referred to it as "human cockfighting" by then Senator John McCain. Meanwhile, in Japan, MMA existed in various forms with promotions such as SHOOTO, UWFi, Fighting Network RINGS and Pancrase predating the UFC. Each one of these promotions were founded by pro wrestlers and combined many of elements of "puroresu" with real fighting. Eventually, through the emergence of another organization, Pride Fighting Championship, MMA would find its magic formula.
This magic formula, however, goes much deeper than just a few cosmetic changes.
7. The Promo
While 'cutting a promo' has been part of pro wrestling's landscape for as long as we can remember, fighters like Chael Sonnen and Conor McGregor have revolutionised MMA by using this as a tool to increase their star power. It has shot them up the card, and simultaneously caused a paradigm shift within the sport.
Gone are the days of fighters earning title shots through hard work and dedication alone. Some have blamed the likes of Sonnen and Colby Covington for talking themselves into the main event, rather than fighting for it. Along with that, the sport has shifted its focus from pure martial arts, to being more entertaining and exciting to watch.
Much to the chagrin of the purists, most fans tend to enjoy MMA more because of this. Fighters are encouraged to be themselves, to talk more and to be the larger than life characters we want them to be. Taking a page out of pro wrestling's book has made the sport more relatable and fun to follow.
Fighting is still fighting though. Those who talk a good game, must still back it up if they are to achieve success in the sport.