Mixed martial arts fighting is a sport that encompasses various martial arts such as jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and kickboxing. There are certain fighters who managed to build the sport in different ways. Some managed to bring their technique, some managed to talk trash, and others just simply dominated their opponents. This article looks at some of the founders in the sport of MMA
There have been many fighters who have come and gone in mixed martial arts for various reasons, but some early on were vital to the success of the sport. Here is a look at some of the most influential fighters in the history of the MMA
Probably the most influential fighter in MMA history, Royce Gracie brought Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to UFC 1 and wowed spectators with his ability to beat larger opponents by way of submission. At a time when fights had few rules, and matches were in open weight classes, Gracie impressed with his ability to put his opponents in undesirable positions. He dominated the first UFC by winning all three fights of the tournament-style format. He then went on to a streak of more submission victories, winning his first 11 fights all by making his opponents tap out. Without Gracie, the sport would likely not have the art form of submissions like it does. In a lot of ways, the entire Gracie family has molded the sport through various fighting techniques used by fighters all over the world.
Griffin owes a lot of his notoriety to his opponent for the finale of The Ultimate Fighter. For the end of the first season of the hit reality show, Griffin fought Stephan Bonnar in one of the best fights in UFC history. A mostly stand-up fight, both contestants battled non-stop for three rounds in a very close contest. Griffin won, but Stephan Bonnar was also awarded a contract. While retiring with only a 19-7 record, Griffin also managed to build the sport by focusing on other avenues, such as writing best-selling books. His great fights which brought ratings to the Spike TV network, as well as his popularity that transcended the sport, makes Griffin one of the most important fighters in the history of MMA
The aptly named “Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” was one of the first to gain notoriety as a personality to despise. Tito carried himself with more cockiness than others, and let his mouth do some trash talking at a time when fighters tended to go about their business. In part, the dislike toward Tito was also due to him being a good fighter. He beat the great Ken Shamrock three separate times. The hatred and greatness of Tito made him a big draw. For being the first notable bad guy in the sport, which would later inspire some other notable trash talkers, Tito deserves a spot on this list.
There was a period in the UFC where the Light Heavyweight division was stacked with talent. At the top of that stack for quite a while was Chuck Liddell. Liddell managed to avenge his previous loss to Randy Couture and become champion at UFC 52. He was able to defend the title four more times, including against Tito Ortiz, and Randy Couture again, before losing the title to “Rampage” Jackson. He also had a cool care-free attitude that appealed to many fans. Because of his dominance within a talent-filled division, Liddell brought eyes to the sport.
St-Pierre has only lost two career fights—to Matt Hughes, and to Matt Serra, and both times he was able to rectify those losses. St-Pierre dominated the UFC Welterweight division. Although nicknamed “Rush” by the way he was able to score first round victories early in his career, St-Pierre later switched to a more technical approach following his loss to Matt Serra and worked his opponents by wearing them down over multiple rounds. With the amount of title fight victories and technical precision, St-Pierre has become a legend in the sport.
Like Gracie, Shamrock was there for the first UFC event. Although ultimately losing to Gracie, he still dominated many of the contests and some found his style preferable to Gracie’s. From the UFC, Shamrock brought his victories to Japan, where he became the first individual outside of the country to become the King of Pancrase.