The story of MMA the UFC hasn’t told you
The second episode of our ongoing series on the story of MMA, Pankronicles, is now posted. If you haven’t seen the first one, you can check it out here. You can also see me and Nate Wilcox discuss the making of as well as future plans for the series here.
In the first episode we looked at the origin of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, as both a live television extravaganza and a showcase for the Gracie family’s own school of jiujitsu. This episode introduces Royce Gracie’s bête noire, Ken Shamrock, who represents the parallel path taken by MMA in the 20th century
The start of the sport can be traced to early 1900s when Japanese judoka arrived in the West and began taking on Western martial artists, mostly catch-as-catch-can wrestlers, in “anything goes” professional wrestling matches. Once such judoka/pro wrestler by the name of Mitsuyo Maeda found his way to Brazil, where at the request of his promoter, Gastâo Gracie, he began teaching the art of jiujitsu to his son, Carlos Gracie, giving birth to the Gracie family dynasty. This family heritage of both jiujitsu and vale tudo fighting is what had been passed down to Royce.
Ken Shamrock’s path to MMA was through pro wrestling. The “anything goes” matches of the early part of the century would eventually morph into what we view as pro wrestling today – a choreographed, fake sport. This popular form of entertainment in the West would also become very popular in Japan after World War 2, where it was known as puroresu. The Japanese though preferred a very realistic presentation, so much so that many Japanese pro wrestlers became well versed in catch wrestling. Eventually some wrestlers would forego the predetermined matches of pro wrestling and attempt to hold real ones. Amongst these that did was Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki, and Ken Shamrock, who founded the “hybrid wrestling” promotion Pancrase. Only a few weeks before UFC 1 they held their inaugural event, at which Ken Shamrock made his MMA debut.
These two tangled branches of MMA would finally reconverge at UFC 1 when Ken Shamrock stepped into the Octagon with Royce Gracie.