5 Forgotten MMA pioneers
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was founded in the year 1993 by Bob Meyrowitz, Art Davie, Rorion Gracie and a few other martial arts enthusiasts as a form of no-holds-barred martial arts sporting competition. However, the UFC wasn’t the first organisation in the sport of MMA.
In 1980 CV Productions Inc., created the first regulated MMA organisation in the United States of America known as ‘Tough Guy Contest’ and later as ‘Battle of the Superfighters’. This organisation held events mainly in the state of Pennsylvania but ceased to function after a bill was passed in the state, prohibiting the sport of MMA.
Till the advent of the UFC in November of 1993, several other combat sports organisations in Asia, Japan, in particular, held ‘Mixed Rules Fights’ that resembled today’s concept of MMA. Following the footsteps of the UFC, PRIDE Fighting Championships (PRIDE FC) held its inaugural MMA event in October of 1997 in Tokyo, Japan.
In 1998 before the UFC 17 event, MMA legend Jeff Blatnick and veteran MMA referee ‘Big’ John McCarthy advocated that the term MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) be used to promote the sport being promoted by the UFC organisation.
The JMMA (Japanese MMA) circuit followed suit and MMA became a refined, sport-version of what was formerly known as Vale-Tudo in Brazil or NHB (No-holds-barred fighting) in the rest of the world.
Now, our young sport has several pioneers and legends, some are still popular, while a few others have faded in the public memory. Regardless of their current popularity, or rather the lack of it, these MMA pioneers deserve every bit of adulation that is accorded to the Royce Gracies and the Randy Coutures of the MMA world.
A few such notable pioneers of our beautiful sport have been mentioned in our list:
#5 Carlos Newton
Carlos Newton described his fighting style as ‘Dragon Ball Jiu-Jitsu’; a combination of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), wrestling, Judo and boxing. He credits this name to his favourite Japanese manga series: ‘Dragon Ball Z’.
Newton had excellent grappling skills and decent striking that helped him set up his opponents for takedowns, in order to aid his vaunted submission game.
Before Georges St. Pierre and his prodigy Rory MacDonald, Carlos ‘The Ronin’ Newton was Canada’s major MMA star. Newton was the fighter to initially put Canada on the map in MMA. His nickname ‘Ronin’ implies a ‘Samurai without a Master’.
Newton has won Championships in Jiu-Jitsu. He has also held Championships in Pankration and the UFC, including the UFC Welterweight title. Newton is widely regarded as the unofficial UFC 17 tournament winner, owing to the controversial nature of his decision loss in the tournament finals to Dan Henderson.
Newton won the UFC WW title at UFC 31 against Pat Miletich and lost it in controversial fashion at UFC 34 to Matt Hughes. Newton had Hughes in a triangle choke, when Hughes picked him up and slammed him on the mat, knocking him out instantly.
However, Hughes himself appeared to be unconscious for a few seconds with several MMA pundits, and fans arguing that the fight should have ended in a draw since both fighters were unconscious at the end of the fight. Apart from his title run in the UFC, Newton has also competed in Pride FC, Shooto-Japan, International Fight League (IFL), W-1, K-1, as well as several grappling competitions outside of MMA.
As of now, Newton is retired from MMA competition but continues to serve as a coach at his MMA gym Warrior Mixed Martial Arts in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. Newton is one of the early MMA pioneers that could go toe-to-toe with the Gracie family’s BJJ skills.
He brought his own hybrid style of Jiu-Jitsu and gave traditional MMA grapplers a run for their money, whilst simultaneously establishing his place as one of MMA’s early legends.