Mixed martial arts is considered the fastest growing sport in the world today, mixing boxing, wrestling, kick-boxing, Muay Thai, taekwondo, judo, jiu-jitsu and karate in fights that take place in a padded cage over three-to-five five-minute rounds.
Competitors can win by knockout, referee stoppage, submission or judges' decision.
"The history of modern MMA competition can be traced to mixed style contests throughout Europe, Japan and the Pacific Rim during the early 1900s; the Gracie family's vale tudo martial arts tournaments in Brazil starting in the 1920s; and early mixed martial arts-themed professional wrestling matches (known as Ishu Kakutougi Sen in Japan) hosted by Antonio Inoki in Japan in the 1970s.
The sport gained international exposure and widespread publicity in the United States in 1993, when Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter Royce Gracie handily won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, subduing three challengers in a total of just five minutes, sparking a revolution in the martial arts. Meanwhile Japan had its Shooto also called Vale Tudo in 1985 where fighter Rickson Gracie won the tournaments in 1994 and 1995, which continued interest in the sport resulting in the creation of the Pride Fighting Championships in 1997, where again Rickson participated and won.
The movement that led to the creation of the UFC, and Pride was rooted in two interconnected subcultures. First were the vale tudo events in Brazil, followed by the Japanese shoot wrestling shows. Vale tudo began in the 1920s with the "Gracie challenge" issued by Carlos Gracie and Hélio Gracie and upheld later on by descendants of the Gracie family. In Japan in the 1970s, a series of mixed martial arts matches were hosted by Antonio Inoki, a former star of New Japan Pro Wrestling; this inspired the shoot-style movement in Japanese professional wrestling, which eventually led to the formation of the first mixed martial arts organizations, such as Shooto, which was formed in 1985. The International Sport Combat Federation (ISCF) was created in May of 1999 as the worlds first "MMA" Sanctioning body. This ushered in a new era of Mixed Martial Arts where it is once again recognized as a true sport worldwide. This was aided by certified officials and well developed rules that were built up from the ISCF's sister organization for kickboxing, the International Kickboxing Federation's (IKF) long developed system.
In November 2005 recognition of its effectiveness as a test came as the United States Army began to sanction mixed martial arts with the first annual Army Combatives Championships held by the US Army Combatives School.
The sport reached a new peak of popularity in North America in the December 2006 rematch between then UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and former champion Tito Ortiz, rivaling the PPV sales of some of the biggest boxing events of all time, and helping the UFC's 2006 PPV gross surpass that of any promotion in PPV history. In 2007, Zuffa LLC, the owners of the UFC MMA promotion, bought Japanese rival MMA brand Pride FC, merging the contracted fighters under one promotion and drawing comparisons to the consolidation that occurred in other sports, such as the AFL-NFL Merger in American football."