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Professional Wrestling and MMA
Although exponents of different fighting styles have competed against each other since time immemorial, the birth of modern mixed martial arts is widely considered to be UFC 1, held on November 12, 1993. However, UFC 1 was explicitly a continuation of Vale Tudo contests that had been going on for generations in Brazil, inspired by the desire of Jiu-Jitsu practitioners to prove their art was the best.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is therefore widely acknowledged as the origin of mixed martial arts. However, professional wrestling also played a massive and relatively unheralded role.
While the UFC was co-founded by Rorion Gracie, if you follow the lineage back, you hit pro wrestling. Rorion learned the art from his father Helio. Helio learned it from watching his older brother Carlos Sr, who in turn learned the basic techniques, from high-ranking Judoka Mitsuyo Maeda. Maeda came to Brazil as a professional wrestler.
Further, before UFC 1, there were mixed rules bouts in Japan with submissions on the ground and KOs from strikes standing, the definition of MMA. Again, the lineage goes back to pro wrestling.
Karl Gotch learned Catch-As-Catch-Can wrestling at Billy Riley's "Snake Pit" in Wigan, England. In the 1970s he taught those skills to Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Satoru Sayama, Masami Soranaka, and Akira Maeda, among many others. That group of Japanese athletes where in addition collectively skilled in a variety of other martial arts, including sambo, karate, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and judo.
In 1984, the Universal Wrestling Federation was formed; it showcased a new "Strong Style" form of professional wrestling, using real technique and real contact, but with a predetermined or "worked" ending. When the UWF closed, the wrestlers took things in a variety of directions, many of them real combat sports.
Yoshiaki Fujiwara's proteges Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki founded Pancrase. Satoru "Tiger Mask" Sayama founded Shooto. Caesar Takeshi founded Shoot boxing. And Akira Maeda founded Fighting Network Rings. Shooto began holding amateur matches with what we would understand as MMA rules in 1986, and pro fights in 1989, several years before UFC 1.
This group produced some of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport, including Kazushi Sakuraba and the heavyweight G.O.A.T. Fedor Emelianenko.
Professional Wrestling Moves in MMA
Even if professional wrestling has a historic relationship with MMA, is there a more direct connection? Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh "The Warmaster" Barnett argues that the sports are even closer still, that with a little tweaking, many pro wrestling moves can work great in MMA.
"It's not fake, you know? I can't stand it when people go 'Oh, but it's fake, right?' ... It's not fake! You can call it whatever you want, but don't say it's fake," he said. "I'm not joking out there, I'm not playing around, it's not a game to me. It's real, and I take it very seriously because I'm trying to show everything that we have as athletes out there in the ring, trying to show all the emotions and aspects that go into a fight and a struggle between two competitors."
At week 5 of Dana White’s Contender Series on Tuesday, welterweights Darrius "Beast Mode" Flowers and Amiran "The Sniper" Gogoladze fought, with the knowledge that a spectacular finish could well end with a UFC contract.
Gogoladze attempted an inverted triangle choke from bottom. Flowers stood, taking his opponent along for the ride, and then slammed him down to the mat, in a move eerily reminiscent of a Tombstone Piledriver delivered by The Undertaker (real name Mean Mark Callous).
Gogoladze tried to continue but tapped out due to a dislocated shoulder, losing via T/KO at 1:13 of Round 1.
In another weird moment, it appears the shoulder dislocation took place earlier, when Gogoladze was attempting a Kimura submission.
While Piledriver slams in which an opponent is dropped onto their head are celebrated in professional wrestling, they are prohibited in MMA. However, there is an exception, based on control. If the slamming player has control of the opponent's body, then it is forbidden. However, if the player being slammed is attempting a submission, and could avoid the slam by letting go, then it is that player's responsibility to not get slammed.
So the move was legal. And it was a Holy F@$%ing $#!@ moment for both MMA and wrestling fans. And it earned Darrius Flowers a UFC contract; congratulations "Beast Mode"!!!