ASIA SPORTS: THE GROWTH OF MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

SULAIMAN AL-ADSANI WRITES- Ever since the establishment of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) in 1993, mixed martial arts has become one of the fastest growing and most popular  sports worldwide.

 It started in the 1920’s, when Brazilian jiu jitsu founder Helio Gracie and his brother, Carlos Gracie, issued the “Gracie Challenge,” in which fighters from various disciplines such as Judo and Kung fu challenged one another in the so-called Gracies. Often they would lose due to lack of knowledge of, and appreciation for, the high level grappling of Brazilian jiu jitsu .

Later, the son of Helio Gracie, Rorion Gracie, moved to the U.S to spread the jiu jitsu culture that he and his family created. In 1993 Rorion Gracie came up with the idea of the UFC –to prove to the world that Brazilian jiu jitsu was the ultimate martial art. This marked the  beginning of MMA, which had previously been known as cage fighting.

Today the UFC is considered by many to be highly prestigious, but in the past couple of years Southeast Asia, specifically Singapore, introduced “ONE championship,” a promotional outfit which focuses on the martial arts aspect of the business– discipline, humbleness, and, most importantly, respect, than the trash talking culture that most promotions adapted recently. In fact, ONE championship is quickly giving the UFC a run for its money.

One championship, led by Chatri Sityodtong, chairman of ONE and a former Muay Thai fighter in Asia, now has some of the best fighters in the world, most of whom are still young with plenty of potential — including some former  UFC champions. For example, Demetrious Johnson, known as “mighty mouse,” formerly a UFC flyweight champion and current record holder for most title defenses in the UFC, now fights in One championship and is considered one of the best mixed martial artists ever. Christian Lee, the 21- year- old Singaporean fighter, started his MMA journey in late 2015 at the 35th One championship event. Lee challenged legends in 2019 and entered 2020 a great champion with the potential to be one of the best to ever compete.  

Mixed martial arts has evolved tremendously during the past decade and  is not going to slow down anytime soon. A new generation of fighters, such as Christian Lee and many others, with the help of ONE championship, are taking the sport to new heights that no one ever imagined.

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