The physically grueling combat sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) isn't part of the Olympics – anymore. That's right: More than two millennia ago, the ancient Greek Olympics included a competition known as pankration, and except for some minor differences, it was basically mixed martial arts.
Added to the Games in 648 B.C., pankration (which means "complete victory") combined wrestling, boxing, kicking, and pretty much anything else you wanted to try – except biting and eye-gouging. Unlike today's more "refined" sport, pankration opponents faced off in a sandy pit in the blazing sun, with no time limit and no breaks. It was one long, vicious fight that ended in forfeit or knockout. Occasionally, it ended in death.
Making it even more dangerous, pankration had no weight classes, so a tough-minded 100-pound (45.4-kg) competitor could attempt to take on a 300-pound (136-kg) bruiser. What's more, clothes were banned, and contestants covered themselves in oil. How'd you like to give all that a go, Conor McGregor?
Wrestling with some MMA facts:
- In a sense, President Theodore Roosevelt was the original ultimate fighter: He boxed, wrestled, and was the first American to earn a brown belt in judo.
- MMA events produced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) take place in a chain-link cage known as the "Octagon." In UFC's early days, promoters also considered using a moat, razor-wire fencing, and even alligators.
- The oldest (modern) mixed martial arts organization is Shooto, which was formed in Japan in 1985.