Happy Father’s Day To The Fathers of MMA

We celebrate Father’s Day with a tribute to the pioneers who helped bring MMA into the spotlight.

To celebrate Father’s Day, we’d like to pay homage to the men without whom Mixed Martial Arts would not be where it’s at today. They were the men who helped raise MMA to the sport we enjoy today. And they did it with literally blood, sweat and other men’s tears.


We suspect the Dioxippus is on the left but he could be all four of these guys.

Not only is this man the first, but he is arguably the greatest mixed martial artist ever. Dioxippus of Athens was the first to ever win an Olympic championship for pankration by default because, check this; nobody wanted to fight him. In case you were wondering, pankration is the ancient sport of fighting with very similar rules to MMA. Dioxippus gained legendary status when he beat one of Alexander The Great’s best soldiers, Coragus. And he defeated him naked. Yup, you read that right – Coragus came to the fight fully armoured and armed to the teeth, and Dioxippus showed up with his balls hanging out. Dioxippus managed to disarm Coragus and proceeded to smash him through his armour. It was a bittersweet victory as this led to his untimely suicide, get the full story here.

Helio Gracie

This man needs no introduction. He is literally the father of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His son, Rorion Gracie, would eventually start a little fight tournament called Ultimate Fighting Championship. Earlier in his life, Helio took part in numerous vale tudo fights (no holds barred), taking on world champion boxers, judokas, and wrestlers. His most notable fight was with the next man on this list…

Masahiko Kimura

Masahiko Kimura is highly regarded as the greatest judoka of all time. He famously defeated Helio Gracie with a reverse ude-garami arm lock, which was subsequently renamed “Kimura”. The renowned judoka took on any opponent who dared to challenge him, with his toughest fight coming from Helio Gracie’s former student who is up next:

Valdemar Santana

The gracies called him a traitor, the blue-collared workers of Brazil called him The People’s Champion. A one-time prodigy of Helio Gracie, Valdemar possessed skills in Capoeira, boxing, BJJ and wrestling, establishing him as one of the first all-rounded mixed martial artist. His epic feud with the Gracies began after he was expelled from the Gracie Academy, only to return to challenge his former master Helio Gracie in a vale tudo match that lasted four hours. The fight ended with Valdemar soccer kicking the Grandmaster in the head. This only fueled the epic rivalry with the Gracies, sparking another six fights with Carlson Gracie. Valdemar later challenged Masahiko Kimura in a grappling match, which he lost, and a rematch in vale tudo rules that left Kimura severely battered.

“Judo” Gene LeBell

Before he mentored Ronda Rousey, Chuck Norris, Karo Parisyan, Manny Gamburyan and a list of other top martial artists, Gene LeBell gained notoriety for his grappling competitions. His most famous fight came in the form of a pseudo MMA fight with Milo Savage, a highly ranked boxer. Check out this fan blog that gushes over Gene LeBell’s badassery, which includes the story of how he made Steven Seagal shit his pants. Gene has famously trained with the next father of MMA:

Bruce Lee

He is the martial arts world’s first superstar, Bruce Lee cannot be denied as one of the fathers of MMA. He was not only a patriarch of unorthodox Kung Fu style, he famously put on the first Crucifix Armbar on screen and showcased a host of other grappling techniques in his films [1]. Heck, the very fighting style he created, Jeet Kune Do, prides itself on the philosophy of adopting other martial arts into its arsenal, in other words – mixed martial arts.

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