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Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that allows striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from various combat sports and martial arts. The first documented use of the term mixed martial arts was in a review of UFC 1 by television critic Howard Rosenberg in 1993. The term gained popularity when newfullcontact.com, then one of the largest websites covering the sport, hosted and republished the article. The question of who actually coined the term is subject to debate.
During the early 20th century, various mixed-style contests took place throughout Japan, Taiwan, and in the countries of the Four Asian Tigers. In Brazil, there was the sport of Vale Tudo, in which fighters from various styles fought with little to no rules. The Gracie family was known to promote Vale Tudo matches as a way to promote their own Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu style. An early high-profile mixed martial arts bout was Masahiko Kimura vs. H?lio Gracie in 1951, fought between judoka Masahiko Kimura and Brazilian jiu jitsu founder H?lio Gracie in Brazil. In the West, the concept of combining elements of multiple martial arts was popularized by Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do during the late 1960s to early 1970s. A precursor to modern MMA was the 1976 Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki bout, fought between boxer Muhammad Ali and wrestler Antonio Inoki in Japan, where it later inspired the foundation of Pancrase in 1993 and Pride Fighting Championships in 1997.
In 1980, CV Productions, Inc. created the first regulated MMA league in the United States, called Tough Guy Contest, which was later renamed Battle of the Superfighters. The company sanctioned ten tournaments in Pennsylvania. However, in 1983 the Pennsylvania State Senate passed a bill prohibiting the sport. In 1993, the Gracie family brought Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, developed in Brazil from the 1920s, to the United States by founding the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) MMA promotion company. The company held an event with almost no rules, mostly due the influence of Art Davie and Rorion Gracie attempting to replicate Vale Tudo fights that existed in Brazil, and would later implement a different set of rules (example: eliminating kicking a grounded opponent), which differed from other leagues which were more in favour of realistic fights.
Originally promoted as a competition to find the most effective martial arts for real unarmed combat, competitors from different fighting styles were pitted against one another in contests with relatively few rules. Later, individual fighters incorporated multiple martial arts into their style. MMA promoters were pressured to adopt additional rules to increase competitors' safety, to comply with sport regulations and to broaden mainstream acceptance of the sport. Following these changes, the sport has seen increased popularity with a pay-per-view business that rivals boxing and professional wrestling.
The movement that led to the creation of the Brazilian mixed martial arts scenes was rooted in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The vale tudo events in Brazil.
Vale tudo began in the 1920s and became gained renown through its association with the "Gracie challenge", which was issued by Carlos Gracie and H?lio Gracie and upheld later by descendants of the Gracie family. The "Gracie Challenges" were held in the garages and gyms of the Gracie family members. When the popularity grew, these types of mixed bouts were a staple attraction at the carnivals in Brazil. Early mixed-match martial arts professional wrestling bouts in Japan (known as Ishu Kakut?gi Sen, literally "heterogeneous combat sports bouts") became popular with Antonio Inoki only in the 1970s. Inoki was a disciple of Rikid?zan, but also of Karl Gotch, who trained numerous Japanese wrestlers in catch wrestling.
Regulated mixed martial arts competitions were first introduced in the United States by CV Productions, Inc.. Its first competition, called Tough Guy Contest was held on March 20, 1980, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, Holiday Inn. During that year the company renamed the brand to Super Fighters and sanctioned ten regulated tournaments in Pennsylvania. In 1983, Pennsylvania State Senate passed a bill that specifically called for: "Prohibiting Tough Guy contests or Battle of the Brawlers contests", and ended the sport. In 1993, the sport was reintroduced to the United States by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The sport gained international exposure and widespread publicity when jiu-jitsu fighter Royce Gracie won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, submitting three challengers in a total of just five minutes. sparking a revolution in martial arts.
Japan had its own form of mixed martial arts discipline, Shooto, which evolved from shoot wrestling in 1985, as well as the shoot wrestling derivative Pancrase, which was founded as a promotion in 1993. The first Vale Tudo Japan tournaments were held in 1994 and 1995 and were both won by Rickson Gracie. Around the same time, International Vale Tudo competition started to develop through (World Vale Tudo Championship (WVC), VTJ, IVC, UVF etc.). Interest in mixed martial arts as a sport resulted in the creation of the Pride Fighting Championships (Pride) in 1997, where again Rickson participated and won.
The sport reached a new peak of popularity in North America in December 2006: a rematch between then UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and former champion Tito Ortiz, rivaled the PPV sales of some of the biggest boxing events of all time, and helped 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. Comparisons were drawn to the consolidation that occurred in other sports, such as the AFL-NFL Merger in American football.