The 21st century is certainly looking to be the century of the UFC, but as the sport emerged in the 1990′s, there were several groups out of Japan that were considered the premiere Mixed Martial Arts events in the world. One of those groups was called RINGS, and despite a checkered history that included some fake fights, and a set of rules that limited striking, the company had many of the biggest names in the sport go through it’s roster, and in fact many fighters got their first taste of the big time not in the UFC, but in RINGS.
RINGS was run by Akira Maeda, a polarizing figure in Japan. Many companies, such as Pancrase and SHOOTO, as well as PRIDE, refused to exchange fighters with the group. Maeda once got into a fist fight in an American airport with a Japanese reporter, and he also was once accused of hitting his female assistant.
And the rules – it looks strange compared to today’s MMA when you look at it. Can’t strike to the head on the ground. It was supposed to encourage the technical aspect of the ground game, and to a certain extent, it did.
Check out the match below, between two MMA legends – Randy Couture taking on Jeremy Horn. This dates back to the big RINGS Tournaments in 2000, and it is interesting to remember that at the time of this fight, the UFC was still inhabiting War Memorials in a handful of states where they weren’t banned. Enjoy!
When you look at a video like that, you can understand a little bit about how far we have come. Couture chose to not elbow during the fight, so he didn’t have the pads. Horn’s pads on the elbows indicated he was allowed to use his elbows, and in fact you can see him throwing them.
Many people don’t know too much about Jeremy Horn, in terms of he never had a prolonged run in the UFC. But in this match you can appreciate a little but of what makes ‘Gumby’ a Hall of Famer. First of all he can take a punch, as Couture tags him several times. Also his ground technique shows, even for the year 2000, you can see that Couture is threatened and that Horn has some advanced ground game.
Some form of the RINGS company still operates to this day in Japan, however it is not the relevant company it was 12 to 15 years ago. A look back at their history shows they deserve a big chapter in any look at the history of early modern MMA.