Stuck in 1995 – MMA’s Varied Past!

We are used to seeing MMA in a cage, and at times in a 4 sided square boxing ring. The following is short, but it is a window to history that I think not enough people have seen.  Now check out this fight featuring legendary Erik Paulson taking on Yasunori Okuda:

Very interesting.  Is that a six or seven sided ring I see with some type of rope mess tying the bottom ropes to prevent people leaving the ring during ground fighting?  It is, it is!

The video above is SHOOTO, Japan’s oldest true MMA organization  that is still running today.   The SHERDOG database, obviously the standard in MMA info, dates the first SHOOTO shows to 1989, pre dating the UFC by more than four years.   That may even be an octagonal ring!

Erik Paulson is one of Josh Barnett’s principal trainers now.  Erik was also the MMA artist who is primarily responsible for getting hairpulling banned (see my blog  He has had quite a storied career, one that ended in 2000 when he retired with the SHOOTO Middleweight (183 lb) title, with the exception of a 2007 comeback fight.  I attended a retirement ceremony for Paulson at a SHOOTO event, it is where I first met him.

Yes it is difficult to not look at the square ring as ‘funny’, or to think of it as less than the UFC or what we have today.  Less show and production, clearly, but not less idea of sport or technique.  In fact SHOOTO was way ahead of it’s time back in those days.

For 1995, what you see is a highly regulated sport, way ahead of where MMA was worldwide anywhere, and amazingly prescient as to what it would become.  There are gloves in this fight in 1995, with both fighters having the same gloves!  Neither is wearing shoes, with minimal wrappings on the feet.  Clearly there is no headbutting or hair pulling, that is obvious by the conduct of the fighters.  You can hear the judges call a ‘catch’ which is SHOOTO’s innovative rule scoring points for near submissions.

In Brazil, the sport comes from a very primal and street beginning, and despite a rich history of fights and events built around the martial arts, Brazil is yet to support a home grown MMA show and it is only in the last few years that the athletes are being perceived by society as more than thugs.  So enjoy the video above.  In 1995 when some of the hardcores got bootlegs of this tape in the mail, it was new and completely different and in many ways, groundbreaking.

Now I look back at it and I say that MMA, true MMA as we understand it in the modern sense, was born in Japan.

About Miguel

MMA matchmaker since 1997. No one besides Joe Silva has made more fights than me.
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