The Ultimate Fighting Championship had its first appearance in November of 1993. That’s almost exactly 21 years ago. And while some argument can be made that the sport it popularized, mixed martial arts, predates the advent of the UFC, it’s as good as point of origin as any when discussing the evolution of combat sports over the past two decades.
For time out of mind, the combat sport in the United States has been boxing. There was a time when pretty much every man in America was a boxing fan. And for the longest period it was dominated by a succession of white men, which made it appealing to America’s racial majority for entirely different reasons. Looking at the sport now, though, you’ll see that while there are still white fighters, the biggest performers are not white and the audience for boxing has browned, as well.
MMA never really had this transformation. The first breakout stars of the UFC were the Brazilians of the Gracie family, employing what has come be known as Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Kinda-sorta related to the Japanese martial art of jujutsu, jiu-jitsu is pretty much its own thing now, combining a variety of grappling forms into something that’s not quite wrestling, not quite judo, not quite any one thing. And it forms the cornerstone of the mixed martial arts form, insofar as there as such a thing.
So what I’m saying is that ethnic divides are not quite as marked in MMA as they were in boxing or basketball or football or any number of sports where whites dominated, but were eventually displaced by men and women of different hues. That said, there’s a particular story to be told about fighters from Mexican backgrounds, as they’ve come to form the foundation of combat sports across the board.