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The Birth of an American Sport -1979

What do an NFL star, a United States Secret Service Agent, Sylvester Stallone’s bodyguard, and Muhammad Ali’s sparring partner all have in common?  They were all characters cast in America’s original “anything goes” reality fighting drama, an “open call” that led to the birth of a new sport—MMA.  
Long before the Octagon was in vogue or Royce Gracie made his pay-per-view debut; decades before the UFC became a household brand and while the likes of Dana White were still in elementary school; two martial artists, Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri, set out to prove once and for all who the world’s greatest fighter was by creating a radical new “sport” in 1979.

Godfathers of MMA reveals the clandestine plot to subvert the “first” mixed martial arts revolution in American history, one poised to challenge boxing as the king of combat sports.  Confounded by a freak accident (death in the ring) and widespread corruption, a massive struggle ensued over money, power, and respect between boxing’s gentry and an upstart MMA company from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions ignited a bitter turf war with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission that sparked a spectacular David and Goliath battle for leverage. 

The legendary story, buried by rhetoric for years, casts a wide net reeling in everyone from politicians to mobsters, all with ulterior motives; all with eyes on a billion dollar blueprint. From boxing’s “Holy Territory,” the home of Rocky Balboa, to a bizarre connection with the Supreme Court that lead to the first legal precedent for MMA—ever, this is the ultimate inside look. 

Godfathers of MMA is a testosterone-laced whirlwind tale of “what might have been” told by the trailblazers who fought for it.  Relive the epic adventure of the “Tough Guys,” later known as Super Fighters (the first mixed martial arts league, long before it was labeled MMA).  Thirty years before the UFC gained a mainstream audience, KDKA-TV dubbed CV’s new sport, “Organized, Legalized, Street fighting” while the Philadelphia Journal proclaimed, “No holds barred as Superfighters take over.” Take a journey back in time to the “Iron City” and meet the fighters, the foes, and the visionaries who created the modern sport of MMA. 

The history of the Tough Guy Contest and Tough Guy Law

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Godfathers of MMA

Get the Ultimate inside look at the the first MMA league in American history ON SALE

  • Godfathers of MMA

    The Birth of an American Sport

  • Dr. Fred Adams and Bill Viola Jr.

    Document the first MMA league in history

  • The book everyone is talking about

    400 pages

  • Mixed Martial Arts was created

    Thirty years before UFC would become a household name

  • The Media dubbed the new sport

    "Organized, Legalized Streetfighting" -1980

  • Super Fighters Leage (SFL)

    "Groundbreaking" "Revolutionary" "Creation of a new sport"

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Dr. Fred Adams fred adams

Dr. Fred Adams s a western Pennsylvania native who has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with literature and film.  He holds a Ph.D. in American Literature from Duquesne University and recently retired from in the English Department of Penn State University. He has published over 50 short stories in amateur and professional magazines as well as hundreds of news features as a staff writer and sportswriter for the now Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In the 1970s Fred published the fanzine Spoor and its companion The Spoor Anthology.  His novel, Hitwolf, will see print in early 2014 from Airship 27, and his nonfiction book, Edith Wharton’s American Gothic: Gods, Ghosts, and Vampires will be published by Borgo Press in 2014. Adams acted as the official press agent for CV Productions Inc., the first mixed martial arts company in America (1979-1983).  He sat ringside covering the new sport for the media and is credited with coining the phrase, “The Real Thing in the Ring.”

Bill Viola Jr.author

Bill Viola Jr. is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based promoter, international martial arts champion, and founder of Kumite Classic Entertainment Corp.  Viola graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and immediately moved to Hollywood, California to gain hands-on experience in the entertainment industry.  He subsequently earned acceptance into the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio (AFTRA) en route to establishing his own production company. The company’s signature event, The Kumite Classic, is widely recognized as the Mecca for martial arts in Western Pennsylvania and one of the largest expos of its kind (celebrating its 15-year anniversary in 2014). Viola established Kumite Quarterly magazine in 2003, serving as publisher and overseeing distribution throughout North America until 2007.  He is an accomplished freelance journalist, contracted by Sport Karate Magazine to cover the National Black Belt League World Games on location in Mexico, Canada and across the United States. Viola has served as an independent consultant for number major motion pictures including the mixed martial arts movie Warrior (2011).  He is also credited as an Associate Producer for the mixed martial arts inspired film Tapped (2014) starring MMA champions Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva.

 

 

Meet The Authors

Dr. Fred Adams and Bill Viola Jr. Published Authors

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Rave reviews:

Godfathers of MMA - Mixed Martial Arts

  • I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable MMA fan, but I I have a whole new respect for these guys.  The rules and the way they put on fight are almost a mirror image of what is used today. Those guys had the right playbook, too bad they got shut down.

    - Kevin Krisfalousy
  • I had no idea these fighters or league ever existed. These guys really are the Godfathers of MMA.  Being from Pittsburgh, I loved every minute of it.

    - Bill Leader, Martial Artist
  • Incredible to think a mixed martial arts revolution began in 1979... we just didn't know about it.

    - Rocky Whatule, Zanshin Martial Arts
  • I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable MMA fan, but I I have a whole new respect for these guys.  The rules and the way they put on fight are almost a mirror image of what is used today. Those guys had the right playbook, too bad they got shut down.

    - Kevin Krisfalousy
  • A legitimate jab at boxing--the league was hand built to compete them at the box office. It’s a shame it played out the way it did. They [Caliguri and Viola] were obviously ahead of their time.

    - Larry Hunter
  • Professional baseball, football, and hockey can all trace their early history to Western Pennsylvania. But most local sports fans will be surprised to learn that our region is also the birthplace of Mixed Martail Arts (MMA).

    - Anne Madaracz, Co-Director, Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum
  • Mixed Martial Arts may have been thousands of years in the making, but as a sport, a real sport with equipment, rules, scoring, and sponsors there is no doubt Bill and Frank set the bar. When people ask who invented the sport of MMA in America? It’s pretty cut and dry—Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri.  I know, I was an original fighter.

    - Dave Jones, Original Fighter
  • These guys came within an eyelash of a billion dollar payday. The UFC owes Pennsylvania politicians a big pat on the back because without them, they wouldn’t be in business today.

    - Tim Zontek
  • Incredible to think a mixed martial arts revolution began in 1979... we just didn't know about it.

    - Rocky Whatule, Zanshin Martial Arts
  • Bill and Frank are the true Godfathers of MMA!  I should know, I was there.

    - Jimmy Cvetic, President of WPA Police Athletic League
  • These guys came within an eyelash of a billion dollar payday. The UFC owes Pennsylvania politicians a big pat on the back because without them, they wouldn’t be in business today.

    - Tim Zontek
  • Bill and Frank are the true Godfathers of MMA!  I should know, I was there.

    - Jimmy Cvetic, President of WPA Police Athletic League
  • Bill and Frank are the true Godfathers of MMA!  I should know, I was there.

    - Jimmy Cvetic, President of WPA Police Athletic League
  • A legitimate jab at boxing--the league was hand built to compete them at the box office. It’s a shame it played out the way it did. They [Caliguri and Viola] were obviously ahead of their time.

    - Larry Hunter
  • Before the UFC there was CV. Caliguri and Viola’s handprints are all over modern MMA, an idea they conceived decades before their contemporaries would gain a mainstream audience. The book is a fascinating trip exploring the evolution of a fledgling sport and its rise to global dominance.

    - Clem Williams, MMAhistory.org
  • Mixed Martial Arts may have been thousands of years in the making, but as a sport, a real sport with equipment, rules, scoring, and sponsors there is no doubt Bill and Frank set the bar. When people ask who invented the sport of MMA in America? It’s pretty cut and dry—Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri.  I know, I was an original fighter.

    - Dave Jones, Original Fighter
  • I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable MMA fan, but I I have a whole new respect for these guys.  The rules and the way they put on fight are almost a mirror image of what is used today. Those guys had the right playbook, too bad they got shut down.

    - Kevin Krisfalousy
  • Professional baseball, football, and hockey can all trace their early history to Western Pennsylvania. But most local sports fans will be surprised to learn that our region is also the birthplace of Mixed Martail Arts (MMA).

    - Anne Madaracz, Co-Director, Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum
  • Incredible to think a mixed martial arts revolution began in 1979... we just didn't know about it.

    - Rocky Whatule, Zanshin Martial Arts
  • Bill and Frank are the true Godfathers of MMA!  I should know, I was there.

    - Jimmy Cvetic, President of WPA Police Athletic League
  • I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable MMA fan, but I I have a whole new respect for these guys.  The rules and the way they put on fight are almost a mirror image of what is used today. Those guys had the right playbook, too bad they got shut down.

    - Kevin Krisfalousy
  • I had no idea these fighters or league ever existed. These guys really are the Godfathers of MMA.  Being from Pittsburgh, I loved every minute of it.

    - Bill Leader, Martial Artist
  • I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable MMA fan, but I I have a whole new respect for these guys.  The rules and the way they put on fight are almost a mirror image of what is used today. Those guys had the right playbook, too bad they got shut down.

    - Kevin Krisfalousy
  • Incredible to think a mixed martial arts revolution began in 1979... we just didn't know about it.

    - Rocky Whatule, Zanshin Martial Arts
  • Before the UFC there was CV. Caliguri and Viola’s handprints are all over modern MMA, an idea they conceived decades before their contemporaries would gain a mainstream audience. The book is a fascinating trip exploring the evolution of a fledgling sport and its rise to global dominance.

    - Clem Williams, MMAhistory.org
  • Incredible to think a mixed martial arts revolution began in 1979... we just didn't know about it.

    - Rocky Whatule, Zanshin Martial Arts
  • I had no idea these fighters or league ever existed. These guys really are the Godfathers of MMA.  Being from Pittsburgh, I loved every minute of it.

    - Bill Leader, Martial Artist
  • Bill and Frank are the true Godfathers of MMA!  I should know, I was there.

    - Jimmy Cvetic, President of WPA Police Athletic League
  • Incredible to think a mixed martial arts revolution began in 1979... we just didn't know about it.

    - Rocky Whatule, Zanshin Martial Arts
  • I had no idea these fighters or league ever existed. These guys really are the Godfathers of MMA.  Being from Pittsburgh, I loved every minute of it.

    - Bill Leader, Martial Artist
  • These guys came within an eyelash of a billion dollar payday. The UFC owes Pennsylvania politicians a big pat on the back because without them, they wouldn’t be in business today.

    - Tim Zontek
  • Professional baseball, football, and hockey can all trace their early history to Western Pennsylvania. But most local sports fans will be surprised to learn that our region is also the birthplace of Mixed Martail Arts (MMA).

    - Anne Madaracz, Co-Director, Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum
  • Professional baseball, football, and hockey can all trace their early history to Western Pennsylvania. But most local sports fans will be surprised to learn that our region is also the birthplace of Mixed Martail Arts (MMA).

    - Anne Madaracz, Co-Director, Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum
  • These guys came within an eyelash of a billion dollar payday. The UFC owes Pennsylvania politicians a big pat on the back because without them, they wouldn’t be in business today.

    - Tim Zontek
  • Before the UFC there was CV. Caliguri and Viola’s handprints are all over modern MMA, an idea they conceived decades before their contemporaries would gain a mainstream audience. The book is a fascinating trip exploring the evolution of a fledgling sport and its rise to global dominance.

    - Clem Williams, MMAhistory.org
  • These guys came within an eyelash of a billion dollar payday. The UFC owes Pennsylvania politicians a big pat on the back because without them, they wouldn’t be in business today.

    - Tim Zontek
  • A legitimate jab at boxing--the league was hand built to compete them at the box office. It’s a shame it played out the way it did. They [Caliguri and Viola] were obviously ahead of their time.

    - Larry Hunter
  • Bill and Frank are the true Godfathers of MMA!  I should know, I was there.

    - Jimmy Cvetic, President of WPA Police Athletic League
  • A legitimate jab at boxing--the league was hand built to compete them at the box office. It’s a shame it played out the way it did. They [Caliguri and Viola] were obviously ahead of their time.

    - Larry Hunter
  • Mixed Martial Arts may have been thousands of years in the making, but as a sport, a real sport with equipment, rules, scoring, and sponsors there is no doubt Bill and Frank set the bar. When people ask who invented the sport of MMA in America? It’s pretty cut and dry—Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri.  I know, I was an original fighter.

    - Dave Jones, Original Fighter

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