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Categories : Godfathers of MMA

Tough Guys Doc

 The Tough Guys Doc

Set it Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  The film chronicles the rise and fall of MMA before the UFC.

tough guy contest logo

The “Tough Guys” are coming to a screen near you.  The film, inspired by Godfathers of MMA, is set to debut in 2016.  Stay tuned for this mixed martial arts movie. www.toughguysdoc.com

Tough guys documentary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First state to ban MMA

MMA and the Law

The first state to ban MMA Mixed Martial Arts in America – Pennsylvania 1983

PA mma outlaw

 

Most Mixed martial arts suffered a knockdown in 1983, over a decade before the UFC was created.  Causal mixed martial arts fans believe the sport of MMA was subject to legal ramifications in certain states due to political pressure as a result of “shock and awe” of the original UFC in 1990s. However, the sport was first banned in 1983 after a four year struggle between the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission (PSAC) and CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions.  CV Productions introduced regulated mixed martial arts competitions in America 1979-1983.  Did the ban on mixed martial arts competition violate the first amendment?  Caliguri and Viola thought so, but didn’t have the resources to fight the state, otherwise the UFC wouldn’t exist today.  “The UFC doesn’t owe CV Productions anything, but they should be thankful for everything,” says Bill Viola Jr., author of Godfathers of MMA.  “If the PA legislature didn’t outlaw MMA in 1983, the entire culture of combats sports would be different today. Not only was it a violation of their rights, the entire smear campaign to outlaw mixed martial arts in the 1980s was misguided and part of what many experts believe was a conspiracy.”  READ MORE

Session of 1983 Act 1983-62

No. 1983-62 AKA “The Tough Guy Law”

The law specifically defines what mixed martial arts competition is/was:

“ANY COMPETITION WHICH INVOLVES ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT BOUT BETWEEN TWO OR MORE INDIVIDUALS, WHO ATTEMPT TO KNOCK OUT THEIR OPPONENT BY EMPLOYING BOXING, WRESTLING, MARTIAL ARTS TACTICS OR ANY COMBINATION THEREOF AND BY USING TECHNIQUES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PUNCHES, KICKS AND CHOKING.” 

Actions:
Referred to STATE GOVERNMENT,  April 13, 1983
Reported as amended, May 25, 1983
First consideration, May 25, 1983
Second consideration, with amendments, June 14, 1983
Third consideration and final passage, June 15, 1983 (47-0)
In the House
Referred to STATE GOVERNMENT,  June 21, 1983
Reported as amended, Sept. 19, 1983
First consideration, Sept. 19, 1983
Laid on the table, Sept. 19, 1983
Removed from table, Sept. 27, 1983
Re-referred to APPROPRIATIONS,  Sept. 28, 1983
Re-reported as committed, Oct. 12, 1983
Second consideration, Oct. 17, 1983
Third consideration, with amendments, Oct. 19, 1983
Final passage, Oct. 19, 1983 (196-0)
(Remarks see House Journal Page 1606),  Oct. 19, 1983
In the Senate
Senate concurred in House amendments, Oct. 26, 1983 (50-0)
Signed in Senate, Oct. 26, 1983
Signed in House, Oct. 26, 1983
In hands of the Governor, Oct. 27, 1983
Last day for action, Nov. 6, 1983
Approved by the Governor, Nov. 3, 1983
Act No. 62 AKA THE TOUGH GUY LAW

Signed into Law by Governor Richard Thornburgh Nov. 3, 1983 setting the first legal precedent for mixed martial arts in the United States.

outlaw MMA

Governor Dick Thornburgh

 

Controversy and Scandal

CV Productions created and began promoting their signature “Tough Guy” competitions in 1980, launching the first mixed martial arts league in America.  After successful shows in notable locations such as New Kensington, Johnstown, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Greensburg, the PSAC threated to arrest the promoters and “shut them down,” although they had no legal right to do so. It was no secret that MMA and boxing were now embattled in a turf war for market share. The state had no jurisdiction over martial arts and were angry they could neither not tax nor interfere with the new sport. While boxing promoters struggled to sell tickets, CV’s MMA competitions burst on the scene and sold out venues.

In January 1981, CV’s Tough Guy Contests (mixed martial arts) were subject to persecution by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission and arbitrarily banned by the State Attorney General’s office.

In the interim, Bay City, Michigan Promoter Art Dore was permitted to host the First Annual Central Pennsylvania Toughman Contest, a strictly amateur boxing event (a sport that fell under state jurisdiction, regulations, and taxes).

On March 20, 1981, Ronald Miller, 23, was killed as a result of injuries sustained during the Adore Ltd sanctioned Toughman boxing competition in Johnstown, Pennsylvania at the Cambria County War Memorial. Weight classes were not implemented and head gear was not permitted. Miller, 169 pounds, was matched with a 250 pound opponent.

The year prior, May 20, 1980, CV Productions promoted one of their Tough Guy Contests at the same venue. The same location and similar name of competing companies caused confusion among the media and politicians, although the promotions had no association with each other. Tough Guy competitors were required Olympic-style headgear and adhere to mandatory weight classes. No serious or life-threatening injuries were reported.

Miller’s death sparked legislative efforts to ban Toughman (boxing), however The Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission advised the Senate to outlaw Tough Guy (mixed martial arts) instead. Mixed martial arts were suspended before the death of Miller happened. Boxing, which caused the tragedy, was not prosecuted.

The Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission has been criticized by some experts for protecting the boxing industry and unjustly banning mixed martial arts in 1983. Mixed martial arts would resurface in 1993 under the banner of the UFC and was relegalized in Pennsylvania in 2009.

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Dana Doubleday

Dana Doubleday

The impact of the “Zuffa Myth”

authorBy Bill Viola Jr.

Americans have always been smitten with folklore; be it Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, or Davey Crockett, we just can’t help ourselves. The national pastime is no different, full of guilty pleasures that seem harmless, but still distort reality. You’d be hard pressed to find a baseball fan who hasn’t heard the tall tale of Abner Doubleday; you know that ole’ Civil War hero who “invented” baseball in a cow pasture. After all, the Hall of Fame was established in his hometown, Cooperstown, New York right? While the HOF does reside in upstate New York, even they don’t credit Doubleday as the father of baseball anymore. Still, if you mention the iconic name at any ballpark across the country you’ll likely get that same reaction from older fans, a byproduct of special interests that played a good game of wagging the dog a century ago.

In the early 1900s baseball’s origin was murky and controversy struck a chord with certain patriotic bigwigs as rumors surfaced that that our “national game” might have English roots. While cricket and rounders may have been popular across the pond, sporting goods mogul Albert Spalding felt it advantageous to make sure baseball was an “American” sport invented by an “American.” Spalding organized a “fishing expedition” to solidify baseball’s roots once and for all—well, sort of. Cue the dog and pony show; an exercise headed by The Mills Commission (essentially Spalding’s drinking buddies). These crack investigators erroneously proclaimed Doubleday the brainchild of baseball after the flimsy testimony of one man who claimed to witness Doubleday’s notes. The findings, lackluster to say the least, satisfied Spalding’s appetite, so he deemed no further investigation was necessary. For a good part of the 19th century the media bought the hype and sold it to a naïve public who still believe the story today. It wasn’t until 1953 when Congress declared Alexander Cartwright as the inventor of baseball some 60 years after his death that set the record straight, but to be honest casual fans didn’t blink… Doubleday was their man. Major League Baseball was committed to Cooperstown, and so were the masses. Though thoroughly debunked, the hoax lives on today in modern lore.

Whether you want to believe the Doubleday facade was fabricated to boost morale, or created with ulterior motives, it was an agenda. To this day good albeit gullible people believe that Doubleday invented baseball. MMA is no less a casualty of the times; the victim of propaganda. Of course Dana White didn’t invent MMA and doesn’t claim to, but how will the history books (blogs) remember his contributions 100 years from now? When Zuffa took the reins in 2001 they sold gullible sports journalists the idea of Dana “White Knight,” MMA’s great savior. Negative press haunted the UFC from its inception, so new ownership simply didn’t want painted by the same bad brush. Who could blame them really? Like Spalding, The Fritetta brothers had a vested interest to protect their investment, secure a legacy and promote a mainstream “sport.” Zuffa’s strategy was simple: Strike first, strike hard, show no mercy. Cookie cutter press kits quickly circulated across the country that subtly seemed to rewrite MMA’s timeline.

Strike First: They say it takes only one-tenth of a second for people judge someone and make a first impression. White’s “I built this thing” image was immediately imprinted on the minds of millions of impressionable MMA fans. Zuffa gave the illusion of Dana rolling up his sleeves to hash out “new” rules with Athletic Commissions in an effort to make the UFC more palatable. By definition, its “rules” that transform an unorganized activity into a sport, so if you take credit for those rules, ipso facto you are loosely saying you created the sport without coming out and saying it. It was a brilliant albeit misleading marketing campaign that became self-sustaining once enough reputable publications ran with the story.

Strike Hard: The new UFC unleashed an aggressive “out with the old in with the new” media blitz. Reporters printed, and reprinted and reprinted the same UFC hoopla over and over again without hesitation or regard for investigation. They’d have you believe MMA was the Wild Wild West until Dana strode into town with fistfuls of law and order denouncing spectacle and praising sport. Zuffa launched the famous “They ran from regulation while we ran towards it” publicity tour that buried any headway made by Bob Meyerwitz, SEG Entertainment, and the New Jersey Athletic Commission, who in fact had laid all the groundwork. Beat reporters more adept at chasing pucks and balls gobbled Zuffa’s history lesson and regurgitated the message for casual readers to digest. The “Zuffa Zombies” were fed Dana’s “White” lies and the general public swallowed them whole. Ladies and gentlemen, if it says so right here in the newspaper that Dana White created the rules for MMA, it has to be true, right? Dana was crowned the Czar of MMA. While his contemporaries Bud Selig and Roger Goodell regulate sport, Dana is the sport.

Show No Mercy: Just like that, Art Davies and Rorion Gracie’s UFC was now the proverbal English cricket and SEG Entertainment relegated to rounders, both distant cousins that didn’t resemble modern mixed martial arts—at all. More important, your local tribune or gazette told you so.  Truth is Dana and company simply adopted an infrastructure that was already established by the previous administration (but that certainly didn’t make for good copy). To their defense, they probably didn’t see much harm with adding a little pizazz to the press releases, after all the odds were against MMA breaking through the ceiling, but it did.

While savvy MMA journalists like the folks at whaledog.com and ESPN’s Jake Rossen exposed the “Zuffa Myth” time and time again, their efforts in some way were too little too late. Dana’s “first” impression was and is forever embedded. If we’ve learned anything from baseball’s narrative, Abner Doubleday became the media darling, and so the “Zuffa Myth” is poised to be the version fans tell their grandchildren. As time marched on, seemingly innocent embellishments a decade ago intensified to create “Dana Doubleday,” the be-all and end-all of MMA. This version of Dana White is media endorsed exaggeration that has permanently blurred historic lines. White was able to parlay a longshot into a multi-billion dollar industry, launching MMA into the stratosphere. That of itself makes him a winner. He deserves a lot of credit, just not all the credit. As pre-Zuffa contributions continue to fade away into obscurity, so do the pioneers who fought in the trenches to establish a sport, much less the trailblazers who paved the way before the UFC. Innovators like Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri (the first to test drive the sport) aren’t even in the conversation, but do deserve a voice. Is MMA following the dark path of “Doublethink” mentality?

“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them….To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary.” –George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Conspiracy? Ignorance? Maybe a little of both? No matter what you believe, it’s not too late to give the sport due diligence. The UFC should embrace history as it won’t tarnish the future. The struggles CV [Caliguri and Viola] Productions faced (worthy of a movie) only validate the obstacles that UFC were able to overcome. Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri have come to terms with UFC’s success, they aren’t a threat. You won’t find them criticizing or challenging the UFC, if anything they respect Zuffa. No retaliation or embarrassing gimmicks are in the works a la Art Davie’s XARM. A hybrid of Kickboxing arm wrestling–really? No, MMA was CV’s ticket and they admit the UFC punched it well. Zuffa doesn’t owe them “anything” but they should be thankful for “everything.”

Everyone from Art Davie to Dana White and all in between can thank the Pennsylvania state legislature for banning MMA in 1983, because without them the UFC as we know it would have never existed. But Dana White isn’t losing any sleep over MMA’s forgotten forefathers; he was able to cash in on a diamond in the rough. He didn’t steal the gem; he just polished it and did a damned good job. Just don’t forget that treasure passed through many hands: CV Productions (1979) to WOW Promotions (1993) to SEG Entertainment (1995) to Zuffa (2001-present). If MMA wants to be considered the crown jewel, then the UFC should treat MMA’s history as a priceless commodity; handle it with the same reverence as boxing, baseball, football and all the other great American institutions have. Major League Baseball has made mistakes, gaffes, and errors along the way, but they amend their books. Will the UFC do the same? They certainly aren’t obligated to, MMA is a free market, but they are the 800 pound gorilla and the world is watching. The UFC can’t be expected to honor competitors or rivals, but CV Productions pre-dates them. That in and of its self gives them a pass, the opportunity to do the right thing and say yeah, those guys really were pioneers. While Royce Gracie will always be remembered as the Babe Ruth of MMA, a group of spirited men “existed” and played a role before those stars were born. They also deserve a permanent place in the annals of history.

It’s never been a question of White’s acumen; he and the Fertitta brothers are the reason MMA is cash cow. Like Thomas Edison’s claim to fame, they didn’t invent the light bulb; they just knew how to sell it—Capitalism at its finest. But 100 years from now, will fans remember the history of “MMA” or just Dana Doubleday’s UFC? It may be of little consequence now, but the Alexander Cartwrights of mixed martial arts should be given respect and recognition before it’s too late. Meet the true Godfathers of MMA.

zuffa myth

Who’s Your Daddy?

Alexander Cartwright, James Naismith and Walter Camp all share a similar rite of passage, each has been honored as the “father” of their respective sports: Baseball, Basketball and Football.  For all intents and purposes history credits them with invention, although each sport evolved incrementally from some inspiration or another.  While there may be scholarly debate about who, what, when, where and how each sport actually was conceived, history proves that the masterminds behind the original “rules and regulations” determine the birth of a sport, and with it the recognition of its original author, aka “the father.”

The journey towards mainstream status for every sport has endured long and winding roads, but each trailblazer took that same very defining first step—RULES.  It’s the creation of rules that distinguishes a game from simply goofing off and sport from spectacle.  While rules have certainly changed over the past century, the essence of each major sport is steeped in tradition.  Basketball, football, and baseball can trace their roots back to a pioneer who drafted a blueprint in an effort to standardize competition.  Embodied by awards that bear their namesake, the legacy of Cartwright, Naismith, and Camp are intact, but who is the father of MMA?  Who penned the holy grail of MMA rules?

The default response isn’t an individual at all but rather, “The UFC of course.” The nonchalant reaction bundles Rorion Gracie, Art Davie, Campbell McLaren, Bob Meyrowitz, Dana White and a host of others into a single entity so you don’t have to pinpoint exactly when the NHB became MMA.  Some would argue that pioneers like Jeff Blatnik, Larry Hazzard, John McCarthy, and Howard Petchler, who all had a hand in influencing modern MMA rules, should be in the conversation.  Each deserves a placard in the Hall of Fame, but unfortunately those rules were not the originals. CV Productions owns the rights whether folks know it or not.

When my father [Bill Viola Sr.] first put pen to paper in 1979 he had a vivid dream.  As successful as mixed martial arts has become, to him, MMA is as brilliant today as it was supposed to be decades ago.  It’s come a long way since the Holiday Inn in New Kensington, but one thing remains the same; my father, Frank and the original “Tough Guys” and Super Fighters will always and forever be the undisputed Godfathers of an American sport.

The UFC’s Maiden Voyage   

“It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite— that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.”   ―Mark Twain

Most mixed martial arts fans simply aren’t concerned with revisionist history, but we still have a duty to preserve the integrity of sport.  Note “sport” is a very specific label not to be confused with methodology, training, or brutal contests that would include an analysis of Pankration, Vale Tudo, and any number of distant relatives that inspired modern MMA competition in the United States (long before we knew it as mixed martial arts). The “invention” of mixing martial arts dates back to the rise of humanity, but the “creation” of an American sport has direct lineage. The field of pioneers runs deep including everyone from Bruce Lee to “Judo” Gene LeBell setting the tone with exhibitions and challenges, but their contributions, although groundbreaking, do not constitute an “open” regulated sport.  Like stick-and-ball games, baseball didn’t become a sport until the emergence of a diamond, 3 strikes and 4 bases and MMA is no different.  While the UFC popularized the idea of MMA, the “sport” was created a decade earlier (MMA’s best kept secret). CV Productions provided the blueprint for a multi-billion dollar business in 1979; the first league of its kind with no pay-per-view or the internet to spread their message.  The Super Fighters revolution was repressed, now passed off as mere urban legend, but it’s time to look past the fairy tale version you’ve been brainwashed to believe—UFC’s Maiden Voyage.

Art Davie thought he had entered uncharted waters in 1993 when he created the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but another ship set sail years before him.  Davie planted his flag in Denver, Colorado thinking he had discovered new land, but in reality MMA’s story began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania more than a decade earlier. It’s not up for debate; there is overwhelming evidence that a UFC-esque promotion thrived before Rorion Gracie and Art Davie collaborated.  CV Productions was a premonition of the Zuffa era, built as sport from the ground up, while UFC 1 was devised as a spectacle, slowly transforming to sport over time.  The former isolated in Pennsylvania, the latter seen in every major market in America. One forgotten, the other larger than life.

While Davie, a true innovator, certainly pitched the idea of cage fighting and popularized it on television, his vision “There are no rules” was a far cry from anything that resembled sport.  His version would eventually morph into a billion dollar behemoth, but it too had a precursor. Yes, he co-created the UFC (the most famous 3 letters in combat sports) but he wasn’t the first to “package” MMA. It may be hard to fathom that sport existed before the UFC, but it did. Art Davie and Rorion Gracie were the first to introduce modern MMA to the “world” (via pay-per-view) but remain the runner up in “America.”

Most media outlets tell us, “Mixed martial arts competitions were introduced in the United States with the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993.” This just isn’t true; a major milestone yes, but a major misnomer.  They, the press, got it wrong in ‘93 and have been wearing blinders ever since.  A more accurate description might have been, no-holds-barred competitions were introduced in the United States with the first UFC but the modern sport of mixed martial began under the banner of CV Productions. Too late, once the ripple effect set in (print, reprint, reprint) the UFC became the first of its kind.  Positive or negative press, the public is prone to believe what news they hear first.  Ask any politician who’s been on the wrong end of a juicy scandal; truth becomes relative depending which way the press leans.  It’s equally hard to buck that trend if you are an inventor or explorer playing catch up.

The perception of the UFC and CV Productions is very much in line with Christopher Columbus and Leif Eriksson.  While the Vikings didn’t have a clever rhyme, Columbus did, sailing the ocean blue in 1492. The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s ploy of course was shock and awe, broadcast live and in bloody color.  UFC, like Columbus, won the media’s attention and was accepted into an exclusive club with “lifetime” membership—pop culture. The New World may have been discovered 500 years before Columbus was born, but once America makes up her mind she is stubborn.

History does seem to iron itself out, but first impressions still carry a lot of weight. What’s right is right and President Lyndon Johnson declared October 9th to be Leif Eriksson Day, just a few days earlier than Columbus Day observed on the 12th. However, unless you’re Norwegian, Columbus still takes the first place for being second. CV Productions is yet to get its official proclamation, but their day is coming.

Today, CV Production’s “anything goes” creation has evolved into one of the fastest growing sports in the world, albeit under the auspices of the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Nearly thirty years before the UFC garnered real mainstream acceptance, CV set up shop as the first mixed martial arts company in American history. Although enshrined at Heinz History Center in association with the Smithsonian Institution, you’ve likely never heard of them—until now. MMA is the sport of the 21st century: WOW Promotions popularized it, SEG Entertainment refined it, Zuffa LLC monetized it, but CV Productions created it. This is your exclusive ticket to travel back in time and relive the epic journey of the Godfathers of MMA

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Who created MMA? Meet the pioneers

Who really created the modern sport of MMA.

Meet the pioneers who established the first mixed martial arts company and league in American history.  This is CV Productions (Caliguri & Viola) highlights form 1979-1983

 

Godfathers-of-MMA-book-ad

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Super Fighters League (SFL)

Before fighting was “Ultimate” it was “Super”

The first mixed martial arts league in history was the SFL (Super Fighters League) Established in 1980 decades before the UFC would become a household name.

super-figther

See some of CV Productions accomplishments.

CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions was the first MMA based promotional company in American history, established in 1979.

Bill Viola wrote the first codified set of mixed martial arts rules in 1979; implemented in over 130 bouts.  Those standards parallel the unified rules of today.

The World Martial Arts Fighting Association (WMAFA) sanctioned all CV Productions events and was the first regulatory body for mixed martial arts in the United States.

CV Productions introduced open regulated mixed martial arts competitions to the United States March 20, 1980 in Pittsburgh, PA with the inaugural “Battle of the Tough Guys” championship. This was the first commercial MMA success and the beginning of a new sport.

Later in 1980, the “Tough Guys” were rebranded as Super Fighters to accommodate a professional fighting image: The “Super Fighters League” (SFL). This was the first MMA league of its kind and set the tone for mainstream mixed martial arts.

Pennsylvania became the first state in history to set a legal precedent for mixed martial arts, officially banning the sport of MMA with the passage of Senate Bill 632 (Session of 1983 Act 1983-62).

The groundbreaking law was drafted specifically to outlaw CV Productions’ events and provided detailed language that defined mixed martial arts competition by prohibiting:

“ANY COMPETITION WHICH INVOLVES ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT BOUT BETWEEN TWO OR MORE INDIVIDUALS, WHO ATTEMPT TO KNOCK OUT THEIR OPPONENT BY EMPLOYING BOXING, WRESTLING, MARTIAL ARTS TACTICS OR ANY COMBINATION THEREOF AND BY USING TECHNIQUES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PUNCHES, KICKS AND CHOKING.”

Ten years after the passage of Senate Bill 632, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) would debut in 1993.

 

 

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Tough Guy Contest

By Anne Madarasz,

Director of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum

Tough Guy Museum

Tough Guy Contest

http://journals.psu.edu/wph/article/viewFile/58821/58547

ToughGuy Contest 1

 

Tough Guy Contest 2

Tough Guys!

It started with barroom boasting and has grown into a sport followed by millions on cable TV and in arenas nationwide. Frank Caliguri of Arnold, Pa.—a black belt in karate and owner of the Academy of Martial Arts—was motivated by the ribbing he got while promoting karate, and so he decided to stage a “Battle of the Tough Guys” competition with fellow black belt Bill Viola. As Caliguri described it in 1980, “I’ve staged martial arts shows and tournaments for years, and every time I’ve gone into a local bar or diner to tack up a poster for a tournament, the local guys would hoot and holler that they could take on anybody and didn’t need karate. Now they’ll have their chance.” Caliguri and Viola carefully planned the event, and promoted it through their company, C.V. Productions. They developed detailed rules and regulations to guide their “Tough Guy Contest,” described as, “The martial arts way of fighting as it’s done in the Orient.” All contestants were required to wear protective equipment including head gear, mouth guards, padded gloves, and boots, the same equipment used in the sanctioned karate and kick boxing tournaments the pair had promoted. They booked the ballroom of the New Kensington Holiday Inn for March 20 through 22, and raised $6,000 in prize money. Then they began advertising for amateur fighters.

Mike Murray and Dave Jones answered the call. Murray, a car salesman from Arnold, took the ring against Jones, a laborer from Irwin, in the first match of the lightweight division on Thursday evening, March 20. Murray struggled, battling against the bigger Jones, who pinned him for a 10-count in the first round, then knocked him down twice in the second and third before the match was stopped. Battered and bruised after his technical knockout, Murray remained unfazed, declaring afterwards, “He got in some punches, but I’d do it again. I’m bad! I’m tough!” That three-round bout has been identified as the first of its kind in the nation. Though billed as a “Battle of the Tough Guys,” the event featured the mix of boxing, wrestling,and martial arts fighting that is today considered mixed martial arts. Caliguri and Viola staged their multi-day event, intending it to serve as the first of a series of regional bouts leading up to a national championship. They held their finals, the “Battle of the Brawlers,” in Pittsburgh at the Stanley Theater in mid-April and crowned a champion, Frank Tigano. Interest soared and the events in New Kensington and downtown both drew standing room-only crowds. But the sport ended almost as quickly as it had begun. Pressure from the boxing commission and wrestling federation (though they had no jurisdiction over the sport), combined with a death in a similarly titled but unrelated “Tough Man” boxing event in Johnstown, led to the banning of all tough guy and brawlers contests. In 1983, the state legislature outlawed the sport in Pennsylvania and Caliguri and Viola found themselves unable to proceed with their events. It was almost two decades before the sport returned as mixed martial arts, now one of the nation’s most popular and fastest growing sports. The story of that first Tough Guy event held in a New Kensington ballroom lives on in the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. Mike Murray, Bill Viola, and Frank Caliguri worked with curators to assemble objects such as uniforms and protective gear, and archival materials such as programs, posters, photographs, and tickets—a collection that traces the roots of mixed martial arts in the United States back to the Pittsburgh region.

Tough Guy Contest! The birth of new sport…

the tough guy contest

CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions was the first mixed martial arts promotional company in American history, established in 1979.

CV Co-founder, Bill Viola, wrote the first codified set of mixed martial arts rules in 1979; implemented in over 130 bouts.  Those standards parallel the unified rules of today.

The World Martial Arts Fighting Association (WMAFA) sanctioned all CV Productions events and was the first regulatory body for mixed martial arts in the United States.

CV Productions introduced open regulated mixed martial arts competitions to the United States March 20, 1980 in Pittsburgh, PA with the inaugural “Battle of the Tough Guys” championship aka Tough Guy Contest. This was the first commercial MMA success and the beginning of a new sport.

Later in 1980, the “Tough Guys” were rebranded as Super Fighters to accommodate a professional fighting image: The “Super Fighters League” (SFL). This was the first MMA league of its kind and set the tone for mainstream mixed martial arts.

The Tough Guy Law:  Pennsylvania became the first state in history to set a legal precedent for mixed martial arts, officially banning the sport of MMA with the passage of Senate Bill 632 (Session of 1983 Act 1983-62).

The groundbreaking law was drafted specifically to outlaw CV Productions’ events and provided detailed language that defined mixed martial arts competition by prohibiting:

“ANY COMPETITION WHICH INVOLVES ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT BOUT BETWEEN TWO OR MORE INDIVIDUALS, WHO ATTEMPT TO KNOCK OUT THEIR OPPONENT BY EMPLOYING BOXING, WRESTLING, MARTIAL ARTS TACTICS OR ANY COMBINATION THEREOF AND BY USING TECHNIQUES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PUNCHES, KICKS AND CHOKING.”

Ten years after the passage of Senate Bill 632, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) would debut in 1993.

Mixed martial arts was outlawed due to the Tough Guy (MMA) vs Toughman (boxing) controversy.  

tough guy contest ticket

Original Tough Guy Contest Ticket

 

 

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Godfathers of MMA The Book

 

Godfathers of MMA the book

Reserve your copy of the new book Godfathers of MMA today!

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 lead 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” who morphed into 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.

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Who is the father of MMA?

Who is real father of modern mixed martial arts? We examine the complicated question.

Who’s Your Daddy?  MMA style…

Alexander Cartwright, James Naismith and Walter Camp all share a similar rite of passage, each has been honored as the “father” of their respective sports: Baseball, Basketball and Football.  For all intents and purposes history credits them with invention, although each sport evolved incrementally from some inspiration or another.  While there may be scholarly debate about who, what, when, where and how each sport actually was conceived, history proves that the masterminds behind the original “rules and regulations” determine the birth of a sport, and with it the recognition of its original author, aka “the father.”

The journey towards mainstream status for every sport has endured long and winding roads, but each trailblazer took that same very defining first step—RULES.  It’s the creation of rules that distinguishes a game from simply goofing off and sport from spectacle.  While rules have certainly changed over the past century, the essence of each major sport is steeped in tradition.  Basketball, football, and baseball can trace their roots back to a pioneer who drafted a blueprint in an effort to standardize competition.  Embodied by awards that bear their namesake, the legacy of Cartwright, Naismith, and Camp are intact, but who is the father of MMA?  Who penned the holy grail of MMA rules?

The default response isn’t an individual at all but rather, “The UFC of course.” The nonchalant reaction bundles Rorion Gracie, Art Davie, Campbell McLaren, Bob Meyrowitz, Dana White and a host of others into a single entity so you don’t have to pinpoint exactly when the NHB became MMA.  Some would argue that pioneers like Jeff Blatnik, Larry Hazzard, John McCarthy, and Howard Petchler, who all had a hand in influencing modern MMA rules, should be in the conversation.  Each deserves a placard in the Hall of Fame, but unfortunately those rules were not the originals. CV Productions owns the rights whether folks know it or not.

When my father [Bill Viola Sr.] first put pen to paper in 1979 he had a vivid dream.  As successful as mixed martial arts has become, to him, MMA is as brilliant today as it was supposed to be decades ago.  It’s come a long way since the Holiday Inn in New Kensington, but one thing remains the same; my father, Frank and the original “Tough Guys” and Super Fighters will always and forever be the undisputed Godfathers of an American sport.

godfathers of mma book

Meet the real fathers of MMA… Reserve your copy today! 

Who is the father of mma?

© CV Productions Inc.

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MMA History Book

Godfathers of MMA

The Book

Godfathers of MMA is a new book that reveals the untold history of American mixed martial arts.  The first league in history, a decade before the UFC:

CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions was the first MMA based promotional company in American history, established in 1979.

Bill Viola wrote the first codified set of mixed martial arts rules in 1979; implemented in over 130 bouts.  Those standards parallel the unified rules of today.

The World Martial Arts Fighting Association (WMAFA) sanctioned all CV Productions events and was the first regulatory body for mixed martial arts in the United States.

CV Productions introduced open regulated mixed martial arts competitions to the United States March 20, 1980 in Pittsburgh, PA with the inaugural “Battle of the Tough Guys” championship. This was the first commercial MMA success and the beginning of a new sport.

Later in 1980, the “Tough Guys” were rebranded as Super Fighters to accommodate a professional fighting image: The “Super Fighters League” (SFL). This was the first MMA league of its kind and set the tone for mainstream mixed martial arts.

Pennsylvania became the first state in history to set a legal precedent for mixed martial arts, officially banning the sport of MMA with the passage of Senate Bill 632 (Session of 1983 Act 1983-62).

The groundbreaking law was drafted specifically to outlaw CV Productions’ events and provided detailed language that defined mixed martial arts competition by prohibiting:

“ANY COMPETITION WHICH INVOLVES ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT BOUT BETWEEN TWO OR MORE INDIVIDUALS, WHO ATTEMPT TO KNOCK OUT THEIR OPPONENT BY EMPLOYING BOXING, WRESTLING, MARTIAL ARTS TACTICS OR ANY COMBINATION THEREOF AND BY USING TECHNIQUES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PUNCHES, KICKS AND CHOKING.”

Ten years after the passage of Senate Bill 632, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) would debut in 1993.

Godfathers of MMA the book

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Godfathers of MMA

Godfathers of MMA

RAVE REVIEWS

  • 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
  • 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

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