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Like some sports, no single country can own Mixed Martial Arts. The idea of a no holds barred combat sport has been around for a longtime, Pankration of Greece and Leitai of China in the ancient times were earlier forms. French people popularized savate in the mid-19th century. Catch wrestling followed in the late 19th century, Bartitsu was founded in London. Sambo, Brazilian jiu jitsu and Judo have all been the milestones.
Bruce Lee, the late American artist and one of the early martial artists, popularized the idea of combining different elements of various combat styles. His Jeet Kune Do is somewhat similar to the modern Mixed Martial Arts.
Shooto, Pancrase and Desafio are the early events promoting Mixed Martial Arts. In the 1976, the icons of professional boxing and wrestling agreed to a bout. Muhammad Ali fought Antonio Inoki in a 15-round bout which ended in a stalemate, each of them fought in their own style. Challenges like these were contested only in a few years before the emergence of the solid concept.
The creation of UFC wasn't a major turn but the consecutive decisions which shaped the promotion was. Popularisation of television and people's intention to watch fast paced events were two central pillars. Gradually, fighters from all over the world featured in the events and MMA received global acclaims. For many outside the US, movies were the first time they glimpsed at an MMA fight. UFC took whatever help it could and the magic happened. Slowly and smoothly.