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A Review of Godfathers of MMA: The Birth of An American Sport

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By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA

Photo credit to amazon.com

Prior to reading Godfathers of MMA: The Birth of An American Sport (2014), I’d recite the history of mixed martial arts as dating back to 1993 and three letters: UFC. Godfathers of MMA, penned by Dr. Fred Adams and Bill Viola Jr., travels readers back a decade further, situating them in the shoes of Bill Viola Sr. and Frank Caliguri, the dynamic duo who formed CV Productions, as they morphed the standard boxing ring into a stage inviting of all forms of martial arts, simultaneously. Defined best by Jim Isler in an article published by News-Dispatch (1980):

“The bout proper consists of three-two minute rounds of catch-as-catch-can action with elements of boxing, wrestling, karate, kickboxing, judo and mayhem mixed in.” (p. v)

The incredibly eerie parallels between CV Productions and present-day MMA, most notably the UFC, poked my curiosities to read on with a more steely vigor:

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. (p. 16)

What’s It About?

Godfathers of MMA is really a memoir chronicling the dramatic rollercoaster ride that was CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions. This account, now legendary, is dedicated to preserving the historical lineage of modern MMA as a sport from its humble beginnings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, through its tumultuous rise across the United States. (p. 8)

Writing Style

A dissertation’s worth of research bundled in beautifully written chapters. The clamor depicted amongst fans of MMA, before they knew it was MMA, mimics a similar buzz generated nowadays with marquee matchups:

As we reminisce about the chaotic rise and fall of MMA from 1979-1983, most fight fans don’t realize just how close they were to seeing a UFC-type entity thirty five years ago. CV had no interest in promoting a gimmick; it was supposed to be a game-changing concept from the outset. (p. 12)

As simple an idea as it is: throw men into a ring to participate in a free-for-all of martial endeavors, the theory of combining combative tactics was bred in Bill Viola Sr.’s dojo,

At the time, Bill held classes all week in Turtle Creek. On Wednesday evenings after the traditional classes ended, he held an informal open class in which all styles of martial arts were welcome to participate and share their knowledge. (p. 56)

To this day, people are enamored with sifting various fighting styles through the colander of hand-to-hand combat:

Caliguri and Viola Sr. sprouted, blossomed, and refined the promotion of martial arts tournaments and kickboxing shows in Western Pennsylvania. Then,

In September of 1979, Viola and Caliguri hatched the idea of a unique competition, a new sport, and they recall the genesis of the project with a fondness daVinci might express about his early sketches of the Mona Lisa. (p. 77)

The atmosphere of the early 1980s fostered a climate of openness for a tournament of toughness, reflected best, at that time, by an article in the Philadelphia Times,

“You could be a real life ‘Rocky.’” Bill remembers, “’Super Fighting’ was a legit shot at that stardom.” The paper continued, “Just think about it, how good would it be to take your frustrations [out] on someone in the ring. But remember, your opponent in the ‘Super Fighters’ may be missing his therapy session to fight you!” (p. 214)

Without spoiling the fun in unfolding the story of CV Productions for you, a quote used by Groucho Marks in the text enveloped their major roadblock:

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” (p. 246)

Godfathers of MMA dragged me into another time and place to set the record straight on MMA’s lineage, layering new learning to my lust of the world’s most electrifying sport.

Sitting Cageside Before Cages

Of all the things CV Productions crafted comparable to MMA’s current landscape, I would have imagined a fenced enclosure erected in “The Steel City.” From the promotional vantage, creation of rules, focus on fighter safety, open-fingered gloves, judging, and on and on, until my cell phone alerted me of a new notification on a social media outlet and reminded me of the year, CV Productions and MMA of now are identical twins dressed differently.

Screen shot of Godfathers of MMA p. 158

Effective, though comical these days to imagine, Caliguri and Viola Sr. spread the word for an upcoming fight in the same manner a child seeks their lost pet: hanging posters. Just before CV Productions launched the MMA of yesteryear, they disclosed conversations they’d have with locals when attempting to attract attention to their kickboxing events,

“Every time we hung up a kickboxing poster, some smart ass would remark, ‘I know so-and-so who could kick the shit out of that karate guy.’ But no one ever challenged us personally.” He [Viola Sr.] says with a laugh, “It was exhausting to hear these guys with beer muscles claim that they or their buddies were the meanest, strongest, biggest bullies on the block. It was a constant verbal mishmash, and we really wanted to shut these egomaniacs up…” (p. 77-78)

Screen shot of Godfathers of MMA p. 88

Unlike the UFC, CV Productions never flinched at the possibility of inviting women into the fold,

“We advertised that we’d accept women’s applications, but only two women applied,” says Caliguri, “not nearly enough, so we scrapped the idea for the time being, but we saw potential from the start.” (p. 85)

I envisioned myself as a fan at a CV Productions event: ticket in hand as I enter the arena, eagerly perched on the edge of my seat for intense competition, and completely unaware of just how close Caliguri and Viola Sr. were to engineering a new sport.

Screen shot of Godfathers of MMA p. 208

Minus any support from the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission (PSAC), many of the requirements established by Caliguri and Viola Sr. in operating a combined fighting event are mandatory sanctions in today’s MMA. Some examples include:

“My general guidelines were set; fighters could win by knockout, technical knockout, submission or decision.” CV’s judges adapted the “10-point must system” to include ground fighting in the scoring system. (p. 99)

or

…”[O]ur rules stipulated illegal fouls, including ‘biting, head butts; strikes, punches or kicks to the groin; and strikes, punches or kicks to the spine.’” (p. 100)

When the bell personified a call to arms, I stood out of my reading chair while continuing to collect lines of action. The detailed play-by-play commentary and post-fight recap read like a top MMA website. In one example: After engaging in a grueling back-and-forth bloodshed, Frank Tigano emerged victorious from the second tournament hosted by CV Productions, potentially cementing the beginning of a legacy in his post-fight interview:

The media surrounded him, and KDKA Television asked him, “Why did you fight?” His response, “I didn’t do it for the money, I did it for the trophy?” It was a real Rocky moment, one arm around his trophy, the other his family. (p. 174)

Screen shot of Godfathers of MMA p. 174

The work of CV Productions was an absolute thrill ride, as a reader and a diehard MMA fan. As you’ll discover when you read Godfathers of MMA for yourself, the door was slammed shut on Caliguri and Viola Sr. before their new sport could grow out of infancy. A sigh of finality met me when CV Productions was rightfully honored for their contribution to MMA:

On June 23, 2011, an exhibit showcasing CV Productions and the origin of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts in America officially opened. Making History, the newsletter for the Senator John Heinz History Center (home of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum), said, “Professional baseball, football, and hockey can all trace their history to Western Pennsylvania. But most local sports fans will be surprised to learn that our region is also the birthplace of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).” (p. 347-348)

Rating

Since Godfathers of MMA shined a spotlight on a shadowed fight history, invited me to every event held by CV Productions, and forged a bond with a new band of fighters, such as: Frank Tigano, Chuck Tursky, Kono Morosky, Rich Cahill, and many others, I couldn’t possibly give Godfathers of MMA anything less than five out of five stars.

Photo credit to Google Images

Conclusion

Investing every free moment into collecting facts about MMA, Godfathers of MMA refocused my vision onto a truer history of the sport,

As recently as November 9, 2011, USA Today erroneously stated that New York is “the first state to ban MMA” when by definition they were really only the first state to target the UFC. (p. 344)

A quote of John Lennon’s embedded in Godfathers of MMA emblematically synced with my new stronger grasp of MMA’s origin,

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” (p. 271)

Get your own copy of Godfathers of MMA at:

Paperback: godfathersofmma.com 

Kindle: www.amazon.com/Godfathers-MMA-Birth-American-Sport-ebook

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Interviews

Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”

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Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:

Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”

Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.

Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”

Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.

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Announcement

Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217

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UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.

The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:

It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.

Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.

 

This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.

With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th?  Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.

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Announcement

*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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