19th Century

While mixed martial arts can be traced back to ancient times, the modern version is mainly influenced by the 19th century. During this period there was a rise in the number of new fighting styles. An excellent example of this is the sport known as savate. It was popular with people in the combat sports community at the time.

The Rise of Savate

Savate was invented in France. Its proponents were inspired to test modern techniques against more traditional ways of fighting. This resulted in an 1852 contest against French savate fighters and English bare-knuckle boxers. A French contestant called Rambaud managed to take down English fighter Dickson with his kicks. Despite this, the boxers still won the majority of rounds.

Savate users continued to challenge fighters of other martial arts throughout the 19th century. This included users of karate, judo and boxing. Savate proved to be more effective against Asian martial arts than western boxing. By the end of the century, wrestling became more of an influence on the French sport.

Wrestlers Fighting Boxers

The use of wrestling can still be seen in the modern version of mixed martial arts. By the 1880s wrestlers would regularly combine their standard moves with those from other fighting sports. They would compete in matches and tournaments inside music halls. In 1887 there was a significant match between wrestler William Muldoon and heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan. Muldoon was defeated within two minutes as he was slammed to the mat. There was considerable publicity around this event.

In the late 1890s, there was another well-known encounter between boxers and wrestlers. This time the fight was boxing champion Bob Fitzsimmons against a similarly revered wrestler called Ernest Roeber. There were contradictory reports of the winner. However, these fights usually ended in the wrestler being defeated.