Mixed martial arts – not as a sport but as a form of combat – has been around for ages, with fighters using techniques from a variety of fighting styles to overcome their opponents (or enemies in their case). But MMA as we know it can be traced back to “Vale Tudo”, a form of unarmed, full contact sport of sorts that appeared in Brazil in the 1920s, first as a sideshow in circuses, pitting practitioners of different martial arts against each other (the first documented fight was a local Capoeira expert against a Japanese jiu-jitsu fighter in 1928). Then Art Davie and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Grand Master Rorion Gracie founded the UFC, an inter-discipline martial arts contest, that ultimately led to these fights become an actual sport. MMA became regulated by the California State Athletic Commission in 2000, and these regulations became the foundation of the “Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts”, adopted by the Association of Boxing Commissions in 2009. And now it’s ready to take the next step toward the mainstream.

One of the criteria for a sport to be accepted as an Olympic sport is for it to have a ruling international committee. Poker, that many consider being as much a game of chance as the massive online jackpots with Vegas Palms progressive games are, has a team-based version called “match poker”, as sanctioned by the IFMP. Pole dancing also has a worldwide governing body called “International Pole Sports Federation”. And eSports, today’s fastest-growing competitive activity, also has a governing body called World eSports Association (WESA). And all three of them have a shot at becoming an Olympic sport by 2024 when the Summer Olympics will be hosted by Paris.

And MMA might also make the cut in the near future. The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, founded on February 29, 2012, serves as a democratic hub for national MMA federations and supports the growth of regulation and sports safety globally by aiding countries in the formation of federations where none exist. And its ultimate goal is to raise MMA to the level of an Olympic sport.

“Becoming an Olympic sport is the ultimate achievement and highest formal recognition possible for any sport. Hence that is what the IMMAF will strive towards. We see that the challenges for MMA are great today, but so are the opportunities, and the IMMAF should not have any lesser ambition for MMA than this. When the IMMAF formulates goals, strategies, and tactics over the coming years they will need to pass the test – will this be an instrument in fulfilling the organization’s vision?”, the organization’s statement reads.

So, the question is no longer if MMA will become an Olympic sport but rather when – because it will happen.

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