Welcome to Godfather MMA Mixed Martial Arts. Pittsburgh is the birthplace of modern “sport” MMA (1979). The information provided on this site is collected in an effort to preserve the historical integrity of modern MMA mixed martial arts as a sport in Pennsylvania and throughout The United States. Below are facts presented in a manner to help educate and fill in the blanks to missing parts of modern sport MMA history. Godfather MMA is dedicated to keeping the storied traditions alive and proving a historical reference for all types of combat and mixed martial arts.
Godfather MMA Mixed Martial Arts is an online resource for all styles of fighting including mixed martial arts (freestyle fighting, vale tudo, no holds barred (NHB), cage fighting, ultimate fighting) information, events, fighters, gyms and history. We feature the best in both ground and stand up martial arts including: BJJ Brazilian jiu-jitsu, submission grappling, Japanese ju jutsu, full contact martial arts, karate, judo, boxing, kickboxing, greco-roman wrestling, shoot wrestling, catch wrestling, sambo, tae kwon do, tang soo do, kung fu, thai boxing, muay thai and all areas of combat sports in PA. Godfather MMA Mixed Martial Arts serves the Western Pennsylvania region, Greater Pittsburgh area, and the United States of America. The history of sport MMA Mixed Martial Arts in Pittsburgh since 1979. Meet the Godfather’s of MMA Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri.
Modern MMA in America:
Don’t be fooled by the hype…America was first introduced to regulated mixed martial arts fighting March 20th 1980 in Pittsburgh, PA. The new mma-style league held 10 competitions across Pennsylvania under the banner of “Battle of the Brawlers,” “Battle of the Tough Guys,” “Tough Guy Contests” and “Battle of the Superfighters” throughout 1980, years before promotions such as UFC. Notable locations included the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Johnstown War Memorial, and the Philadelphia Civic Center. Read more
Heinz History Museum
The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum of the Heinz History Center of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute unveiled an exhibit on 23 June 2011 to document the birthplace of mixed martial arts.
The Legend of Mitsuyo Maeda
The famous Japanese judōka and prizefighter was legendary in no holds barred competitions. He pioneered judo in Brazil and ultimately developed Brazilian Jiu Jitsu through his teaching of the Gracie Family. He was a product of the Kodokan and student of Judo’s founder, Kano Jigoro. CV Productions aimed to transform traditional “challenges” such as Vale Tudo (made popular by the famous Gracie Challenges in Brazil) into an actual combative sport in America. Read More
Modern MMA Inspiration
In the 1970s martial arts gained popularity with the emergence of Hollywood icon Bruce Lee. The 1973 the major motion picture Enter the Dragon was a huge box office hit (loosely based upon a mixed martial arts style of fighting tournament). The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, published in 1975, detailed Lee’s philosophy of combat (essentially mixed martial arts training).
10/15/2011 Western PA Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Grappling Championship 5/26/2012 Kumite Classic Martial Arts Championship
Pictured left to right; Bill Viola, Dana White, Frank Caliguri. CV Productions is the first documented company to promote mixed martial arts as a sport to the American public in 1980. Popular promotions such as UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Read More
30 Year Anniversary of MMA in Pittsburgh
On May 30th 2010 Bill Viola resurrected CV Productions Inc. and promoted “Caged Kumite,” a pro-am mixed martial arts show. The event commemorated the thirty-year anniversary of mixed martial arts in Pittsburgh. Read more
Pittsburgh’s 1st BJJ Blackbelt
Sonny Achille is the first official BJJ Black Belt in the Gracie family lineage in Western Pennsylvania. He was promoted by Pedro Sauer, a senior student of Helio and Rickson Gracie. He operates Steel City Martial Arts. Read More.
Banning Mixed Martial Arts
In November of 1980 CV Productions was ordered by The Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission to cancel their upcoming show in Greensburg, PA. They were given an ultimatum; if they proceeded, the Pennsylvania State Police would intervene and shut the event down. CV Productions ignored the warning citing that the Athletic Commission had no proven jurisdiction over mma competitions. Read More
UFC in Pittsburgh
Thousands will file into Consol Energy Center to see Pittsburgh’s first Ultimate Fighting Championship event Sunday, but the history of mixed martial arts can be traced back 31 years to a Holiday Inn in New Kensington.
Referees who pioneered the sport
Jack Bodell was a martial arts student of Bill Viola at Allegheny Shotokan Karate. He was at the time an agent of the United States Secret Service charged with protecting President Jimmy Carter.
Jacquet Bazmore was a Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion who trained at Viola and Caliguri martial arts schools. Noted as one of the most prolific Kickboxers of his era, he also was a sparring partner for boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
1979 Tough”man” vs Tough”guy” Controversy
In 1979 Viola and Caliguri pitched the idea of “Anything goes fighting,” in local bars and gyms looking for the toughest fighters to enter a “Tough Man” competition scheduled for March of 1980. Unknown to them, Michigan promoter Art Dore was hosting boxing events under the name Toughman. CV Productions Inc. immediately changed their name to “Tough Guy” to distinguish themselves before their first event. “Tough Guy” competitions were mixed martial arts style fights that utilized open figured gloves and permitted striking, kicking, wrestling, grappling, submissions, etc. Toughman contests were purely boxing and used 16-ounce gloves. The companies had no affiliation with each other.
Hall of Fame
Pittsburgh MMA instituted the MMA Hall of Fame in 2010 and inducted fighters from the original Tough Guy Competition held March 20, 1980. The ceremony took place at the Kumite Classic Martial Arts Expo held in Monroeville, Pennsylvania on May 30, 2010. Read More
Godfather’s of MMA
The idea of finding America’s ultimate style of fighter was created in Pittsburgh by two ambitious Martial Artists in the 1970s, Bill Viola & Frank Caliguri. They set out to develop a sport that would answer the age old burning question, “Who would win between Muhammad Ali (boxer), Bruce Lee (martial artist), or Bruno Sammartino (wrestler)?” They’re answer lead to the first first grass roots movement of mixed martial arts as a modern mainstream sport. Read more
CV Productions Inc.
CV is an abbreviation for its co-founders last names, Pittsburgh Martial Arts pioneers William Viola of Irwin, Pennsylvania and Frank Caliguri of Arnold, Pennsylvania. The experienced promoters set out to address the hypothetical question, “Who would win between Muhammad Ali (boxer), Bruce Lee (martial artist) or Bruno Sammartino (wrestler)?” Viola and Caliguri spent much of 1979 developing the foundation for a series of mixed martial arts style competitions. Read More
MMA Book Deal
A major book deal has been inked documenting MMA in Pittsburgh. A Penn State University professor is currently developing a book chronicling the Toughguy craze and history of Mixed Martial Arts in Pennsylvania.