The first group of competitors to ever fight in a CV Productions event were honored as national pioneers and inducted into the Pittsburgh MMA Hall of Fame, Sunday May 30th 2010, at the Monroeville Convention Center. These men were recognized for their accomplishments over 3 decades ago, paving the way for modern mixed martial arts. The ceremony solidified their place in American sports history. Bill Viola resurrected CV Productions Inc. and promoted “Caged Kumite,” a pro-am mixed martial arts show in conjunction with the Hall of Fame ceremony. The event commemorated the thirty-year anniversary of mixed martial arts in Pittsburgh. The “anything goes” brainchild of Caliguri and Viola has become the fastest growing sport in the world! Thirty years later, Viola and his son Bill Jr. are working to bring respect back to Pittsburgh.
The idea of finding America’s ultimate style of fighter was actually created in Pittsburgh over 30 years ago (although the city gets little credit for the accomplishment and impact on the world’s fastest growing sport) by two ambitious Martial Artists in the 1970s, Bill Viola (North Huntingdon) & Frank Caliguri (New Kensington). Don’t be fooled by the hype, the UFC may have popularized MMA events in recent years, but Viola and Caliguri were the first! Years before MMA was a household name, they produced what the media dubbed as, “Organized, legalized street fighting.” The championship fights were the first in American history that pitted grapplers, kick boxers, wrestlers, boxers, martial artists, street fighters, and all around “Tough Guys” in a sports format that allowed ground fighting and stand up striking.
New Sports Museum Display Explores Local Roots of Mixed Martial Arts
By: Anne Madarasz, co-director, Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum
Professional baseball, football, and hockey can all trace their early 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). The first “Battle of the Tough Guys” took place at the New Kensington Holiday Inn on March 19, 1980. Promoted by Bill Viola, a black belt karate instructor, and Frank Caliguri, also a black belt and owner of the Academy of Martial Arts, the first bout of their multi-day event featured car salesman Mike Murray against laborer Dave Jones in the lightweight division. Jones defeated Murray by technical knockout in the third round in what has been identified as the first MMA match of its kind in the United States. Caliguri and Viola developed rules and regulations to guide their “Tough Man Contest,” described as “the martial arts way of fighting as it’s done in the Orient.” The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum recently unveiled a new display on the early roots of Mixed Martial Arts featuring uniforms and protective gear as well as original programs, posters, photographs, and ticket stubs. The collection, donated by Murray and Viola, provides documentation of the organization of the sport, as well as the promotion of competitive amateur events in the early 1980s. For more information on the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, please visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org