(Video) The first ever MMA match in history took place in 1963: Gene LeBell vs Milo Savage

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is one of the youngest full-contact combat sports, with the term itself first used at the UFC 1 event in 1993. However, various combat sports matches that can be considered as mixed martial arts have existed for longer, incorporating techniques from diverse martial arts styles.

Numerous interstylistic contests occurred across several East Asian countries, while simultaneously, “Vale Tudo,” unrestricted combat sports matches between different styles, gained popularity in Brazil. This mixed combat sport eventually made its way to the US.

One of the first notable matches in the US took place between Judo Gene LeBell and Milo Savage on December 2, 1963, at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Although the term “mixed martial arts” wasn’t used yet, the event marked one of the earliest mixed martial arts matches in the US. Dubbed “Judo vs. Boxing,” it showcased two practitioners from distinct martial arts backgrounds.

Gene LeBell, also known as “Judo” Gene LeBell, was a renowned judoka and professional wrestler celebrated for his expertise in judo, grappling, and submission techniques. Conversely, Milo Savage was a professional boxer known for his striking ability.

Compared to modern MMA rulesets, the regulations of the match were considerably lax. There were no gloves, rounds, or weight classes, allowing the competitors to demonstrate their skills and techniques freely, unconstrained by traditional boxing or judo rules, resulting in a raw and intense spectacle.

In this grappling versus striking duel, both LeBell and Savage engaged fiercely. LeBell utilized his judo background to initiate grappling exchanges, while Savage relied on his boxing prowess to land punches and maintain the fight standing. As the match progressed, LeBell’s grappling dominance became increasingly apparent, culminating in him successfully dragging Savage to the ground and securing a submission victory.

The match garnered widespread attention and acclaim among combat sports enthusiasts, showcasing the effectiveness of integrating different martial arts disciplines. It also marked a significant moment in the rise of mixed martial arts’ popularity in the US, laying the groundwork for the diverse styles seen in MMA today.