Pittsburgh the birthplace of MMA
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
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 and click on the Sports Museum tab