I recently wrote about a time when MMA and kickboxing was taken off TV when I was young. I hail from Morgantown, WV, which is about an hour south of Pittsburgh, PA. That means, way back in the day, we got all of our TV programming from Pittsburgh. It wasn’t like it is today. Cable TV was still a new thing. We didn’t get cable in WV until about a couple weeks before MTV aired for the first time, which was in 1981. Broadcasted “local” content was more regulated.
In Pittsburgh, a company called CV Productions was producing MMA fights in the US in the early 1980’s. I watched a lot of fights growing up, both taped and aired. This was prior to the VCR craze, so everything was on local or cable TV. If you missed it, you had to hope for a replay. Then, in 1983, Pennsylvania outlawed MMA completely. That eliminated my watching of the fights.
My father and I were crushed. It wasn’t just the fights to us. It was a bonding thing. Something we both enjoyed that my mother didn’t.
So, how did a rule outlawing fights affect TV? Well, namely, since mixed martial arts was effectively illegal in the state of Pennsylvania, a local television company airing illegal fights in their entirety could get into a lot of trouble. So, we got a lot of alternative programming instead of what might have aired in say, California. And, CV Productions could not just move to a different state—it would have taken a tremendous amount of money. This was back in the day of analog and physical cables and film. Each production was horribly expensive to produce and moreso if you wanted to air it.
A few years later, ESPN and a couple other early sports cable channels started airing fights. But we were literally fightless, unless it was boxing, for several years.
If you’d like to know more about these early Pittsburgh fights, check out the Showtime documentary, “Tough Guys” or the book “Godfathers of MMA” by Dr. Fred Abrams and Bill Viola Jr.
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