by Danielle DeVor
As a child, my father spent a lot of time introducing me to a variety of contact sports. One of them, being kickboxing. Back then, in the late 1970’s, kickboxing in America was what was called “full-contact karate”. It was organized by the PKA (The Professional Karate Association) and broadcast on ESPN and other channels as part of the regular sports line-up. The difference between standard kickboxing and full-contact karate is that full-contact karate did not allow for leg kicks. They were forbidden.
One of our favorites to watch was “Superfoot” Bill Wallace. Why was he called Superfoot? Because they clocked his hook kick at right around 60mph. Let that sink in for a minute.
Wallace was the middleweight champion from 1974 – 1980 and retired undefeated.
Now, what does that have to do with MMA? Beyond the fact that Wallace was one of the commentators for UFC 1 and had trained with the Gracies, Wallace had about as much notoriety in the sports game in the 79’s and early 80’s as Chuck Liddel. He was interviewed. He was known to an extent by people who didn’t even follow kickboxing.
His popularity can be counted as one of the true clues that America was ready for MMA. While true MMA was trying to start in Pittsburgh in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Superfoot being champion in 1974 certainly made full-contact sports something that was proved to be watched by a good many people. The public complaints about full-contact karate were pretty much the same as the early statements about MMA.
In recent years, Wallace has been quoted as being anti-MMA because in his opinion, the fighters that did not start out as martial artists are not actual fighters. That they have no skill. Which has made him a disliked figure in terms of the sport. However, he has stated in interviews that he likes fighters like Ronda Rousey. So, he clearly is not anti-MMA. He just has an opinion on whether fighters should study some type of martial arts before becoming a professional fighter.
Whether you like him or not, he is an important figure in the formation of full-contact sports in America and his popularity certainly paved the way for MMA to get a foothold.
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