By Danielle DeVor
As I was sitting here at my computer, I got to thinking about how different things are today for MMA fans vs when MMA was just getting started or even the beginnings of the UFC. Today, there are numerous social media groups that allow fans to get together and discuss the sport and fighters. Some fighters are known across the world for what they do. The internet has certainly played a part in that.
Back in the day, when there was no internet, the only time you knew about an amateur fighter, maybe, was if you paid attention to fliers posted on telephone poles, or read local sports magazine articles. MMA rarely made news in a newspaper unless it was to attack it.
WTAE in Pittsburgh is the channel my father remembers us watching more often than not. They would show kickboxing and a little MMA from time to time. The other channels out of Pitttsburgh chose to refrain from so-called “cock fights”.
Unfortunately, I was too young to remember the names of the MMA fighters. They were all local guys with day jobs like mechanics and laborers. Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri would go around to local bars and ask guys if they wanted to fight for money. They got a decent number of guys willing by doing that.
Sometimes, the people weren’t trained. Other times, they were pretty adept at various forms of martial arts. It made for an entertaining show.
Just when they started to be able to bring in purses for the fighters that would actually help their livelihoods, local government shut them down. I sometimes wonder what the sport of MMA would be like today if it hadn’t been shut down all those years ago and if Pittsburgh would have been the top city for MMA instead of Vegas.
Sadly, we’ll never know.