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Thursday, March 31, 2016

No Holds Barred Tenth Anniversary: John Perretti on MMA and Grappling 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with lifelong martial artist, former UFC and Battlecade Extreme Fighting matchmaker, TV commentator, and our senior correspondent, John Perretti.

This is another in a series of discussions celebrating the tenth anniversary of this No Holds Barred podcast, which began in March 2006. These interviews will focus both on the legacy and issues raised over the years on this show, as well as contemporary issues and the future of the combat sports and martial arts.

We spoke with John Perretti by phone Tuesday.

Besides having been both a kickboxer as well as a grappler with a black belt from Gene LeBell, John Perretti was a pioneer in mixed martial arts. He devised the modern format of MMA, including the use of weight classes, rounds, and fingerless gloves, as matchmaker with Battlecade Extreme Fighting and later UFC. He even first used the term "mixed martial arts" in the 1980s, before the revival of professional MMA in the 1990s. But when UFC changed hands in 2001, he quit that organization and moved on. And he is not at all happy with what MMA has become.

"I did not see this being the way it is today, before Barnum and Bailey bought it," he said, mockingly referring to Zuffa, UFC's parent company.

"I did not see this fan contingent base being such an odd one, a narrow one." And he decried what he called the "new culture" in MMA today.

We discussed the devolution of MMA in the U.S., why it was accurate to argue in the 1990s that MMA was indeed safer than sports like boxing and college football, and why that is no longer the case.

Grappling has also always been extremely important to him, especially with his own experience of having suffered numerous concussions and some memory loss from his fighting days. In 1997, he attempted to develop a professional grappling pay-per-view event known as "The Contenders". That show, however, was a financial failure, and folded after one event. The question arises, with so many more people training and competing in many styles of grappling and wrestling these two decades later, could some type of professional grappling or real wrestling event succeed now?

"I caution everyone," he said. "I caution everyone that anything is within the clutches of corruption."

After referencing the many corruption scandals in sumo wrestling in Japan, he emphasized, "Anything, no matter how much you want it to be, a solid future for a concussion-less sport of pugilism, is susceptible to a circus coming into town."

We discussed more on concussions and head trauma in combat sports, the techniques of grappling and striking in MMA, some of the history behind the New York State government banning MMA in 1997 and now being set to re-legalize it this year, his being written out of history, his forthcoming memoirs, and much, much more.

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