I have been a follower of the local MMA scene in Houston for quite some time now. As long as TXMMA has been around bringing it to the masses, I have enjoyed watching combat sports in Texas grow into prominence.
When I think back to the beginning, I can vividly recollect the thrill of watching my first local fights, circa 2001, at Saul Soliz’ Renegades shows here in Houston. Back then, up-and-coming fighters like KJ Noons, Rocky Long, Randy Hauer, and Lee King would light each other up pancrase-style – aiming for knockouts with open-handed pimp slaps while others, such as Buddy Clinton, Dave Phillips, Tim Credeur, and Phil Cardella would show off their vaunted ground games, however under-appreciated that aspect of the fight was at the time. Fans back then would be more likely to appreciate Jonathan Ivey, as he would excite the crowd with a frenetic pace, insane moves such as rolling heel hooks, and his own version of the Rock’s “people’s elbow” while announcer Reverend Bart screamed of impending death, destruction, and mayhem, much to the thrill of the local blood-thirsty crowds.
It has been many years since those fun nights. Some things remain the same. The crowds, albeit much larger at most events, still demand excitement for their viewing pleasure. You will often hear familiar snippets from the crowd, like the occasional call for hammerfists (pron: hay ·murr ·feast), elbows (pron: ail·bow), and the ever-popular KNEE! Despite those occasional sound bytes, your average MMA fan nowadays is much more knowledgeable than our days of lore, and would as likely to appreciate a solid ground transition or submission attempt as they would a knockout punch.
A myriad number of factors and pivotal events have brought many new fans to our sport both nationally and on the local level. Among them, the state athletic commission’s adoption of the standard MMA rules of combat, a rise in local media coverage via city-centric sites such as TheCageDoor.net, growth of homegrown MMA promotions such as Legacy Fighting Championships, and the continued evolution of local gyms and fighters themselves have led to one conclusion – There has never been a better time to be a Mixed Martial Arts fan in Houston.
For those of you still around from the old pre-MMA pankration days of the Houston fight scene (Here’s looking at you, Paul Erickson, the aforementioned fighters, and Saul Soliz), I salute you. This column will be for you veterans and new fans of Houston MMA alike as I look to bring additional coverage to our local scene.
Over the next few segments of this column, I am going to discuss the growth of Houston Mixed Martial Arts with some of the local figures influential in helping to raise Houston MMA to national recognition.
Thanks ahead of time for reading!
Mike Calimbas is a Houston-based freelance writer who has trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts for over a decade. Despite his time training, sadly, he still the cardio of Bob Sapp. Mike can be found ringside at most Houston events or online. Don’t hesitate to say hello when you see him.