Dana White, Conor Mcgregor, and UFC Alumni Honor Bruce Lee as the ‘Father of Mixed Martial Arts’

Many people have their hands in the creation of MMA. While there’s a lot of debate over who did what, one thing is clear, and that’s that Bruce Lee had a big role in it. Here’s a look at the life of Bruce Lee and how he influenced MMA and the UFC.

A look at Bruce Lee’s life and career

In a way, his career as a martial arts movie star came by pure luck. Lee was actually born in San Francisco, but his parents moved back to their home in Hong Kong not long after his birth. Hong Kong at the time was still a British colony, so Lee was raised in a unique way that few Chinese people had at the time.

He was able to learn not just English, but also the rich martial arts history that China had. Indeed, it was at this time that he learned some of his skills from the legendary Wing Chun master Ip Man. Eventually though, his parents sent him to America for high school, and it didn’t take him long before he became a sensation in Hollywood. 

From the late-’60s into the early-’70s, he starred in many martial arts films and productions, both in Hollywood and in Hong Kong. Some of his most famous works include Fist of Fury, The Green Hornet, and Enter the Dragon.

Unfortunately though, in 1973, he passed away at the age of 32. But, before he passed, he was able to create a brand-new martial art called Jeet Kune Do, or JKD for short.

How Jeet Kune Do influenced MMA

As Bleacher Report wrote, JKD wasn’t like the martial arts that Lee had mastered in his short time on Earth. JKD, as a martial art, called for “being like water” and reacting to anything and everything that might happen in a fight.

This was innovative at the time, since martial arts had very strict rules of combat. For example, in boxing, you can only punch your opponent above the belt. 

In a real fight, however, there aren’t any rules and anything is possible. Your opponent could kick you, slam you, or try to break your arm. JKD, as a martial art, tried to prepare its students for every single one of those possibilities. Like Bleacher Report wrote, the opening scene in Enter the Dragon showed Lee using JKD to its fullest extent. 

In that scene, Lee attacked his opponent with his punches and his kicks. He also used some grappling to get his opponent to the ground and then, he finished his adversary with an arm lock.

This combination of moves wouldn’t be out of the ordinary in a UFC fight, since these JKD-style moves mixes and matches many different martial arts, which is exactly what MMA is.

How the UFC honored Bruce Lee


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Unsurprisingly, many people in the UFC think highly of the martial arts star. For example, according to Fight Times, Dana White, the president of the UFC, called him the “father of mixed martial arts.” Bleacher Report reported that other people in the UFC had similar sentiments.

Michelle Waterson said that he was not just a “huge influence” on her, but that he was also “a true pioneer” of MMA. Former two-weight champion Randy Couture said that Lee made martial arts cool for him and his generation. Middleweight contender Uriah Hall even said that he wishes he knew Lee in real life.

Conor McGregor is another massive fan of Lee. According to Sport Bible, McGregor even said that Lee would’ve been “an MMA world champion” if he was young and alive today. 

Partially due to how beloved he is by the MMA community, the UFC even added him onto the UFC’s video games.