Category Archives: MMA

Tough Guys Premiere

bill viola jr showtime

By Jonathan Guth

jguth@heraldstandard.com

GREENSBURG — The stars came out on Friday night at The Palace Theatre for a special showing of Showtime’s “Tough Guys” documentary that takes a first-hand look at what Brownsville native Bill Viola, Sr. and Frank Caliguri started 13 years before the first UFC event took place.

Viola and Caliguri, who co-founded the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), were in attendance with many of the fighters who competed in the first event on Mar. 20, 1980, at the New Kensington Holiday Inn, including Mike Murray, who attended Belle Vernon Area High School, and Dave Jones, who fought Murray in the first official bout.

bill viola jr, bill viola sr, frank caliguri
Author Bill Viola Jr

The fans, friends and family in attendance were able to watch the film free of charge and were able to ask questions following the showing, and the fighters and promoters involved signed autographs and posed for pictures.

The film is a must see and will be repeated on Showtime in case you missed it on Friday.

Without giving away the plot, it is a true story of the little guy getting crushed by “the man.”

Viola and Calguri’s first event was a huge success, with the first event being sold out and people being turned away at the gate, but following a few events, confusion between the “Tough Man” and “Tough Guy” contests, a death during a boxing-only “Tough Man” event and some politicians, CV (Caliguri & Viola) Productions was in trouble due to Senate Bill 632.

Viola’s son, Bill Jr., who is the co-author of the book, “Godfathers of MMA,” was in attendance.

mma history book

An exhibit at the Heinz History Sports Museum displays the first event that inspired the making of the documentary.

Obviously, there is a great deal of violence and language, so the documentary may not be suitable for all members of the family.

It is great to see these men recognized for what they have done but my only question is: Where was the UFC?

The biggest MMA company in the world was in Pittsburgh at PPG Paints Arena for an event, and no one involved in “Tough Guys” was contacted by the organization.

UFC President Dana White will probably never read this, and even on the one and a million chance that he does, doesn’t care what I have to say, but I think a tribute inside the ring would have been fitting.

Those involved at the event on Friday didn’t seem too worried if White and his organization would acknowledge them publicly but hopefully the film takes off and it has to be addressed.

“Dana White was probably in second grade when we started this event,” Viola Sr. said. “There’s no hard feelings. They produced a great product. They do not recognize us, but I think after the show comes out, the facts will speak for themselves, and I think we will get our day.”

Murray probably best summed it up with this statement: “Maybe Dana White should come here to this event and see Frank (Caliguri) and Bill (Viola).”

I totally agree, Mr. Murray.

Herald-Standard Sports Writer Jonathan Guth can be reached via email at jguth@heraldstandard.com

 

Bill Viola Jr. Author of Tough Guys

bill viola jr author

Bill Viola Jr. is an Amazon Best Selling Author #1 Martial Arts book in America (Sept 2017) “Tough Guys”  The book is the inspiration of the critically acclaimed Showtime Television documentary that bares the same name.

bill viola jr author tough guys

What do an NFL star, a United States Secret Service Agent, Sylvester Stallone’s bodyguard, and Muhammad Ali’s sparring partner all have in common?  They were all characters cast in America’s original “anything goes” reality fighting drama, an “open call” that gave birth to a new sport—MMA.

Long before the Octagon was in vogue or Royce Gracie made his pay-per-view debut; decades before the UFC became a household brand and while the likes of Dana White were still in elementary school; two martial artists, Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri, set out to prove once and for all who the world’s greatest fighter was by creating a radical new “sport” in 1979.

Godfathers of MMA reveals the clandestine plot to subvert the “first” mixed martial arts revolution in American history, one poised to challenge boxing as the king of combat sports.  Confounded by a freak accident (death in the ring) and widespread corruption, a massive struggle ensued over money, power, and respect between boxing’s gentry and an upstart MMA company from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions ignited a bitter turf war with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission that sparked a spectacular David and Goliath battle for leverage.

The legendary story, buried by rhetoric for years, casts a wide net reeling in everyone from politicians to mobsters, all with ulterior motives; all with eyes on a billion dollar blueprint. From boxing’s “Holy Territory,” the home of Rocky Balboa, to a bizarre connection with the Supreme Court that lead to the first legal precedent for MMA—ever, this is the ultimate inside look.

Godfathers of MMA is a testosterone-laced whirlwind tale of “what might have been” told by the trailblazers who fought for it.  Relive the epic adventure of the “Tough Guys” later known as Super Fighters (the first mixed martial arts league, long before it was labeled MMA).  Thirty years before the UFC gained a mainstream audience, KDKA-TV dubbed CV’s new sport, “Organized, Legalized, Street fighting” while the Philadelphia Journal proclaimed, “No holds barred as Superfighters take over.” Take a journey back in time to the “Iron City” and meet the fighters, the foes, and the visionaries who created the modern sport of MMA.

bill viola jr showtime

mixed martial arts history

mma history book

Academy Award-Winning Team debuts “Tough Guys” on Showtime

“Tough Guys” is based on the book Godfathers of MMA written by Pittsburgh native Bill Viola Jr. The book which he co-wrote with his cousin Dr. Fred Adams also documents Pittsburgh as the birthplace of MMA, which is now a billion-dollar business. Viola Jr. explains, “When most fight fans think MMA history, they immediately reminisce about the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which made its debut in 1993.  My dad and Frank created the sport over a decade before the UFC.  This is the untold story.”

The movie is largely based in Western Pennsylvania and has strong ties to the city of Greensburg.  In fact, the last “Tough Guy” event was held in Greensburg  at “Hartys” on November 6-7th 1983.

Academy Award nominated documentarian Morgan Spurlock (SUPER SIZE ME) teamed with Oscar winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman (BORN INTO BROTHELS) to produce this film that chronicles the history of MMA beginning in Pittsburgh over a decade before the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) existed.

“Back then, my dad literally mixed up all the martial arts and invented the ‘Tough Guy’ competition not to be confused with Toughman, which was purely boxing,” Viola Jr. said. “Last year the UFC sold for $4 billion dollars.”

The film was executive produced by Spurlock, Kauffman and Spurlock’s business partner, Jeremy Chilnick. It was directed by award winning filmmakers Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo and produced by award winning commercial producer Craig DiBiase.

Although Godfathers of MMA has already been written and published, Viola Jr. plans to re-release the book as a commemorative edition to coincide with the network debut of the film and will include bonus material, a new chapter and rebranded as Tough Guys to match the film.

According to Viola Jr., in 1979, his father and Caliguri dreamed up a contest pitting barroom bigmouths against wrestlers, martial artists, boxers, bouncers and brawlers, billed as a no -holds-barred new type of competitive fighting. “When the fights succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, they were swept up in a chain of events that ended in the first mixed martial arts ban in the nation when the Senate passed the ‘Tough Guy Law’ in 1983.”

“Tough Guys” recounts the inception of Caliguri and Viola Sr.’s first bouts and the colorful, crazy cast of fighters who made them a hit, as well as the politicians who prohibited it. The film brings to life a moment when the national martial arts craze was building to a crescendo as the economies of Pennsylvania steel towns were plummeting to levels of unemployment never seen before or since, breeding desperate men looking for a chance to prove their worth and earn some money in the ring.

“The film presents the untold stories of scrappy brawlers and martial arts promoters,” said Viola Jr., who served as an associate producer. “And, it covers a broad audience of Pittsburgh-area characters.”

For more information about the book, visit www.GodfathersofMMA.com.

bill viola jr karate
Bill Viola Jr. has been training in Shotokan Karate since 1979 under the supervision of his father (Bill Viola Sr.) the founder of Allegheny Shotokan Karate in the Greater Pittsburgh Area.

 

 

 

Tough Guys made history

A new documentary about the history of mixed martial arts has begun filming in the Greater Pittsburgh area. MinusL, a production company based out of New York, NY has secured the rights to produce the new feature. http://www.toughguysdoc.com/

Ten years before the debut of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, two local martial arts promoters and their fighters, a rough group of barroom brawlers, bikers, teachers and steel workers, pioneered the first mixed-martial arts league in the nation.

The first Tough Guy Contest took place March 20, 1980 in New Kensington, PA. The company organized a league of events and promoted over 10 competitions across Pennsylvania under the banner of “Battle of the Brawlers,” “Battle of the Tough Guys,” “Tough Guy Contests” and finally re branding to “Super Fighters” throughout 1980. Notable locations included the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Johnstown War Memorial, and the Philadelphia Civic Center.

CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions was the first MMA based promotional company in American history, established in 1979.

Bill Viola
wrote the first codified set of mixed martial arts rules in 1979; implemented in over 130 bouts. Those standards parallel the unified rules of today.

The World Martial Arts Fighting Association (WMAFA) sanctioned all CV Productions events and was the first regulatory body for mixed martial arts in the United States.

CV Productions introduced open regulated mixed martial arts competitions to the United States March 20, 1980 in Pittsburgh, PA with the inaugural “Battle of the Tough Guys” championship. This was the first commercial MMA success and the beginning of a new sport.

Later in 1980, the “Tough Guys” were rebranded as Super Fighters to accommodate a professional fighting image: The “Super Fighters League” (SFL). This was the first MMA league of its kind and set the tone for mainstream mixed martial arts.

Pennsylvania became the first state in history to set a legal precedent for mixed martial arts, officially banning the sport of MMA with the passage of Senate Bill 632 (Session of 1983 Act 1983-62).

mma banned
The groundbreaking law was drafted specifically to outlaw CV Productions’ events and provided detailed language that defined mixed martial arts competition by prohibiting:

“ANY COMPETITION WHICH INVOLVES ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT BOUT BETWEEN TWO OR MORE INDIVIDUALS, WHO ATTEMPT TO KNOCK OUT THEIR OPPONENT BY EMPLOYING BOXING, WRESTLING, MARTIAL ARTS TACTICS OR ANY COMBINATION THEREOF AND BY USING TECHNIQUES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PUNCHES, KICKS AND CHOKING.”

Ten years after the passage of Senate Bill 632, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) would debut in 1993.

More Reading:
http://godfathersofmma.com/first-state-to-ban-mma/
http://toughguycontest.com/
http://mmahistory.org/toughman-vs-tough-guy/