“Actually, the father of mixed martial arts, if you will, was Bruce Lee. If you look at the way Bruce Lee trained, the way he fought, and many of the things he wrote, he said the perfect style was no style. You take a little something from everything. You take the good things from every different discipline, use what works, and you throw the rest away.”
-Dana White, owner of the UFC, on Bruce Lee
The documentary “I Am Bruce Lee” directed by Bruce’s daughter Shannon Lee, makes a bold claim in saying that he was the de facto father of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). But there is no denying that the MMA wouldn’t be what it is today without figures like Bruce Lee as a part of its history. Bruce Lee is an icon to many top mixed martial artists today, including former eight-year undefeated middleweight champion Anderson Silva. But how would he (in his prime) fare against today’s top MMA fighters?
Well, going by the latest UFC News, just as it is perhaps naive to think he can battle against everyone decades after his passing, it is disrespectful to go “he’ll lose because he was born 70 years ago”. He advocated effectiveness in all ranges of combat a good 30 years before the UFC even existed. He had some of the fastest punches around, at least for his time, and was a seasoned streetfighter in his youth. He trained with professional boxers and a sparring partner for Muhammad Ali was quoted as saying that Bruce’s punches were as hard as any of the top heavyweights of that era.
He was well ahead of his time, however, plucking him from his time period and throwing him in a UFC event such as UFC fight night would be unfair. He would have some catching up to do in order to be effective against top-ranked MMA fighters. The level of MMA is increasing at a tremendous rate. New maneuvers are added all the time, new strategies are devised. The sport of MMA has been evolving so quickly, the UFC champions of five years ago wouldn’t stand a chance against today’s champions from let alone the champion from 10 or 20 years ago. (Just as Diego Maradona as genius a football player he was in his prime, probably wouldn’t stand a chance against Lionel Messi today)
Lee’s weakness would be his ground game. He’d hold up well on striking, but without spending some serious training time on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling. The top guys today would take him to the ground and finish him, either by submission or by wearing him down with ground-and-pound.
However, that being said, Lee would absolutely dominate in a straight fight, without rules, bells and so forth. If Bruce Lee was forced to play by MMA rules, perhaps he would not do as well as if he went against a reigning MMA champion in an alley. Lee would have to figure out a way to disable his opponent without harming him for good. Of course, that makes MMA better and more practical for most people to learn in today’s world: where people are belligerent and where an altercation could result in hurting or killing someone by accident.