A narrative I commonly see is that grappling was only widely appreciated in America due to the success of Gracie Jiujitsu in the first few UFCs of the 1990s. Supposedly, people expected boxing, kickboxing, and similar striking sports to dominate because these sports had bigger audiences and more cultural significance.

However, it occurred to me that wrestling became widely practiced as a school sport throughout the 20th century, and people must've at least been generally aware of wrestling's merits considering the cultural significance of the Olympic games.

So where does the truth lie? Was wrestling really regarded as "just a sport" that couldn't stand up to the "real fighting" in striking sports? Did people respect grappling but simply had no idea how foundational it is to unarmed combat? Or was this narrative made up?


Wrestling and judo were not unknown, but particularly outside of Olympic season generally weren't featured much. Pancrase, shootwrestling etc. were largely a curiosity among pro wrestling enthusiasts.

BJJ was featured in movies like Lethal Weapon but exploded after UFC1.

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