It is very gratifying to see how far the sport of MMA has come along in less than twenty years. To think what the UFC used to be is incredibly thought provoking. It began as a highly brutal, text book example of sport spectacle. However, in time, it became more dignified. More rules were necessarily implemented, so that no one walked away with knocked out teeth or fractured spines. Now, while still barbaric in many aspects, is about as close as any dignified combat sport can get.
Through out the years as MMA evolved, so did the fighters. The Gracie family, responsible for exposing North America to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, was an essential element to influence the way fighters perform in MMA. BJJ is a fundamental tool for MMA and for all intents and purposes, absolutely necessary.
The UFC was and still is a gritty proving ground for martial artists all around the world. You will note that many of the top fighters, in the UFC, hold rank in some martial art. Many of these fighters had to adapt their art to fit the nature of MMA. They had to go back to the basics of their art and find a way to make it work in this world of martial arts competition.
That was last generation. There is a new generation of fighters among us. Thanks to the UFC, MMA has now been completely mainstreamed. There are schools specifically meant to breed MMA fighters. There are tons and tons of amateur MMA competitions worldwide now. The products of these schools and competitions are pure mixed martial art fighters. They are not hindered by the techniques of other styles that have no purpose in the cage.
This new generation of MMA fighters is learning straight from a blue print that the old generation created. In time, the blue print will evolve again for the next generation of fighters. But I think MMA fans and fighters are in the midst of the sport evolving even further.