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City of Champions

Fitzgerald

-Pictured left to right:  Bill Viola Sr, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Frank Caliguri, Bill Viola Jr.

The Champions Association presented the 36th Annual Pittsburgh M.V.P. awards at the Willie Stargell Memorial Awards Banquet, Monday December 5th.  The distinguished ceremony honors industry leaders and professional athletes who are making a difference in the community.

North Huntington resident Bill Viola Sr. received the “Pittsburgh M.V.P.” award for his work as a Mixed Martial Arts pioneer.  Viola co-founded CV Productions in 1979, a company which is credited with creating a new sport, known today as mixed martial arts..   The award brought recognition to the city of Pittsburgh and the Western PA region celebrating the true birthplace of modern Mixed Martial Arts in the United States.  Most fight fans had believed that the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) established the first mixed martial arts competitions, however Viola and his partner Frank Caliguri actually developed the sport in 1979.  They promoted 10 competitions across Pennsylvania in 1980 until the State Legislature banned mixed martial arts with the passage of  SENATE BILL No. 632 Session 1983. The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum of the Heinz History Center in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute unveiled an exhibit on June 23rd 2011 to document Viola’s role in developing mixed martial arts in America.  Dr. Fred Adams of Penn State University is currently writing a new book the history of Mixed Martial Arts that will chronicle Viola and Caliguri’s creation.

Over the past thirty years, The Willie Stargell Banquet has attracted some of the countries most prolific figures including basketball legend Michael Jordan and  World Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali.  Viola was honored to be recognized with such an elite alumni.   Viola said, “Pittsburgh is known as the City of Champions and now they can have pride that the fastest growing sport in the World (MMA), was started here as well.”  Dr. Fred Adams of Penn State University is currently writing a new book the history of Mixed Martial Arts that will chronicle Viola and Caliguri’s creation.

Other distinguished guests and honorees at the 2011 banquet included Pittsburgh County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Judge Dwayne Woodruff just to name a few.  The event was co-sponsored by The Hillman Foundation and the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The banquet was hosted by Champion Enterprises founder Bill Neal, who has dedicated his life to community service.  Proceeds from the event support a Christmas Toy drive for underprivileged kids in Pittsburgh.

Viola MMA Innovator

Daily News

By John Santa,
Monday, July 4, 2011

Bill Viola still can remember the meal like it was yesterday.

For the former East Allegheny science teacher, who in 1979 was promoting local karate and kick boxing events with partner Frank Caliguri, it was a meeting that changed his life.

“One day we were meeting at Denny`s,” Viola recalled. “I said, ‘What do you think, Frank?` He said, ‘You know, I hear the same story, I know someone that could beat this guy up, or who`s the toughest (fighter). What happens if Muhammad Ali would fight Bruce Lee? What happens if Bruno Sammartino … got in the mix? Who would win?`”

From those questions, the pair got an idea to supplement their kick boxing and karate events with a new sport.

“We decided, ‘Hey, why don`t we do something totally bizarre?`” Viola said. “‘Why don`t we throw all these people in the ring and see what`s going to happen?`”

The result became Viola and Caliguri`s “Tough Guy Championships,” which pitted various styles of fighters against each other and spawned the first organized Mixed Martial Arts league.

Now, 32 years later, MMA has become one of the most popular sports worldwide.

Last week, Viola and Caliguri were enshrined at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Senator John Heinz History Center as part of a new exhibit celebrating the local roots of MMA.

“It`s kind of a big honor to be down there right next to Franco Harris, and you go a little bit further, then there`s Danny Marino,” said Viola, a North Huntingdon Township native. “It`s unbelievable.”

Viola first began working to promote kick boxing and karate events in the early 1970s by starting CV Productions with Caliguri.

“In those particular days there was no Internet, there was no texting, there was very little communications,” Viola said. “The way that we would get the word out for a show is, you could advertise in the paper or you could get television or radio.”

The rivalry between different types of fighters helped create the buzz that has made MMA so popular.

“For a kick boxing show we would get maybe 100 phone calls of people asking questions,” Viola said. “You`d get 1,500 people at the gate, which was really nice for those days. We must have had in the first week of (MMA) 1,500 phone calls.”

“I can remember they were from Yonkers, N.Y.,” he added. “They were from Michigan, Florida. The word got out and it just went totally out of control. We had to actually hire secretaries. (Before that) we were nothing. We were just mom-and-pop karate schools.”

The first MMA event that Viola produced took place in New Kensington in March of 1980. That event led to the Tough Guy Championships held at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh later that year.

“The first three shows we sold out all three nights,” Viola said. “You could not get in the place. The electricity was unbelievable. No one knew what to expect.”

From there, Viola and Caliguri had plans to hold events all over the country, culminating with a national championship prize fight to be held in Las Vegas in 1981.

“We thought it was crazy at the beginning,” Viola said. “Now, amplify that by 10.”Â

Those bouts never took place because MMA became banned in Pennsylvania in 1981 when a fighter died during a fight not affiliated with CV Productions.

Although Viola`s tenure promoting MMA events ended prematurely, it still left a lasting impression on the local sports scene.

“The Sports Museum has brought to light the central role that Pittsburgh has played in the sports of boxing and wrestling, focusing on such greats as Bruno Sammartino and Kurt Angle,” Anne Madarasz, co-director of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, said. “This exhibit adds a new chapter as we trace the roots of mixed martial arts in the United States back to the Pittsburgh region.”

For Viola, to be associated with the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum is a true honor.

“That was our project, our child,” Viola said. “We were the brainchilds of this. We were the Barnum & Bailey promoters of this event. We went completely out of the envelope when no one believed it could happen.”

Read more: Viola honored as Mixed Martial Arts innovator – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/dailynewsmckeesport/sports/s_745188.html#ixzz1hB8tFj5N

Bill Viola MMA Pioneer

Godfather of MMA godfathermma.com

Leader Wins World Title

world title
Leader Wins World Title
January 13, 2011

Only a handful of Western Pennsylvania athletes have claimed a sport karate world title.

Norwin junior Dominic Leader not only claimed his first world title, but he did so with an undefeated record.

Leader won every match at every competition for the 2010 season, cumulating with a sweep of his division at the 2010 World Games in Sacramento, Calif., over the winter break.

The games are the equivalent to the Super Bowl for martial arts, with more than 2,000 world-class athletes from across North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe battling for world titles.

Leader has excelled over the past few seasons in a competitive division, but 2010 was the year he made history. The 165-pound weight class continuous sparring championship is a modified version of kickboxing that requires an extreme amount of endurance and physical toughness.

Leader defeated contenders from Canada, Mexico and U.S. leading up to his World Games bouts. In the semifinals, he faced the highly favored Juan Pablo Santiago of Guatemala, the reigning world champion.
In 2009, Leader lost to Santiago in the finals. Four inches taller and visibly stronger, Leader overwhelmed his rival and unleashed an offensive attack to win by a unanimous decision and advance to the double-elimination finals.

During the finals, he faced Curtis Fresh of El Paso, Texas. After four rounds, Leader was named world champion and brought home Pittsburgh”s only world title in 2010.

“I couldn”t have done it without my training partner and older brother, Billy,” the champion said.

Billy Leader also earned a spot in the World Games finals, only to be hampered by injuries that have plagued him throughout the season. He was not medically cleared to finish the final fight and was awarded second place in the 143-pound weight class.

The Leader brothers are coached by Bill Viola, head instructor at Allegheny Shotokan Karate and Norwin Ninjas in North Huntingdon.

Dominic Leader joins an exclusive list of NBL Karate World Champions from Pittsburgh that includes Ali Viola, Jose Rivera and Terrence Tubio.

All of the former champions are teammates of Leader, making Team Kumite the only NBL World Champions in the region”s history.  

Viola Wins Willie Stargell Award

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Karate coach Bill Viola recognized by peers

January 6, 2011

Trib Live

The Champions Association, in conjunction with Highmark, presented the 35th annual Willie Stargell Memorial Banquet and Pittsburgh MVP awards on Dec. 16.

The annual ceremony honors business leaders and professional athletes who are making a difference in the community, and this year, North Huntingdon resident Bill Viola received the Pittsburgh MVP honor for his work in the fitness and martial arts industry.

Viola is a promoter and entertainment entrepreneur credited with producing the Kumite Classic.

He is recognized as national and international martial arts champion competitor and coach.

He has been noted as the most successful sport karate athlete in Pennsylvania State Karate Rating Association history and was honored by Arnold Schwarzenegger as a World Champion in 1998.

As the founder and president of Kumite Classic Entertainment Corp., Viola works alongside sports celebrities, professional athletes andOlympic champions across North America.

His professional success is in direct correlation with his personal passion, martial arts.

Viola has been recognized as a USA Karate All-American athlete, and he online casino was inducted into the National Black Belt League Hall of Fame.

Viola’s most recent project, Norwin Ninjas, has been receiving widespread acclaim.

Norwin Ninjas is a specialized program in the North Huntingdon area developed for children ages 4- to 7-years old to help instill respect in discipline.

Norwinninjas.com is quickly becoming a popular website among parents looking to teach their children the importance of setting goals and staying in shape. Viola was commended by the association for his work with youths.

Other distinguished honorees at the banquet included Pittsburgh Steelers’ legend Franco Harris, WTAE Reporter Sheldon Ingram, Pitt legend Sam Clancy, Super Bowl champion Darnell Dinkins and former Steeler and District Justice Dwayne Woodruff just to name a few.

Pictured is Bill Viola & Franco Harris @ the 2011 Kumite Classic