Bill Viola (martial artist)

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William Viola II
Born (1947-11-05) November 5, 1947 (age 76)
Occupation(s)President, CV Productions, Inc.[1]
President, Allegheny Shotokan Karate Inc.[2]
Known forPioneering mixed martial arts in the United States, Showtime Film Tough Guys[3][4]
ChildrenBill Viola Jr

William Viola II (born November 5, 1947) is an entrepreneur, martial arts instructor, and mixed martial arts pioneer credited by some as the co-creator of the sport of MMA.[1][5][6] In 1979, he co-founded CV Productions, Inc., the first mixed martial arts company in America and the Tough Guy Contest. His life is the subject of the book Godfathers of MMA and the film Tough Guys.[7]

Early life[edit]

Viola was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania and studied martial arts in the early 1960s while in high school. He continued to study Shotokan karate while attending California University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1969 and was subsequently hired as a science teacher in the East Allegheny School District. Viola established his first karate school, Allegheny Shotokan Karate, in 1969 at East Allegheny.[2] He trained and achieved rank from Robert Trias (United States Karate Association), and George Anderson (USA Karate Federation).[citation needed]

Mixed martial arts career[edit]

In 1979 Viola co-founded CV Productions, Inc. with his partner Frank Caliguri.[1][8] In 1980, the company introduced a new sport, the first regulated mixed martial arts competitions in the United States.[6] Viola helped write the first codified set of mixed martial arts rules for mainstream competition[5][8] and in 1980 created and promoted organized mixed martial arts competition over a decade before the Ultimate Fighting Championship.[9][10]

Viola’s MMA promotions were outlawed by the Pennsylvania State Legislature in 1983 with the passage of Senate Bill 632, setting the first legal precedent for MMA in the United States.[8][11]


Viola Family

In 2003, the USA Karate Federation inducted Viola into the Hall of Fame, honoring him with a lifetime achievement award and naming him Man of the Year.[12]

CV Productions Inc.’s mixed martial arts league was honored by the Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.[13] The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum unveiled an exhibit in 2011 to document Viola's mixed martial arts roots.[1][10][14] As a result of Viola and Caliguri's developments, Pittsburgh is considered the birthplace of modern mixed martial arts as a sport in the United States.[1][6][8][14]

He was the star/subject of the Showtime documentary Tough Guys.[15][16]

The City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania named September 23rd 2019 as "Sensei Viola Day" in region to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Allegheny Shotokan Karate.[17][18]

Bill Viola Sr. was recognized with the Illustrious Californian Award (2020) by California University of Pennsylvania Alumni Association.[19][20]

Personal life[edit]

Viola has instructed all five of his children to the rank of black belt: Bill Viola Jr., Addie Viola, Jacque Viola, Ali Viola, and Joce Viola.[21] In 1999, his son, Bill Viola, Jr., established the Kumite Classic.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e Santa, John. “Viola honored as Mixed Martial Arts innovator”. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 4 July 2011
  2. ^ a b Harvath, Les. “Norwin junior seeks karate championship”. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: 18 December 2008
  3. ^ "Showtime's 'Tough Guys' documentary explores MMA's early roots in 1980s Pittsburgh". 13 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Watch Tough Guys | Prime Video". Amazon.
  5. ^ a b Nash, John. “The Martial Chronicles: Before Fighting Was Ultimate It Was Super”. SB Nation Bloody Elbow: 23 May 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Kogut, Paul. “Caliguri's MMA history honored at Heinz”. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: 23 June 2011.
  7. ^ Panian, A.J. “Mt. Pleasant Author helps examine mixed martial arts”. Mount Pleasant Journal: 23 January 2014, p. 1.
  8. ^ a b c d Cartey, Richard. “Tough guy Contest: The Real Beginnings of MMA in America”. Fighters Only. 3 (November 2012): 72.
  9. ^ Rossen, Jake (24 August 2010). "The Zuffa myth and UFC auteur theory". ESPN. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  10. ^ a b Werner, Sam. “MMA roots were planted in New Kensington”. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 24 June 2011.
  11. ^ "Senate Bill 632; Regular Session 1983-1984". Pennsylvania General Assembly. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  12. ^ "USA Karate Hall of Fame". USA Karate Federation. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  13. ^ "Golden Gloves". Senator John Heinz History Center. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  14. ^ a b Madarasz, Anne (Fall 2011). "New Sports Museum Display Explores Local Roots of Mixed Martial Arts" (PDF). Making History. Senator John Heinz History Center. 20 (2): 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-06-27. Retrieved 2015-03-28.
  15. ^ "Morgan Spurlock to Exec Produce MMA Origins Documentary 'Tough Guys' (EXCLUSIVE)". 13 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Showtime documentary proves Pittsburgh-area early mixed martial arts fighters were 'Tough Guys'".
  17. ^ "Allegheny County recognizes 'Sensei' Viola for devotion to karate".
  18. ^ "Governments, students honor North Huntingdon karate instructor Bill Viola". 22 September 2019.
  19. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: 2020 Cal U Alumni Award Retrospective. YouTube.
  20. ^ Barnhart, Ryan. Vulcan Nation Alumni Awards Special Edition. The Vulcan Nation. October 6, 2020.
  21. ^ Zuchowski, Dave (12 February 2015). "Karate kids: Viola family keeps kicking at World Games". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  22. ^ Schrecongost, Dave (May 22, 2013). “Kumite Classic event is back in Monroeville”. Tribune-Review: 22 May 2013.