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Life on the Warrior's Path: Benny Urquidez

Updated: May 21

Benny Urquidez Talks About Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Ed Parker, Elvis Presley and the Man Who Motivated Him to Become a Champion!

Benny Urquidez

Benny “The Jet” Urquidez was a six-time world champion in five weight classes, which explains why he’s considered a legend in full-contact karate and kickboxing. It should come as no surprise that along the way, he witnessed numerous changes in how fights were conducted, judged and scored. As sport fighting evolved, so did Urquidez.

“Back in the 1950s and into the ’60s, the rules for fighting were a lot different than they are today,” Urquidez said. “We fought on concrete slabs, wooden floors — there were never any mats. When you went down, you went down hard. The rules allowed us to grab and sweep our opponents to the ground. Takedowns and judo throws were OK. Once on the ground, we could continue to punch until the referee stopped us.”

Back then, the term “full-contact karate” hadn’t been coined, but a strong case could be made that this is precisely what Urquidez engaged in. In fact, The Jet deserves credit for being the first martial artist to compete in boxing, karate, judo and bare-knuckle fighting.

“You want to talk about contact? That was MMA before there was MMA!” he said. “We were beating each other up and guys were getting knocked out, but we tried to pull a punch after contact so as to not really hurt each other. We called it ‘controlled contact.’ That was our honor system, and that format of controlled contact continued until 1968.

Benny Urquidez

“Eventually, point fighting eliminated a lot of those things, but what we did in the ’60s was full-contact fighting. I don’t know anyone who wore shin pads or leg pads or padded gloves like we wore in the ’70s. Even though the rules called for light contact, guys were getting hit with a lot of force, often with blood running down their face, but we kept on fighting. At the end of the match, we’d bow and no one got mad because that was the bushido way. We showed respect. It didn’t matter how hard you got hit — a broken nose, busted ribs — it didn’t matter. You just got back up and smiled [to] show respect to your opponent.”

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