In 2018, Art Davie was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and immortalized for his role in creating the Las Vegas based MMA organization. Yet launching the UFC is not his only claim to fame.
Roughly 15 years after he helped birth the UFC, Davie offered the world yet another brand new combat sports venture. He called this creation XARM (pronounced “ex-arm”), and it’s absolutely worthy of remembrance.
XARM was a fusion of arm-wrestling and MMA, and it was every bit as ridiculous as it sounds. Yet there was a time, not all that long ago, when Davie and his partners were pushing this bizarre, hybrid sport as the obvious successor to the UFC and the next step in the evolution of combat sports.
Here’s how it all went down (based on the sparse shreds of information still accessible on the World Wide Web).
XARM was conceived back in 2008, at a lunch meeting in some forgotten Seattle restaurant. During this meeting, Davie expressed his desire to get back into the MMA industry, but acknowledged that no new venture would be able to compete with the UFC without millions of dollars in backing—something he simply didn’t have.
The logical solution, Davie and his cohorts decided, was to create a brand new combat sport.
The group ultimately decided on a hastily clumped-together amalgam of arm-wrestling and MMA. According to legend, Davie and his partners briefly considered naming this new sport “WTF”, an acronym for World Tethered Fighting, but ultimately landed on XARM instead.
With this new sport created and named, it was time to work out the rules.
The two combatants, the XARM team decided, would be tethered together by the hands, over a 28 inch × 16 inch (71 cm × 41 cm) table of an adjustable height. When the match began, they would be allowed to attempt to pin their opponent’s arm—as in a traditional, schoolyard arm-wrestling match—or, if they preferred, attempt to knock their opponent out with their free arm, an elbow, or even a leg. Submissions were also allowed.
Each bout would be made up of three, one-minute rounds. Pinning an arm meant the round was won. Scoring a knockout or sub meant the fight was won. So, if one contestant pinned his opponent’s arm in rounds one and two, that opponent would have to score a finish in the third or lose the fight on points. Not unlike MMA.
Once the rules had been scribbled down, Davie and his team began the recruitment process. A sport, after all, needs athletes.
The first crop of XARM competitors were a motley crew of struggling mixed martial artists, former strongmen, and professional arm-wrestlers who were only known in the tight-knit world of competitive arm-wrestling.
Despite its roster of less-than-stellar athletes, however, XARM continued to make progress on its march toward acceptance. With Davie at the wheel, this undeniably bizarre pseudo sport made it far further than most imagined. Strange as it was, XARM enjoyed a slight but definite climb.
It’s difficult to say when the climax of XARM’s strange story actually occurred.
Perhaps it was in January of 2009, when Davie took to his blog to try to convince the world that the sport of MMA was losing steam — thanks to that darn grappling stuff — and that his bizarre fusion sport was the logical heir to the combat sports throne.
“When I created the UFC, the boxing community, and martial artists from karate to taekwondo said it was too brutal, and a freak show….a ‘unicorn sport’,” Davie said on his blog, which was deleted years ago, and now has a 403 error message for an epitaph. “Now some in MMA are taking shots at my new sport, XARM – saying it’s too extreme. Oh, how history repeats itself! What XARM does is take the best three minutes of any MMA fight – removes the ground game…and gives fans what they want – raw, uncensored, nonstop action! Get off the ground and step up to the table.”
Perhaps XARM’s climax was later in 2009, when the promotion crowned its first heavyweight champion with a contest that, like pretty much every single match, was little more than two burly men swinging madly with their free arm while leaning backwards to avoid being clobbered.
Perhaps XARM’s heyday occurred in 2012 when Davie and co. inked a deal with Machinima to produce mobile-ready XARM content—all of which has seemingly been wiped from the net.
Perhaps XARM’s climax occurred later in 2012, when it signed notable UFC light heavyweight James Irvin to its roster—though Irvin lost his debut, being pinned by Fred Steen in rounds one and two, and failing to knock him out in the third.
Perhaps XARM’s greatest moment was when it created its own mobile game, which of course no longer exists…
Whenever the true crescendo in XARM’s brief overture occurred, it eventually came to an abrupt and final end.
XARM’s demise went completely unnoticed.
It was never eulogized by any notable members of the combat sports world. It was not inducted into a sports hall of fame. XARM simply posted to its official Facebook page in 2013, proclaiming that it had been well-received at the MIP-TV television and digital content market in Cannes, France, and was never heard from again.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 3/21/2019.