Author Archives: Bill Viola

Tough Guys MMA Book

Tough Guys Book The Birth of An American Sport – MMA

tough guys mma book

Special commemorative edition of Godfathers of MMA released to kindle!

“Pittsburgh” is recognized in the network broadcast premiere of the mixed martial arts inspired film “Tough Guys” debuting on Showtime September 15.  The free event will offer open seating available on a first-come, first-serve basis celebrating local fighters, fans, and MMA pioneers.

The movie is based on the book Godfathers of MMA written by Pittsburgh native Bill Viola Jr. The book which he co-wrote with his cousin Dr. Fred Adams also documents Pittsburgh as the birthplace of MMA, which is now a billion-dollar business. Viola Jr. explains, “When most fight fans think MMA history, they immediately reminisce about the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which made its debut in 1993.  My dad and Frank created the sport over a decade before the UFC.  This is the untold story.”

The movie is largely based in Western Pennsylvania and has strong ties to the city of Greensburg.  In fact, the last “Tough Guy” event was held in Greensburg at “Hartys” on November 6-7th 1980.

Academy Award-nominated documentarian Morgan Spurlock (“SUPER SIZE ME”) teamed with Oscar-winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman (“BORN INTO BROTHELS”) to produce this film that chronicles the history of MMA beginning in Pittsburgh over a decade before the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) existed.

“Back then, my dad literally mixed up all the martial arts and invented the ‘Tough Guy’ competition, not to be confused with Toughman, which was purely boxing,” Viola Jr. said. “Last year the UFC sold for $4 billion dollars.”

The film was executive produced by Spurlock, Kauffman and Spurlock’s business partner, Jeremy Chilnick. It was directed by award-winning filmmakers Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo and produced by award-winning commercial producer Craig DiBiase.

Although Godfathers of MMA has already been written and published, Viola Jr. plans to re-release the book as a commemorative edition to coincide with the network debut of the film and will include bonus material, a new chapter and rebranded as Tough Guys to match the film.

According to Viola Jr., in 1979, his father and Caliguri dreamed up a contest pitting barroom big mouths against wrestlers, martial artists, boxers, bouncers and brawlers, billed as a no -holds-barred new type of competitive fighting. “When the fights succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, they were swept up in a chain of events that ended in the first mixed martial arts ban in the nation when the Senate passed the ‘Tough Guy Law’ in 1983.”

“Tough Guys” recounts the inception of Caliguri and Viola Sr.’s first bouts and the colorful, crazy cast of fighters who made them a hit, as well as the politicians who prohibited it. The film brings to life a moment when the national martial arts craze was building to a crescendo as the economies of Pennsylvania steel towns were plummeting to levels of unemployment never seen before or since, breeding desperate men looking for a chance to prove their worth and earn some money in the ring.

“The film presents the untold stories of scrappy brawlers and martial arts promoters,” said Viola Jr., who served as an associate producer. “And, it covers a broad audience of Pittsburgh-area characters.”

For more information about the book, visit or

On September 18th 2017 “Tough Guys” was #1 Best Selling Sports Book on Amazon!  Congrats Bill Viola Jr. and Dr. Fred Adams

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Tough Guys Book #1 Amazon Best Seller By Bill Viola Jr.

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MMA Tough Guys on Showtime

Tough Guys Showtime

Friday September 15th 9M ET on Showtime will be the network debut of “Tough Guys” the documentary on the real origins of mixed martial arts as a sport in America. It chronicles the life of Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri and is based on the book Godfathers of MMA by Bill Viola Jr. and Dr. Fred Adams.  Stay tuned.

tough guys showtime

Norwin Ninjas Karate Honored

Norwin Ninjas (Sister Program of Allegheny Shotokan and Viola Karate) honored as top junior team at Kumite Classic!

Norwin Ninjas / Allegheny Shotokan Honored as Pittsburgh’s Top Ranked Team for 2017

North Huntingdon, PA – June 21, 2017

The Allegheny Shotokan Karate School was honored as the “Top Team” at the 2017 Kumite Classic martial arts championships held at the 18th Annual Pittsburgh Fitness Expo at the Monroeville Convention Center May 26-27th. The Kumite Classic is the region’s largest multi-sports convention, featuring over 100,000 square feet of competitions and participation from around the world.

100 students from the North Huntingdon, PA based Allegheny Shotokan Karate school and their sister program “Norwin Ninjas” competed at the tournament. The school brought home more top honors than any other school in North America.

The team is qualified to compete in Las Vegas, Nevada over the Fourth of July for the WAKO North American Championships, part of UFC International Fight Week at the MGM Grand.

The team is coached by Sensei Bill Viola Jr. and Shihan Bill Viola Sr. Allegheny Shotokan has been family owned and operated since 1969.   For more info visit www.

Norwin Ninjas & Viola Karate on Front Page
Viola Karate on Front Page

Tough Guys MMA Film

tough guys mma film

Bill Viola Jr.’s book inspires “Tough Guys” Documentary

tough guys book released

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June 12, 2017 – NEW YORK, NY Academy Award® nominated documentarian Morgan Spurlock (SUPER SIZE ME) teams with fellow Oscar® winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman (BORN INTO BROTHELS) to bring TOUGH GUYS – the story of the origins of the mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting phenomenon – to the big screen. The film is executive produced by Kauffman and Spurlock together with Spurlock’s business partner Jeremy Chilnick.

TOUGH GUYS is directed by two award-winning filmmakers, Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo and produced by the award winning commercial producer Craig DiBiase. This moving and insightful non-fiction cinematic film chronicles the origins of the MMA beginning in Pittsburgh, PA in the early 1980s. Back then, these fights were known as the “tough man,” or “tough guy,” or “battle of the brawlers,” or “battle of the superfighters” matches. These fighting bouts have now achieved multimillion-dollar fight status.

“When I was around 12 years old, my dad took me to my first “tough guy” competition in my hometown of Beckley, WV,” says Spurlock. “And I have to admit, it was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen. So when the opportunity came along for me help tell the story of its origin, I jumped at the chance. TOUGH GUYS is an unbelievable tale about the creation of this one of a kind, man against man, skill against skill, sport of the ages. Films like this are rare discoveries, and the characters behind them are even more incredible. If you like watching guys get punched in the face as much as I do, then you are going to love this movie!”

In 1979, Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri dreamed up a contest pitting barroom bigmouths against wrestlers, martial artists, boxers, bouncers and brawlers, billed as no-holds-barred new type of competitive fighting. When the fights succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, they were swept up in a chain of events that ended in the first mixed-martial arts ban in the nation.

Presented through the untold stories of scrappy brawlers and amateur promoters, TOUGH GUYS chronicles the inception of Caliguri and Viola’s first bouts and the colorful, crazy cast of fighters who made them a hit as well as the politicians who brought it all crashing down. The film brings to life a moment when the national martial arts craze was building to a crescendo as the economies of Pennsylvania steel towns were plummeting to levels of unemployment never seen before or since, breeding desperate men looking for chance to prove their worth and earn some money in the ring.

“Like my previous films, BORN INTO BROTHELS and E-TEAM, TOUGH GUYS is about underdogs striving to achieve the impossible,” states Kauffman. “In TOUGH GUYS, the
underdog is America’s working class who are searching for respect and ultimately a way to survive. When I got involved I didn’t know how timely the story would be.”

TOUGH GUYS will have its world premiere on June 15 at the AFI DOCS Film Festival in Washington, DC.

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ABOUT TOUGH GUYS Told through the colorful stories of scrappy brawlers and amateur promoters, TOUGH GUYS brings to life the birth of mixed martial arts competitions in 1980’s Pittsburgh. The idea to legitimize street fighting by putting it in the ring, brought big money, crowds, copycat competitions and ultimately scrutiny and tighter control. The film is directed by Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo and produced by award winning commercial producer Craig DiBiase. It is executive produced by Oscar winner Ross Kauffman together with Oscar nominated director Morgan Spurlock and his producing partner Jeremy Chlinick.
ABOUT MORGAN SPURLOCK Morgan Spurlock is an Oscar® nominated filmmaker and founder of Warrior Poets, a New York-based production studio. His first film, SUPER SIZE ME, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004, winning Best Directing honors. The film went on to win the inaugural WGA Best Documentary Screenplay award, as well as garner an Academy Award® nomination for Best Feature Documentary. Since then he has directed, produced, and distributed multiple film, television and online projects, including THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD; WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN?; RATS; MANSOME; CNN’s INSIDE MAN; and more.

ABOUT ROSS KAUFFMAN Ross Kauffman is the Academy Award winning Director, Producer and Cinematographer of BORN INTO BROTHELS, winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary. He is Co-Director of E-TEAM, a documentary about the high-stakes investigative work of four human rights workers and winner of the 2014 Sundance Cinematography award. He served as Executive Producer on the documentary feature IN A DREAM, which was short-listed for the 2009 Academy Awards and as Consulting Producer on the Academy Award nominated film POSTERGIRL. Ross is a Founder and Creative Director of Fictionless.

University of Pittsburgh Alumni Spotlight

University of Pittsburgh Alumni Spotlight:  Jennifer (Beaver) ’01 and Bill Viola Jr. ’99

Jennifer (Beaver) Viola graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg in 2001 with a BS in Business Management. Bill Viola Jr. graduated summa cum laude in 1999 with a BS in Political Science and Sociology minor.

Recently celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary, Bill and Jenn met while students at Pitt-Greensburg. Bill said that meeting Jenn was his fondest memory on campus, along with the Spring Flings and school trips to New York City. Jenn added that the wedding party photos were taken in front of the campus’ fountain.

Both Jenn and Bill were working when they were drawn to Pitt-Greensburg. Jenn said she had a “great job” as a manager at Comtel Communications, so she wanted to stay close to home. Bill was teaching martial arts full-time. He said the campus was “the perfect fit in proximity while offering me solid pre-law options.”

Bill said the campus had a “hometown feel.” His first impression was the friendliness, as he saw a lot of familiar faces from the Norwin and Hempfield areas that made the transition very easy. Jenn agreed that the campus was welcoming and “not overwhelming.”

Ecology of the Rocky Mountains—a weeklong field study—with Dr. Tim Savisky was one of Jenn’s favorite memories as a Pitt-Greensburg student, which she was able to share with some of her closest friends, including now-husband Bill, Addie (Viola) Krisfalusy ’01, and Jenna (Reamer) O’Shell ’02. She also enjoyed her time in Japanese class with “Sensei” Vitaly: “He encouraged me to take a leadership role in the Bushido Club where I became president.”

“Without a doubt,” Bill recalled Dr. Carl Poke as the faculty member who had the greatest influence on him. “He inspired me to be a better student and set me up as an intern with Federal Congressman Ron Klink of the Pennsylvania 4th District in North Huntingdon,” Bill said. “Dr. Poke was a great mentor and advisor who helped me realize my potential.” He added that “you had to respect a man who could rock the bow tie like Dr. Poke!”

Immediately after graduation, Bill established his own production company, Kumite Classic Entertainment Corp. Under its umbrella, he produces fitness expos and martial arts events, publishes magazines and books, and offers talent management services in the Pittsburgh region. He earned membership into SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and has had the distinction of being an Amazon-bestselling author. To this day, he still teaches at the same karate school (Allegheny Shotokan) that his father established in 1969 and loves being Sensei. He recently launched a life-skills based curriculum called Sensei Says.

Bill said that these days his biggest inspiration is his daughter, Gabriella (Gabby) Capri Viola: “She just started kindergarten and is active in karate, swimming, and piano.” Gabby inspired Jenn to start her own business, 123 Mommy and Me, a child-parent bonding class. Following graduation, Jenn continued her education and received a master’s degree in Elementary Education. Today, she teaches children social skills through music, movement, and art. And, in her spare time, she likes to stay active, stating, “I love working out and keeping up with the latest trends in fitness and nutrition.”

In his spare time, Bill likes to write. He said, “I have a new self-help book series in development called CommonSensei that offers advice to young people who are ready to take on the world. I also enjoy staying active in the film industry both as a writer, consultant, and producer. My most recent work is Tough Guys (2017), which was inspired by my book Godfathers of MMA.”

As to why Bill and Jenn are interested in staying connected to Pitt-Greensburg, Bill said, “The University represents my roots. I love Western Pennsylvania and the opportunities this region has given me. I own and operate Pittsburgh’s largest multi-sport convention and fitness expo, but few people know that my first Kumite Classic event was hosted at Pitt-Greensburg in the gymnasium. Pitt-Greensburg was my springboard.”

Pittsburgh 40 under 40

Bill Viola Jr 40 under 40

bill viola jr magazine

Bill Viola Jr. Named to Pittsburgh Magazine’s “40 under 40” List

40 under 40 bill viola jr

The 2016 class of 40 Pittsburghers Under the age of 40, who are shaping our region, was celebrated by Pittsburgh Magazine October 21st at the Rivers Casino.  For the past 18 years, Pittsburgh Magazine and the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project has complied a prestigious list to honor and recognize outstanding people ranging from CEOs to non-profit leaders who are changing the city for the better. These influential leaders are featured in November’s issue of Pittsburgh Magazine, now on newsstands.  The list is considered the premier honor for young professionals in Western Pennsylvania.

The process to narrow an entire city and region down to just 40 recipients is a daunting task that included a through selection process.  Viola Jr. caught the eye of the committee through his reputation as a leader in the martial arts industry and the recent award winning books.  As the author of “Godfathers of MMA,” his work is recognized at the Heinz History Center, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute with an exhibit that chronicles Pittsburgh as the birthplace of modern mixed martial arts.  The book, inspired by his father’s [Bill Viola Sr.] life story is the subject and basis of the film; Tough Guys (now is post production).

As graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he is the creative force behind Kumite Classic Entertainment which oversees the region’s largest multi-sport event (The Pittsburgh Fitness Expo).  His resume includes film producing, talent management, journalism, and mixed martial arts historian.  He is a member of the Sport Karate Museum Hall of Fame and recipient of the Willie Stargell Pittsburgh MVP Award.  His most recent work is the creation of the “Sensei Says” martial arts curriculum, which has had a direct positive impact on the North Huntingdon community implemented with “Norwin Ninjas.”  Norwin Ninjas is the sister program of his families karate business (Allegheny Shotokan Karate) which his father, Bill Viola Sr., established in 1969.  The Ninjas teach life skills, and mentor kids to become future black belts.  Viola Jr. explains, “We build champions in life.” He is part of a growing Pittsburgh karate legacy that that includes all four of his sisters and his daughter, Gabriella Capri Viola, a Kindergartner at Stewartsville Elementary.

The award has garnered the attention of community leaders as Viola Jr. has received congratulations from The United States Senate, as well as the Allegheny County Council who issued an official proclamation honoring for his achievement and praising his, “passion, commitment, visibility, diversity and overall impact on the region.”

The ceremony was is presented by Dollar Bank and in association with BNY Mellon, Carlow University, Junior Achievement, UPMC Health Plan among others.  The full list of 40 under 40 winners can be view at