UFC 25 Anniversary – Revisiting Debut Event UFC 1, How It All Started
“The Greatest Form Of Art Comes With ‘No Rules’ ”
If you are an avid MMA fan, then Ultimate Fighting Championship is household name that you can relate your passion with. Anything that is slightly connected to MMA’s dominion, somewhere along the line it has a connection to UFC. Deemed as the biggest mixed martial promotion company, it is a home turf for producing phenomenal fights and pruning the best artists.
UFC is undeniably the crown of world’s outclass MMA artists which they don with pride. It is an identity for millions of artists around the globe who couldn’t have reigned in our hearts, had it not been UFC. But UFC hasn’t always been fighters and media’s first choice. With its Silver jubilee celebrations, let’s have a look back at its debut event UFC 1 and the subsequent rise and reign of UFC.
For those who took the pain to take the ride that cold evening to Denver or spared some time to buy a pay-per-view for the first-of-its-kind fighting championship that promised to bring together diverse talents from different fight discipline until a sole fighter stood tall, here is a brief look back on how the brawls inside the eight-sided cage evolved to become the benchmark for all MMA bouts on UFC 25 anniversary.
November 12, 1993 – UFC Is Born & So Is Mixed Martial Arts
On November 12, 1993 a small company named Ultimate Fighting Championship held its first ever competition in McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. The initial competitions had minimum rules that brought together diverse talents from different fight genres to determine the finest form of martial art. Fighters from Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Karate, Wrestling and Muay Thai took part in the competitions to test which skill set outlasted. As time passed by, fighters started using techniques from multiples disciplines thus forming the basis for mixed martial arts.
Though a new form of fighting was developed that was quickly gaining ground, UFC struggled heavily on the financial side. While struggling to survive the promotion was sold to Zuffa LLC at $2 million which later sold it on to a group WME-IMG for $4.2billion. UFC is still owned by WME-IMG, with Dana White serving as the President and Sean Shelby as talent relations-matchmaker.
Dark, Gloomy Beginning For UFC
While struggling on the financial side, UFC faced disappointment in gaining the needed media attention to grow its popularity and functions. With repeated set-backs and lackluster of media’s limelight, UFC didn’t still stop experimenting and innovating. With its subsequent sale to Zuffa LLC and then WME-IMG, the promotion leveraged its operations and media presence. There was light at the end of that gloomy tunnel. As UFC made its journey from one end to other, it got more exposure that it vied for in its starting years. As of now UFC is ending its contract with FOX Sports to sign an agreement with a bigger Sports Network, ESPN.
No Rules Championship
This idiosyncratic fighting championship captured attention from far and wide. While boxing and WWE wrestling were the only pay-per-view options available to fight aficionados then, the seemingly unique sport did offer some perks. And for the biggest surprise for majority of combat lovers, it was probably the only fighting championship or the sole sport to have “no rules.” While the octagon and an amalgamation of fighters from various disciplines were enough to create mayhem, the idea of allowing the most lethal fighters collide without any regulations was overwhelming for many. So while the critics were bombarding objections, undeniably, there was a lot in store for those who had a taste for challenge and unpredictability, two trademarks of the promotion.
UFC 1 Takes Place
With all the fighters lined up to ready to rumble against each other until only a sole champion remained, the event opened with Karate Champion Bill Wallace infamously announcing the event to be as “Ultimate Fight Challenge” that aired live to a limited audience that UFC had managed to amass.
But the presence of fighters and an audience at the arena was comforting enough for the event organizers. Despite being put under constant scrutiny for its unique approach, there are clear disagreements on the rules – or rather the absence of them, and the organizers feared that the event may not materialize at all. However, Sumo wrestler Teila Tuli showed blind faith in the organization, signing the deal saying “he came to party.” Seeing his optimism, many others followed route.
Since he was the first one to sign the petition, the got première walk on the broadcast, getting his name jotted down in history. However, his self-belief was soon swindled when his heavy frame was toppled by Dutch savate champion Gerard Gordeau, engraving a tooth in Gordeau’s foot that was removed once the reached back home.
The sudden, unexpected end to the debut bout inside the cage was just a reflection of the frightening potential of the sport. It hinted on how one could get hurt in a matter of few seconds and how a great champion could end up laying heaped on the floor.
Soon after the quick end of the first bout, Zane Frazier and Kevin Rosier collided exchanging quick blows with Rosier mostly on the receiving end. Soon Rosier found it hard to stay firm on his ground accepting defeat and some nasty stomps from Frazier.
Next in line was Royce Gracie, a mediocre built Jiu Jitsu champion facing off mid-level boxer Art Jimmerson. Gracie was quick to bring him down, however, the boxer didn’t familiarize with the ground game, tapping out before he was held for submission.
Gracie moved on to face Ken Shamrock who had prior experience of submission and grappling, just like his counterpart. Using the uncommon techniques then, Shamrock dispatched an easy defeat to Patrick Smith, moving on to challenge Gracie. However, tables were soon turned and Gracie handed over a quicker defeat to Shamrock than he had done to Patrick.
All this while Gordeau humbled Rosier with lethal strikes, and the groundwork for the finale was all done. While the main bout was entertaining, Gracie’s win over Gordeau wasn’t a bolt from the blue. Royce Gracie hailed from the family that played a vital role in arranging the event, and it was combined effort of the organizers to give more weightage to Jui Jitsu artists over other disciplines. With Gracie winning over more mightier, adept counterparts, this was a whole new beginning for the sport of Jui Jitsu.
It was a win-win situation for everyone. Gracie was handed over a cheque of $50,000 for his win over Gordeau while the event organizers got an encouraging attendance and pay-per-views. The contending fighters didn’t face disturbing injuries and appeared to be in good spirit. While the broadcast had some bloopers, the action was overwhelming for the audience that shifted their focus from the talk to the fighting taking place.
With its infamous, small-scale beginnings, UFC certainly had a promising future ahead. Whether it was the innovation in the combat realm or the adrenaline-boosting challenge that it offered to fighters and audience alike, UFC was meant to stay and reign. With the close of UFC 1 at McNichols Sports Arena, as the audience headed back to their home and the fighters to the bar to celebrate their losses and victories, no one could have known that it was the birth of the biggest MMA promotion in the world on UFC 25 anniversary.