10 Seminal Moments In UFC History
written by D. W. Antler
With UFC 100 on the immediate horizon, here is a look back at ten moments in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship that defined the organization and to a large degree, the sport of MMA.
1. Skill Over Size:
UFC 1 was the brain child of the Gracie family, specifically Rorion, as a showcase for Gracie Jiu Jitsu. The idea was simple: assemble a collection of martial artists from various disciplines and have a tournament to determine which was the best. Rorion pitched his ideas with producer and jiu jitsu student Art Davies to investors and Semaphore Entertainment Group agreed to back the production. On November 12, 1993, in Denver, Co. an eight man tournament was set up with a roster of combatants representing a variety of fighting styles: boxing, sumo, karate, kung fu, catch wrestling, kickboxing and of course Gracie jiu jitsu. That night those tuning in were forced to rethink everything they thought they knew about fighting. The Gracie representative, a scrawny, physically unassuming member of the family, Royce mowed his way through the field by using superior technique and skill to render the weight advantage and physical gifts of the other competitors moot. By the end of that first night of fights it was clear that the idea of what makes a great fighter had changed for the long term and Gracie/Brazilian jiu jitsu emerged as the dominant fighting style over the next decade and an essential element of any MMA combatant's arsenal to this day.
The UFC was still a single night tournament at UFC 5. However, for the first time in the company's history there was a fight scheduled outside of the tournament. The innaugural UFC Superfight was contested between 3 time UFC tournament champion, Royce Gracie and international catch wrestling sensation, Ken Shamrock, whom Gracie had bested at UFC 1. This fight was important, as it was brought on by customer demand. Shamrock had hoped to avenge his loss to Gracie at UFC 3, but Gracie withdrew from competition after winning a hard fought opening match against Kimo Leopoldo; Shamrock also had to withdraw after his semi-final match. It was hoped that their paths would cross at UFC 4, but Shamrock had prior commitments to the Pancrase organization. Rather than take their chances on the superstars meeting in the tournament at UFC 5, the first prizefight in UFC history was scheduled between two emerging stars. The fight itself was a disappointment. After 35 minutes of muted combat, the fight was called and declared a draw since there were no judges at the time. Shamrock used his top control and submission defense to neutralize Gracie while landing enough shots to leave Gracie a bloody and exhausted mess at the end. Despite the lackluster nature of the fight, it signified the growing interest and popularity in mixed martial arts and the star potential of its athletes.
Detroit, Michigan was the venue for UFC 9, but it almost didn't happen. In the months leading up to the event, US Senator John McCain launched a campaign against the UFC, which he saw as "human cockfighting." McCain's efforts, along with the assistance of others, led to the UFC having to go to court in order to defend their right to put on the show. The court allowed the UFC to go ahead with the event, but with modified rules, including no close - fisted punches under penalty of arrest. After the conclusion of UFC 9, McCain was successful in petitioning many cable carriers to remove UFC events from their pay per view platforms. McCain's efforts put a serious damper on the growing popularity of MMA in the US and made life difficult for UFC promoters.
4. Lucky 13:
UFC 13 was perhaps one of the most important events in UFC history. The event was held in Augusta, Georgia at a time when the company was struggling to sell their product on television as a result of Senator McCain's efforts against the sport. The show featured two tournaments: a lightweight tournament (under 200 lbs) and heavyweight. Although the event itself was one of the better events to date from a combat standpoint, its significance was not in the fights, but in the fighters. Two UFC legends made their Octagon debuts that night. Tito Ortiz was an alternate fighter who ended up being pressed into action in the lightweight tournament finals, losing to Guy Metzger. Also stepping into the Octagon that night was Randy Couture, who won the heavyweight tournament. These two names would end up being top draws for the UFC in the years to come, selling out countless arenas and drawing huge pay per view numbers.
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