Alright, fight fans, it’s time to step into the octagon and journey back to where it all started – the dawn of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Today, UFC stands as the premier organization in MMA, its bouts drawing millions of viewers and its fighters becoming household names.
Way back in its infancy, the UFC was a wild, almost lawless spectacle that would hardly be recognized by today’s fans. Let’s dive into ten things you may not know about the early days of the UFC.
Not Originally a Sport
UFC was initially conceived as a one-time event by creators Art Davie and Rorion Gracie, meant to showcase the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu against other martial arts. It was only after the success of the first event that they decided to turn it into a recurring spectacle.
The first UFC event was advertised as a no-holds-barred fighting contest, meaning that almost anything was fair game. There were only two rules – no biting and no eye-gouging. The brutality of these early matches played a big part in the controversy that surrounded the UFC in its early years.
No Weight Classes
In the early days of the UFC, there were no weight classes. This meant that fighters of vastly different sizes could end up facing off against each other. It wasn’t until UFC 12 in 1997 that weight classes were introduced.
Unfit for Broadcast
UFC was once deemed too violent for Pay-Per-View and was dropped by most cable providers, leading to a major decline in its viewership. The UFC would not be welcomed back until significant rules changes were implemented.
The very first UFC event took place on November 12, 1993, and was won by Royce Gracie, who submitted his three opponents without being hit a single time. His victories demonstrated the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Early UFC events were conducted in tournament format, meaning fighters often had to fight multiple bouts in a single night. The organization didn’t transition to one-off fights until later.
The First Women’s Match
While the UFC now has a robust women’s division, it didn’t host its first women’s fight until 2013, two decades after its inception. Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche made history in the main event at UFC 157.
John McCain’s Opposition
U.S. Senator John McCain was one of the biggest critics of the early UFC, famously referring to it as “human cockfighting.” His opposition played a significant role in pushing for regulation and changes in the UFC.
The Zuffa Era
In 2001, the UFC was purchased by Zuffa, LLC, led by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta and Dana White. Under their leadership, the UFC underwent significant changes and began its ascent to mainstream acceptance.
The First Title Belt
The first UFC Champion was crowned at UFC 5 in 1995. Dan Severn lost to Royce Gracie, who became the first to receive the UFC Superfight Championship belt.
There you have it, a look back at the wild beginnings of the UFC. From its days as a controversial, unregulated spectacle to its position today as the pinnacle of MMA competition, the UFC has a history as thrilling as the fights it hosts.