UFC The Early Years: What You May Have Missed (UFC 1 and 2)

Friday, December 31st, 2010 by Tony Reid

Our sport is gaining more and more fans by the minute and I wanted to take the time to recap the early events from our sports history. I feel that is important to know where we came from to know were we are headed. So what did I do? I went through my home DVD Library and rewatched every UFC event, yes every UFC event and I will be recapping 5 events per issue until I get all of our new (and some old) fans caught up! And for you hardcore fans that say I can’t possibly have all the events on DVD…the events from the “Dark Ages” are available…You will need to buy a region free DVD Player and hit up Ebay and get UFC 21 through 37.5 from sellers overseas.

Now a brief history of how the UFC came to be…

Art Davie met Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pioneer Rorion Gracie in 1991 while researching martial arts. Gracie operated a BJJ school in Torrance, CA and the family had a long history of NHB/Vale Tudo matches in Brazil. Davie soon became a student of Gracie.

In 1992, Davie saw the “Gracies in Action” video-series that was produced by and featuring Gracie Jiu-Jitsu dominating other martial artists from various disciplines. Davie went to Rorion and John Milius with the idea of holding an eight-man, single-elimination tournament, calling it “War of the Worlds”. The tournament would feature martial artists from different disciplines facing each other in NHB combat to determine the best martial art.  Milius, a director and screenwriter, who was also a Gracie student, agreed to be the event’s creative director. Davie drafted the business plan and a number of investors contributed the initial capital to start WOW Promotions with the intent to develop the tournament into a television franchise.

In 1993 WOW Promotions was looking high and low for a television partner and approached HBO, Showtime and SEG (Semaphore Entertainment Group). HBO and Showtime said “Thanks but No Thanks” but SEG, which had produced other off the wall events, gave it a shot and became WOW’s new partner. SEG contacted art director, Jason Cusson, who in turn, designed the “Octagon,” the centerpiece for the event. SEG decided on a different name for the show …”The Ultimate Fighting Championship”. WOW Promotions and SEG produced the first event, not originally called UFC 1, at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado on November 12, 1993. Art Davie stayed on as the show’s booker and matchmaker. There were fighters from all different styles and backgrounds but Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Royce Gracie—younger brother of UFC co-founder Rorion Gracie, was hand-picked by Rorion himself to represent his family in the competition.

UFC the Early Years: What You May Have Missed


*Bill Wallace literally hiccups on air during the intro to the event…and proceeds to excuse himself.  At least he’s using his manners.

*The Ring announcer is Rich “The G-Man” Goins.  Who needs Bruce Buffer? Well, after watching Goins we all do.

*The coolness factor increases greatly with the color commentator being none other than football great and all around badass Jim Brown.

*The first fight in UFC History pitted Savate Gerard Gordeau against Sumo Teila Tuli. The fight ends in just a few seconds as Gordeau kicks one of Tuli’s front teeth into the front row.

*The second fight between Kevin Rosier and Zane Frasier sees the first utilization of low blows and hair pulling, both of which were legal back in the day. It was also the first fight stopped due to head stomps to a downed opponent.

*We were introduced to the icon that is Royce Gracie and Gracie Jiu- Jitsu as the Gracie train made its way to the Octagon. Royce faced Art Jimmerson in his first fight. Art has become infamous for his choice of Octagon attire, wearing one big red boxing glove on his left hand. He also wore Adidas socks with Nike kicks…Come on! To add to his “legend” Jimmerson may be the only person to ever tap due to…being mounted?

* Another icon made his debut at UFC 1. His name was Ken Wayne Shamrock. He fought Patrick Smith, who was 250-0 at the time…wow! Shamrock must have just been able to find Smith’s weakness because Smith tapped to a Shamrock signature heel hook at the 1:57 mark. Smith was the hometown boy so Shamrock heard a lot of boos after beating Smith.

*Being a tournament format Gordeau faced Rosier next, stomping him out after a few minutes.

*The tournament format also set up the first iconic fight in the UFC’s brief history, pitting Gracie against Shamrock. Ken held his own for a minute on the ground before succumbing to a Gracie rear naked choke. Shamrock after the fight admitted that this was his first fight against a BJJ Fighter.

The final fight featured Gracie and Gordeau. Royce, like he did most of the night, would get his opponent to the ground and incrementally work to a more and more advantageous position as no one else in the building (with the exception of his corner) had any idea what was going on until he could finish the fight via submission. This particular fight ended with another rear naked choke. Royce was presented with the big check (literally) of $50,000 and famously said that he was going to Disneyland.

*A few takeaways from UFC 1. There is no such thing as intelligently defending yourself at this point in the sport other than Gracie’s use of the guard. Every tap out caused controversy because no one knew what the hell was going on when the fight hit the floor. The event was ugly but beautiful at the same time because it was the birth of the sport we all now love and it began to answer the age old question of what martial art and style would reign supreme if they all competed against one another. BJJ is king…for now



The UFC returned to Denver for the second event.

*Announcer and “Hollywood Stuntman” Ben Perry looks like he worked with Lita Ford’s hair stylist leading up to this event.

*One Round, No Rules! And the field has been doubled from 8 to 16.

*Ninjitsu, Silat, Karate…Oh my!

*Let’s get it on! Big John McCarthy debuts at this event and adds some much needed officiating/cage presence.

* Returning champ Royce Gracie fights Ichihara in the opening bout. Standard Gracie procedure at this point, Trip or takedown, landing in side control, quick mount and finish. This time by arm bar.

*Crazy white guy against crazy black guy as Scott Morris took on Pat Smith. Morris runs at Smith as the fight gets underway, Smith just sidesteps as Morris runs into him; they land on the ground and Smith mounts and unleashes hellacious 12 to 6 elbows that knock Morris into a near comatose state.

*Fred Ettish fought Johnny Rhodes in a fight that became more of a one sided ass kicking with Ettish being on the wrong end of the deal. Ettish showed a ton of heart (or lack of sanity) in taking a beating that left his gi pink and the Octagon floor red from his blood. He had a huge gash over his eye and kept taking a beating and bleeding until the fight was finally stopped.

*5’10” 170lb. Orlando Weit faced 6’4” 260lb. Remco Pardoel in a fight that was one of the classic early UFC mismatches. The huge Pardoel ended up on the ground with Weit somewhat pinned under him but Pardoel had his back to Weit just laying on top of him for a bit until a light went off in his head…He landed a big elbow, and another and another and…well you get the idea. He knocked Weit out cold with a number of devastating elbows.

*Jason DeLucia fought his idol in Royce Gracie. Gracie gets DeLucia to the ground and in a fully extended arm bar to which DeLucia taps about 15 times before Gracie lets the hold go. In many of the early fights it appears in watching it now that Gracie holds the submissions well past the point of his opponent tapping but it was due to the fact that many times the refs were late to step in and call the end to the fight.  DeLucia got his arm torn up by his idol.  I guess not too many people can say that.

*Gracie faced Pardoel in the semis where he tapped out Pardoel early. But the main highlight from this fight is that the announcer informs us that all of the Gracie’s names start with an “R” and it’s pronounced like an “H”.  No shit, I guess I should stop pronouncing it RRRoyce Gracie then.

*Royce would face Pat (or Patrick) Smith in the final. Gracie gets the takedown transitions to mount and lands a few punches and Smith’s corner throws in the towel. Royce is presented with a $60,000 check and cements the family dynasty even further. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu!

*A few takeaways from UFC 2. According to Ben Perry (he of the Lita Ford Hair) stated that yes, in 6 months time you too can be an expert in BJJ or any combat sport for that matter! In many of the early fights it’s a good thing that they do actually have a towel in the corner because it is thrown in regularly to stop many fights. And of course Royce Gracie is still king and BJJ is becoming more and more of an influence in these events.