UFC 1: The Beginning was the first mixed martial arts event held by the Ultimate Fighting Championship which took place on the 12th of November in 1993. The event was held at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado and had an attendance of 7,800 people. The co-creators of the event were Art Davie and Rorion Gracie who put this together to determine which martial art would prevail when pitted against one another. Fighters that were involved had come from many different martial art backgrounds such as Sumo, Savate, Kickboxing, Karate, Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, Shootfighting and Tae Kwon Do. The event’s slogan was that there were no rules and also no weight classes, no rounds and no judges, the only pathway to victory would be to knockout or submit your opponent, or the opposition’s corner could throw in the towel. The structure for the event would be an eight-man tournament with the winner taking home $50,000! There was one alternate fight in case one of the tournament fighters were to get injured and need replacing.
The commentators for the event were Bill Wallace, Jim Brown and Kathy Long.
Quarter-Final #1 – Gerard Gordeau vs Teila Tuli
The first fight in UFC history pits Dutch kickboxer Gerard Gordeau against the Hawaiian sumo wrestler Teila Tuli who outweighs Gordeau by nearly 200lbs. They circle to start before Tuli rushes in to try and pin Gordeau against the fence but eats some punches for his efforts and Tuli loses his footing and ends up on his knees next to the cage. Gordeau takes this opportunity and kicks Tuli square in the face which causes one of Tuli’s teeth to fly out of the octagon landing near the commentary desk, and then follows up with a right hand to the face for good measure. The referee instantly stops the fight, Tuli isn’t happy about the stoppage but he is a bloody mess with his mouth busted open, a cut over his eye and not to mention missing a tooth! The whole fight lasted a whole of 26 seconds but this was quite an eventful opener!
Gerard Gordeau def. Teila Tuli via TKO (head kick) 0:26
Quarter-Final #2 – Kevin Rosier vs Zane Frazier
The second quarter-final bout we have former American heavyweight kickboxing champion Kevin Rosier fight karate champion Zane Frazier in another clash of fighting styles. Rosier looks like he has the size advantage as the fight gets underway and he puts the pressure on Frazier from the get go landing an overhand right and knee dropping Frazier, after taking an elbow to the back of the head Frazier pops back up and they begin to trade against the fence. Frazier lands some knees and punches of his own and starts landing good uppercuts that have Rosier in trouble as both fighters start to tire. Frazier manages to get Rosier down and lands a knee before they both pop back up again and start engaging against the fence, both fighters are really tired now and punches are coming more slowly. Rosier starts landing more punches causing Frazier to drop against the cage, Rosier then turns to foot stomps which causes Frazier’s corner to throw in the towel to save their fighter receiving anymore damage. This fight ran a little longer than the first with both fighters gassing out towards the end, i think Rosier had a little more in the engine and Frazier just ran out steam.
Kevin Rosier def. Zane Frazier via TKO (corner stoppage) 4:20
Quarter-Final #3 – Ken Shamrock vs Pat Smith
The third quarter-final of the night had shoot fighter Ken Shamrock who was the number #1 ranked fighter for the Japanese promotion Pancrase at the time against another kickboxing champion in Pat Smith. The fight gets underway and Shamrock comes out quickly and gets Smith in a body lock instantly taking him the ground, looking clueless on the ground Smith just holds onto Shamrock so that he is unable to strike him. Shamrock then decides to drop back for a heel-hook and Smith attempts to strike Shamrock with kicks and elbows but eventually taps out. Another fight then that didn’t take long, Shamrock states post-fight that Smith had no knowledge of submissions which made this fight easy for him.
Ken Shamrock def. Pat Smith via Submission (heel hook) 1:49
Quarter-Final #4 – Royce Gracie vs Art Jimmerson
The final quarter-final matchup was between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Royce Gracie and boxer Art Jimmerson, Ron Machado joins the commentary team to detail how great a grappler Gracie is and that Jimmerson must keep the fight standing. Jimmerson oddly comes out wearing just one boxing glove whilst Gracie enters the octagon wearing a white gi. The fight begins and Gracie throws a few kicks to keep the boxer, Jimmerson, at bay and then explodes forward taking him to the ground, working quickly from side mount to full mount. Jimmerson begins to panic as Gracie begins landing some strikes and before Gracie even attempts a submission the boxer taps out due to frustration and panic of being pinned to the ground. A strange ending to the fight there but the inevitable happened as Jimmerson looked doomed from the moment the fight hit the floor.
Royce Gracie def. Art Jimmerson via submission (mount) 2:18
Semi-Final #1 – Gerard Gordeau vs Kevin Rosier
The first semi-final bout of the evening, Gordeau had a quick fight in his quarter-final bout as it only lasted 26 seconds, whereas Rosier was pretty tired in his first fight as he had a 5-minute brawl with Zane Frazier. The fight starts and Rosier is the one doing the pursuing, Gordeau fires off some leg kicks to keep him at bay which causes Rosier’s leg to buckle, he then follows up with a combination dropping Rosier. Gordeau keeps his distance but keeps rushing in whenever Rosier begins to climb to his feet, Rosier begins to turtle up and Gordeau lands some nasty stomps causing Rosier’s corner to throw in the towel. Yet another short fight here as Rosier came out looking to put away his opponent quickly but was met with the fresh kickboxing skills of Gordeau.
Gerard Gordeau def. Kevin Rosier via TKO (corner stoppage) 0:59
Semi-Final #2 – Royce Gracie vs Ken Shamrock
This was the most anticipated fight of the evening so far as both Gracie and Shamrock looked to have knowledge of grappling skills and both defeated their opponents quickly in the quarter-final bouts. The fight begins and Gracie looks for the takedown right away, Shamrock defends well and ends up being on top. Gracie lands some heel strikes from the bottom, Shamrock attempts to grab the leg for a submission but Gracie defends well and now he is the one on top. Shamrock sits up and attempts to grab the leg again but this time Gracie switches to side back mount and wraps his arms around Shamrock’s neck using his gi to choke him and Shamrock taps. The referee didn’t seem to see the tap but Gracie shouts at the ref assuring that he did indeed tap in which Shamrock doesn’t protest. Well, this is the first competitive fight of the evening we saw take place on the ground with both Gracie and Shamrock showing their grappling skills with the Brazilian coming out on top.
Royce Gracie def. Ken Shamrock via submission (gi choke) 0:57
Final – Royce Gracie vs Gerard Gordeau
The final bout of the evening, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs kickboxing, this is possibly the first televised classic case we now know as striker vs grappler! The fight begins and Gracie looks immediately to take Gordeau to the ground, the Dutchman defends well and they end up against the fence in the clinch. Eventually, Gracie gets Gordeau to the ground and quickly gains the mount position, he lands a couple of strikes including headbutts to prompt Gordeau to turn to his back. Once his back is turned Gracie wastes no time in locking up a rear-naked choke and taps the Dutchman a few seconds later. This was another short fight for Gracie who made quick work of all his opponent on the night and is rewarded with the $50,000, he celebrates with his family in the cage afterwards saying that it was his technique that won him his fights.
Royce Gracie def. Gerard Gordeau via submission (rear-naked choke) 1:44
Final thoughts, this event showcases how important knowledge of grappling is in mixed martial arts as no matter how good your striking is if you cant defend takedowns you will find yourself in serious trouble. We see the debuts of the legends of MMA and UFC Hall of Famers Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock in this event who both portray grappling as the dominant martial art in this style vs style-driven event. This was, of course, Royce Gracie’s night and the event that not only celebrated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but also put it on the map!
In the next episode of MMA History, i will be reviewing UFC 2: No Way Out.