The Ultimate Fighting Champion is the creation of Arthur Davie, a marketing specialist and Rorion Gracie, an expert in the fighting art, ” Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). At the inception of UFC, Gracie botched the tournament with the intention of promoting a martial arts school that his family had. The art school was unique in that they focused on teaching martial art techniques that would work in real life. As such, they discarded techniques whose main purpose was for show.
Furthermore, aside from their mixed martial art, the Gracie’s had garnered a reputation in the martial arts world for the “Gracie Challenge”. The Gracie Challenge was an open invitation for fighters expert in their field to fight a member of the Gracie family or a member of the martial arts school.
Davie pitched to Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG) the idea of having experts in different martial arts disciplines fighting in a tournament, thereby determining the superior fighting styles. However, it has been reported that a SEG employee is responsible for coining the name of the tournament (The Ultimate Fighting Championship). The first tournament was held on November 12, 1993, which was later renamed as UFC 1.
A tournament format was applied during the early events. In this format, the winner of individual matches moved up the tournament, facing other winners. However, if a contender was incapable of continuing with the fight, they were replaced by “alternates”. The alternates were chosen and designated as such by Davie. The early tournaments had experts in jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, boxing, karate, as well as sumo wrestlers. The winner of the first tournament was Royce Gracie, the younger brother to Rorion Gracie, by using the rear naked choke on Gerard Goreau.
So successful was the first event that SEG immediately began making plans for subsequent events. They decided to keep the Ultimate Fighting Championship name but added the number sequence to differentiate the events.
The early UFC tournament did not use weight classes. As such, smaller fighters would regularly fight against much heavier and bigger fighters such as sumo wrestlers. This open weight system continued until UFC 12 where weight classes were used for the first time. However, the weight classes used in UFC 12 were no the final format and the weight classes would be refined with time. The UFC initially did not have a limit to the number of fighting rounds, with the fight going on until there was a clear winner. Fighters would wear the clothes traditionally worn in their fighting discipline.
With time, the general format that pitted one distinct fighting style against the other faded away. With Royce Gracie winning the first three tournaments, he proved that ground game was a critical part of being successful in the UFC. As such, even fighter who did not focus on ground fighting began to adapt and trained and gain skills in ground fighting to include submissions and wrestling as part of their fighting repertoires. Over time, fewer and fewer black fighters featured in the competition, proving that having a black belt did not necessarily equate to being a good fighter.
Another historical fact that is important to note is that in the early UFC tournament, they didn’t operate under the rules of any athletic commissions. This helped UFC avoid regulation. Furthermore, they did not have judges. And even after judges were introduced later on, there are were no clear guidelines on how to judge a fight.
However, they did have referees who were meant to enforce the few rules that had been established and to witness a submission. One thing they did not have the power to do was to stop a fight, albeit it changed after the few tournaments.
With the exception of UFC 9, all UFC events featured a tournament format, until UFC 18. From the then henceforth, with the exception of UFC 23, all UFC even featured single fight matches. As such, fighter did not have to worry about fighting multiple fighters.
Which Fight Is ‘The Best Fight Ever’?
Every UFC fan will have their favorite fight. However, Dana White’s favorite fight is the Matt Hughes (who was the welterweight champion at the time the fought) and Frank Trigg’s second fight at UFC 52. The first fight had been held two-year earlier with Matt Hughes winning with a rear naked choke.
During the second fight, it appeared a though Trigg would finally avenge his loss. Early on during the fight, Trigg hit Hughes in the groin, a foul that the referee did not see nor punish Trigg for and the match continued. With Hughes trying to recover, Trigg used the capitalized on the opportunity to attack Hughes.
Frank Trigg got on top of Hughes, raining punches down Hughes and for a few moments, it seems as though Trigg would knock Hughes out. Hughes tries to turn over but Trigg gets his back and starts to choke in a bare naked back, much the same like Hughes had in their first fight.
However, Hughes got out of the choke, scooped Trigg on his shoulders, run him to the opposite side of the Octagon and slam him down on the canvas to a cheery crowd.
On the fourth minute, five-second mark, Hughes caught Trigg in a rear naked choke to win a submission, thereby retaining his title.
Dana White reckons that the haphazard development and evolution of UFC was due to the fact that the event had been proposed as a one-off. However, it did very on pay-per-view that they decided to hold another tournament and another one until they created the sport we have today.
Over time, UFC has introduced more rules, regulations, and restrictions in order to appease their critics and to develop mixed martial arts as a legitimate sport. However, SEG did face some financial trouble as they faced bankruptcy and were unable to release the UFC 23 up to UFC 29 to home video.
The early critics of the event could be attributed to the way SEG promoted the events. SEG has promoted the events as fights between experts in different martial arts disciplines. Furthermore, they added that the fights were no holds barred and the fights would only end with a clear winner. As such, they promoted the events as fights exhibiting brutal force.
One of the most prominent critics of UFC was boxing fan and United States Senator, John McCain who likened the event to “human cockfighting”. He pushed for city governments and state governors to ban the events. Consequently, there were several events that had to change venues after arenas were told they could not hold the UFC event.
And for a long period of time, SEG resisted to partner with athletic commissions, opting to stick to the notion and imagery of the UFC as a primal sport. This only invited more trouble. Some cable companies fearing criticism refused to show UFC in their pay-per-view platform. As such, SEG option dwindled to the point that SEG could not recover even after they decided to adopt New Jersey Athletics Control Board rules.