UFC 1 happened on 12th November 1993. It was the creation of Rorion Gracie and Art Davies with some help from Campbell McLaren and others.
This was the seed, ground zero. People can talk about ‘anything goes’ fights between Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Luta Livre in Brazil or Pancrase fights happening in Japan just before this, but the sport as we know it started here.
Most people at the time didn’t know that the UFC was created by Rorion Gracie who was the older brother of UFC 1 winner Royce Gracie and that he basically set it up and designed it as an advertisement for his family art, Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Eight men were chosen to compete in the single elimination tournament with the winner getting $50’000.
1- Gérard Gordeau vs Teila Tuli
First televised fight of the night. Gérard Gordeau didn’t look like much physically but he looked dangerous, just his demeanour, you know? Some of the Dutch later said that he had a reputation as someone not to fuck with. He also got himself a reputation as a dirty motherfucker inside the cage or ring. He bit the ear of Royce Gracie during their fight and he would later blind Yuki Nakai permanently in one eye at the Vale Tudo Japan Open.
Teila was a huge dude from Hawaii. 6’2 and 410lbs and was a sumo wrestler. Nice guy and good sumo but not necessarily a fighter at heart.
Fight starts and after a few seconds of feeling out, Tuli rushes forward and eats a few punches on the way in and either slips or gets pushed down. While he’s sitting down Gordeau blasts him in the face with a kick, sending a tooth into the audience. It was at this point that Ken Shamrock said the backstage area went completely silent, where everyone realised that this thing was actually real, up till this point they all were waiting to be told that it was fake, like wrestling.
There was controversy because the referee stepped in when he wasn’t supposed to be able to stop the fights. Rorion was furious, this was one of the big selling points and this was fight number one. After all the chaos, the fight was over. Gordeau had won and Tuli had lost a few teeth and had a cut eye.
Gérard Gordeau fought the rest of the night with one of Tuli’s teeth embedded in his foot.
– Gordeau by TKO in 0:26
2- Kevin Rosier vs Zane Frazier
Kevin Rosier was a former world kickboxing champion although he seemed waaaaay past his prime. Zane Frazier got the gig because he beat up Frank Dux (of Bloodsport fame) at a martial arts expo, witnessed by Art Davie and Rorion Gracie.
This one started quicker with Rosier moving forward and Frazier backing up. Rosier catches up to him and knocks him to the ground but of course he can’t keep him there. This seems to wake Zane up and he pushes back, taking a hold of Rosiers hair and unloading with knees and punches. It’s a good fucking fight in an untalented slugger kind of way. Both of these guys are exhausted and eventually Frazier gets knocked to the ground but more out of tiredness than anything else. Rosier stamps on him a few times and the towel comes in. Great fight and the crowd liked it.
– Rosier by submission by towel at 4:20
3- Royce Gracie vs Art Jimmerson
Art Jimmerson was here because the organisers felt that for it to be legitimate then there had to be a boxer involved. And Jimmerson was a genuine top ten ranked boxer. Of course Royce Gracie was the man, the man who knew what was coming, the man with the secret. And the Gracie train of Royce and his father and brothers looked so impressive back then.
The fight started with Royce wearing a gi and Jimmerson wearing a boxing glove on his left hand, which seemed fairly fucking ridiculous then but he had his reasons. This was a straight forward Royce Gracie fight. Royce keep distance with front kicks and little low side kicks, when he gets an opening he shoots a double leg takedown and quickly moves to mount. He lands a couple of short headbutts, Jimmerson tries to escape but he has no real clue and Gracie keeps position easily. Then seemingly out of nowhere and for no reason other than being in a bad position, Art Jimmerson taps out.
There was a story that upon seeing some of the guys grappling and warming up, Art decided ‘fuck that!’, he was one guy who got paid well,upfront so he decided there and then to tap at the earliest possibility. I dunno though, he made an honest effort to get up but eventually he knew it was futile .Royce did to him what Royce did to everyone back then.
– Gracie by submission 2:18
4- Ken Shamrock vs Patrick Smith
To me Ken Shamrock was as important to the very early UFCs as Royce Gracie. To have drama you need an opponent, a rival, and Ken seemed to have the most potential to beat Royce out of everyone. He was skilled wherever the fight went and he could grapple, which was rare at the time. Then you had Pat Smith who had a sort of relaxed swagger. He was a good fighter, pity about the child sex stuff that came later on.
The fight starts and Ken comes forward, he moves smoothly and with purpose. He clinches with Smith and manages to trip him to the ground. Pat manages to get a tight closed guard but not knowing what to do with it. Ken manages to secure one of Smith’s legs and falls back and works for a heel hook which of course Pat Smith can’t defend. Soon enough the man who earlier claimed that he was ‘resistant of fell pain’, was screaming and tapping out.
– Shamrock by submission 1:49
5- Jason Delucia vs Trent Jenkins
An untelevised fight for an alternate spot should anyone get injured and not be able to continue.
These two looked like typical martial artists of the time. In good shape with Delucia wearing Kung-fu pants and moving like Bruce Lee. They feel each other out for a thirty seconds, throwing flicky high kicks before Delucia surprises Jenkins with a takedown I think. It was a pretty poor takedown but that’s all you needed back then. Jenkins is of course clueless and immediately gives up his back and begs to be choked out in which Delucia obliges him.
Jason Delucia appears in one of the Gracie in action videotapes from a few years before where he went and challenged Royce to test himself so I think he knew what was coming more than most and prepared himself.
– Delucia by submission in 0:52
6- Gerald Gordeau vs Kevin Rosier
As they walk to the ring Gordeau looks the fresher man whereas Rosier has a cut above his eye. This was a one side beat down with Gordeau on the attack with powerful leg kicks and punches. Rosier tried to defend but I don’t think he had anything left, he wilted under Gerard’s Stikes and found himself on the floor being stamped on. There is a notable difference in the power generated by Gordeau here and the ones used by Rosier in his earlier fight. Kevin Rosiers corner mercifully throw in the towel and Gordeau is in the final.
– Gordeau by submission by towel 0:58
7- Royce Gracie vs Ken Shamrock
This should’ve been the final, right? It felt like the final, or is that just hindsight?
This was fast paced and technical. Not much feeling out, Royce shoots for the legs immediately but Ken sprawls and turns Royce over onto his back and uses good balance to stay on top. Gracie has Shamrock in guard and Ken falls back to take the leg as before but Royce has his gi wrapped around Kens arm and uses it to pull himself on top. After a bit of a scramble Ken is on his knees and Gracie finds his way around his neck and gets the choke.
Everybody saw the tap, everybody. Everybody expect the referee, who had been pretty terrible the whole night. Ken taps, Royce releases, the referee says continues. Then Royce has to tell the referee and try to get Ken to admit tapping, which he seems hesitant to do for a second but in the end it all works itself out. Not the way it should’ve ended but the result is the same.
– Gracie by submission at 0:57
8 – FINAL – Royce Gracie vs Ken Shamrock
Gordeau came in to the fight with a broken hand and a tooth stuck in his foot, not that it would have made any difference, just saying.
Royce immediately goes for the takedown but Gordeau defends well but get backed up to the fence. Gordeau grabs the fence as Royce tries to trip him and the ref keeps warning him for it. I wasn’t aware that was a rule here. After some work Royce gets the takedown and the fight goes the same as the others, few headbutts and Gordeau gives up his back, but no before biting Royce’s ear. He sinks in the choke and Gérard Gordeau taps and Royce Gracie is the Ultimate Fighting Champion.
– Gracie by submission at 1:44
It was a good first event which really did what it was designed to do. It showed what worked and it showed the limitations of most of these martial arts. It probably wasn’t as violent and brutal as people thought it might be. That would come though.