Sunday February 14, 2016– In the wake of former UFC champion Kevin Randleman’s unexpected death, the MMA world mourns once again with the passing of another pioneer; Jacquet Honore Travair Trasone Leslie Bazemore. The two-tour Vietnam vet, Pastor, and mixed martial artist legend has a story that most MMA fans haven’t heard.
In the 1970s, Pittsburgh was a hotbed for mixed martial arts competition including one of the most prolific fighters of the time, the legendary Jacquet Bazemore. He was a World Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion, the nephew of boxing legend Archie Moore and a sparring partner for Muhammad Ali. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Bazemore towered over most, and took no backtalk.
(Jacquet Bazemore and Muhammad Ali)
He grew up in the hard streets of Pittsburgh long before the Octagon was in vogue or Royce Gracie made his pay-per-view debut; decades before the UFC became a household brand and while the likes of Dana White were still in elementary school. Pittsburgh’s own Bazemore was on the cusp of the first mixed martial arts revolution. In 1979, CV (Caliguri & Viola) Productions Inc. became the first mixed martial arts company in the United States and enlisted Jacquet Bazmore as the man in the middle—The Ref. Bazemore policed the first regulated MMA competitions in America. Simply put, he was the Big John McCarthy of a forgotten era. That “Tough Guy” era was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the Cooperstown of MMA.
Bazemore, one in a long list of trailblazers who have passed on, growing older, or fading away into obscurity, is part of a sad trend. As I write this mourning, I am reminded of how precious our time is with them, and how often we take for granted the road they paved. I know my voice is loud in Pittsburgh, but I don’t have the volume of the UFC to reach the world.
Does the UFC owe the likes of Jacquet Bazemore “ANYTHING”? Probably Not. But they should however be thankful for “EVERYTHING.” You see, everyone from Art Davie to Dana White and all in between can thank the Pennsylvania state legislature for banning MMA in 1983 (Tough Guy Law), because without them, the UFC as we know it would have never existed!
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