The Tuesday Throwback: UFC 1: The Beginning

Markus Boesch

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November 12th. 1993, arguably the single most important day in mixed-martial-arts history. The Ultimate Fighting Championship makes it’s birth in the sport in Denver, Colorado. No weight classes, no rounds and no judges featured at the McNichols Sports Arena, as eight men from largely different backgrounds clashed in a tournament format. Trent Jenkins, Jason DeLucia, Teila Tuli, Gerard Gordeau, Kevin Rosier, Zane Frazier, Art Jimmerson, Patrick Smith, and maybe most famously, Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie made up the brackets and alternate bouts.

With a $50,000 award for the victor, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pioneer and sport icon Royce Gracie submitted Art Jimmerson and Ken Shamrock on his way to a submission of Gerard Gordeau in the tournament’s final. Gracie, the much smaller fighter was tasked with the boxing style of Jimmerson who made his way to the Octagon for his quarter-final showing with the Brazilian, sporting a single boxing glove.

In the semi-final bracket alongside Ken Shamrock, Gracie faced a supreme submission-wrestler threat, who had achieved four straight wins in Pancrase before his meeting with Gracie. Within a minute, a gi-laden Gracie wrapped up a sleeve choke to book his finale appearance. Dutch striker Gerard Gordeau had finished both Teila Tuli and Kevin Rosier in less than two minutes and met Brazil’s Gracie in the final. Locking up a rear-naked choke just before the second minute had elapsed, Gracie had beaten the odds and became the UFC 1 tournament victor.

Many of the previously mentioned names throughout the tournament had varying degrees of success in the future, but as for Gracie and Shamrock, the two sport pioneers managed incredible feats of triumph. Gracie continued to revolutionize the sport with his ground fighting offense and his ability to finish the bigger, thus then consensus ‘better’ fighter either from his back or from top-control, two seemingly compromising positions. Gracie featured in the next four UFC events, winning three tournaments to cement his legacy as one of the sport’s all-time greats.

Gracie competed in Japanese promotion PRIDE FC against Kazushi Sakaraba, with the iconic catch-wrestler christened as ‘The Gracie Killer’ off the back of his victories over Royce, Royler, Renzo, and Ryan Gracie. Royce Gracie would go on to meet Ken Shamrock in a rematch and subsequent trilogy after a re-run draw. After their breathtaking thirty-six minute UFC 5 excursion, the two met in Bellator MMA in 2016 in a less than memorable trilogy bout, with Gracie finishing Shamrock via strikes inside the opening round.

Ken Shamrock would go on after his UFC 1 loss to achieve staggering success both inside the sport, and in professional wrestling. The Georgia native would claim the inaugural Pancrase championship, become the UFC 4 Superfight champion via a win over Dan Severn. The submission skills of Shamrock were widely admired amongst fans and peers alike, with the now 55-year-old notching an incredible twenty-three submission victories throughout his career. Shamrock also featured in a prominent role with the World Wrestling Federation before the turn of the century, and has created his own bare-knuckle boxing promotion called Valor Bare Knuckle

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