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One of my goals in the next couple of years is to have something written about every UFC show in history. When we started this website in 2007, the UFC shows were still in the 70s. But I’ve written stuff from UFC shows prior to that, and I will start writing about the shows from the beginning. It may take me a while, but I’ll eventually bring all of my reviews of UFC shows over. Here’s my review of the very first UFC show, UFC 1:

What people see the UFC as today is clearly much different from what the UFC used to be. Today, the UFC is sanctioned in nearly every state in the United States by state athletic commissions. Back in 1993, they were the anti-sport.

The UFC was a two-headed monster. The first company was headed by Art Davie, Rorian Gracie, and John Milius and called WOW Promotions. Davie was a businessman who was interested in putting an event together, Gracie was a member of the famed Gracie jiu-jitsu family, and Milius had a background in film. The second company was their TV partner, SEG.

Together, they created what became The Ultimate Fighting Championship. What it also became was a showcase for the sport of Brazillian jiu-jitsu. Rorion chose his younger brother Royce to represent the sport of jiu-jitsu, feeling quite confident that his brother would win the show and help out the business of Gracie jiu-jitsu.

SEG is credited with coming up with the octagon, the main hold over from the early years of the UFC.

The first show was an 8-man tournament with the winner receiving 50,000 dollars and it was available on PPV. The theme of the show was the age old story of which type of athlete was the toughest. Was it someone from the art of karate? How about a boxer? What about a wrestler?

The fights could only be stopped if the fighter himself tapped out or if the fighter’s corner threw in the towel. I’m not quite sure the fighters knew exactly what they were getting into considering you had boxer Art Jimmerson come into the cage with a boxing glove on one of his hands, eliminating any chance he had to grab onto anyone. He submitted quickly to Royce Gracie who didn’t even really do anything to him.

All in all, the fights were short, but there was still intrigue and home run moments that they could replay time and time again on highlight films. Gerard Gordeau threw a kick that knocked out four of Teila Tuli’s teeth with a blow that would be considered illegal today. Ken Shamrock submitted Patrick Smith with a heel hook, which also became his signature hold.

The production of the show was pretty terrible and it was nowhere near what HBO and Showtime was doing with their boxing broadcasts at the time. And the announcing was laughable as well. For the first show, kick boxers Bill Wallace and Kathy Long were joined by NFL great Jim Brown on the announce team. Two kick boxers and a football player had no idea what they were calling when the fight wasn’t on the feet. Brown stayed on board for the first six UFC shows which gave the shows a little bit of credibility for the company, but zero credibility in the announcing of what would eventually be called MMA.

(Brown was the color analyst and when they asked him his opinion, he would give really short cliched responses. The only thing he really provided was giving the viewers an idea how tough these guys really were because Brown was known as a super tough guy and if he said these guys were tough, they were tough.)

The two stars of the show were Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock. Gracie was in a gi and was the smallest competitor, but he was tapping guys out in record time. He had a Bruce Lee-like mysteriousness in when you looked at him, he didn’t look like much. But once he locked his eyes on his prey, he was a savage. Shamrock looked the part. He was swollen like a body builder and stood tall with a mean streak like no other.

Watching the first round, it was clear that the two were the best fighters and you couldn’t wait to see them fight each other. After each easily won their first fights, they were matched up with each other in the semi-final, which in hindsight was probably a mistake. They should’ve been on opposite sides of the bracket so they could be matched up in the finals.

When Gracie and Shamrock were in the cage together, it felt like a big deal. Shamrock looked like he was simply going to overpower Gracie, but the wily jiu-jitsu veteran sunk in a rear naked choke using his gi, which was totally legal, and won in less than a minute. Shamrock was just as surprised as anyone, but knew that he needed to learn how to defend jiu-jitsu if he was ever going to beat Gracie.

Gracie would go on to beat Gordeau by rear naked choke with just 1:44 gone in the first round to cement himself as the very first UFC winner. What he also did was put jiu-jitsu on the map in the United States.

Overall, the show had solid action and a few really cool moments. But the production and announcing took it down a notch as the presentation was less than professional. But I would recommend anyone who hasn’t seen this show and is a fan of MMA today to take a look at the very first show. It was truly memorable both for the right and wrong reasons.