Does anyone remember the date of this historic occurrence? Does anyone remember the location, the participants, the commentators, or the results? Hardcore MMA fans probably do, but everyone else either never saw it, or had it lapse from their memory.
The date was Nov 12th, 1993. The location: McNichols Sports Arena, Denver, Colorado. Compared to the slick presentations put on today, it was an amateurish affair. But that was half of its charm. This wasn’t mixed martial arts as we have it today. There were no multi-disciplined fighters; that would ruin the whole concept of the gathering.
This was no-holds-barred, all-out, kick-ass, combat to see which type of fighter in which discipline was the best. There were no rules (well, except for no eye-gouging and biting anyway), no weight classes, and very little strategy.
Who was the Ultimate Fighter? That was the question this exhibition was meant to answer. Was it the Boxer, the Karateka, the black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, the Sumo wrestler, the Savateur, the Kick-boxer, the Shootfighter, or the master of Tae Kwon Do?
Rorion Gracie set the tournament up (with the collaboration of Kevin Rosier and Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG)), called it The Ultimate Fighting Championship, and used it as a promotion and a test of his family’s style of Jiu-Jitsu against any other style/discipline in the world of fighting. The winner of the contest received $50,000.
The Gracie’s proved their point. The family appointed Royce Gracie as their representative in the octagon, and he won the contest. Set up in tournament style, the eight fighters paired off, with the champion needing three fights to win. Rounds were five minutes long, and a winner of each fight was determined either through tap out, throwing in the towel, or a fighter’s inability to continue. There were no judges involved.
The announcers were American Karate legend and movie star Bill Wallace, retired football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown and American Kick-boxing champion Kathy Long.
Gerard Gordeau vs. Teila Tuli
The first fight pitted Dutch Savateur Gerard Gordeau against Hawaiian Sumo wrestler Teila Tuli. It was no contest. Tuli rushed Gordeau only to fall to the ground. While sitting, Tuli received a powerful kick to the face from Gordeau which stunned the wrestler and knocked out one of his teeth. Gordeau followed with a punch to the face which broke his hand. Tuli’s corner decided the wrestler couldn’t continue and the match ended 26 seconds into the first round.
Gerard Gordeau vs. Teila Tuli Fight Video:
Kevin Rosier vs. Zane Frazier
The second fight of the night featured two Americans: Kevin Rosier, a Super Heavyweight Kickboxer and Zane Frazier, a Kenpō Karate black belt. Lasting longer than the first fight, this contest was an all-out slug-fest. Frazier did most of the punching including some devastating uppercuts. But Rosier survived the onslaught and let Frazier exhaust himself. He then took it to the Karateka with right-handed strikes. After two kicks to the head while Frazier was on the ground, the referee ended it. Rosier won with a TKO at 4:20 of the first round.
Kevin Rosier vs. Zane Frazier Fight Video:
Royce Gracie vs. Art Jimmerson
Art Jimmerson, the boxer of the group, faced-off against the fourth degree black belt Jiu-Jitsu master and Brazilian native Royce Gracie. American Jimmerson was out of his league in this fight. The Gracie made Jimmerson hesitate to engage his fists with front kicks towards Jimmerson’s lead leg. Gracie then lunged and employed a double-legged take down. After less than a minute on his back, with no ability to accomplish anything, Jimmerson gave up and just tapped out at 2:18 of the first round.
Royce Gracie vs. Art Jimmerson Fight Video:
Ken Shamrock vs. Patrick Smith
We got our first actual submission of the evening (Gracie’s win over Jimmerson was recorded as a submission even though there was none) when Shootfighter Ken Shamrock (American) confronted Tae Kwon Do master Patrick Smith (also American). Shamrock took Smith down quickly and while in Smith’s guard stood up and locked Smith’s right leg falling backward onto the ground. Smith tapped out at 1:49 of the first round.
Ken Shamrock vs. Patrick Smith Fight Video: