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UFC 1: The Beginning
VHS Box art for UFC 1
PromotionUltimate Fighting Championship
DateNovember 12, 1993
VenueMcNichols Sports Arena
CityDenver, Colorado, United States
Event chronology
UFC 1: The Beginning UFC 2: No Way Out

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (later renamed UFC 1: The Beginning) was the first mixed martial arts event by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), held at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado, United States, on November 12, 1993. The event was broadcast live on pay-per-view and later released on home video.[3][4]

Although the event was the lowest profile by the contemporary standards (the venue was less than half-packed, the grand prize of the tournament was as big as a regular sparring partner biannual salary, major martial arts observers and columnists did not bother to show up, the press in general neglected the event, Black Belt first mentioned it only several months later, big-name fighters turned down the offers to participate or to make a guest appearance in the audience),[5] it pioneered the interstylistic match-ups between the practitioners of different martial arts, and set the pattern for the future sporting events of the kind,[6] and introduced the octagon.


UFC 1 was co-created by Rorion Gracie and the Torrance-based UFC promoter Art Davie, who decided to take locally famous Gracie Garage Challenge fights versus California's martial artists to a new level, televised nationally, with the opponents picked internationally.[6]

They did not come up with a 16-man tournament, as the big-name martial artists, mainly kickboxers, namely Dennis Alexio, Benny Urquidez, Jean-Yves Thériault, Rick Roufus, Stan Longinidis, Maurice Smith, Bart Vale, Hee Il Cho, George Dillman, Gene LeBell, Rob Kaman, Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hoost, Masaaki Satake, were among the others "publicly invited" by Art Davie,[7] but had shown no interest in participating.[5] Davie placed advertisements in martial arts magazines to recruit fighters. He found less than a dozen who answered the call.[6] The promoters came up with an eight-man tournament format, with the winner receiving $50,000.[8]

They wanted it to look brutal on television, so John Milius, one of Rorion Gracie's students and a Hollywood veteran who had directed Conan the Barbarian, decided the fights should take place in an octagonal cage fenced with chain link. Campbell McLaren, a SEG executive, wanted people to consider the championship a live, televised version of Mortal Kombat, a popular fighting video game, in which victorious fighters got to "finish" their opponents through moves such as ripping their spines out of their bodies. That one and the Davie's idea to top the cage with razor wire were rejected.[6] UFC promoters initially pitched the event as a real-life fighting video game tournament similar to Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter.[9]

General regulations agreed upon were:

McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, at an elevation above mean sea level of approximately one mile (1.6 km), had been chosen because Colorado had no athletic commission and thus no governing body from which they would need to get approval for bare-knuckle fighting.[6] The arena had hosted only two fight cards in its history, both of minor significance, occurring earlier in 1993.[12]

The major accomplishment though for the promoters was to gather a celebrity commentary team for the event. The commentary team for the pay-per-view was Bill Wallace, Jim Brown, and Kathy Long, with additional analysis from Rod Machado and post-fight interviews by Brian Kilmeade. The ring announcer was Rich Goins.

Jason DeLucia was an alternate for the event, having defeated Trent Jenkins in the alternate bout. However, as no fighter pulled out during the tournament, he was not called upon.


The tournament featured fights with no weight classes, rounds, or judges. The three rules – no biting, no eye gouging, and no groin shots – were to be enforced only by a $1,500 fine. The match only ended by submission, knockout, or the fighter's corner throwing in the towel, although the referee stopped the first fight at 26 seconds. Gloves were allowed, as Art Jimmerson showed in his quarterfinal bout against Royce Gracie, which he fought with one boxing glove.

Royce Gracie won the tournament by defeating Gerard Gordeau via submission due to a rear naked choke.[13] The referees for UFC 1 were João Alberto Barreto and Hélio Vigio, two veteran vale tudo referees from Brazil.


Weight class Method Round Time Notes
N/A Royce Gracie def. Gerard Gordeau Submission (rear-naked choke) 1:44
N/A Royce Gracie def. Ken Shamrock Submission (rear-naked choke) 0:57
N/A Gerard Gordeau def. Kevin Rosier TKO (corner stoppage) 0:59
N/A Ken Shamrock def. Patrick Smith Submission (heel hook) 1:49
N/A Royce Gracie def. Art Jimmerson Submission (smother choke) 2:18
N/A Kevin Rosier def. Zane Frazier TKO (punches) 4:20
N/A Gerard Gordeau def. Teila Tuli TKO (head kick) 0:26
Alternate bout
N/A Jason DeLucia def. Trent Jenkins Submission (rear-naked choke) 0:52

UFC 1 bracket[edit]

Netherlands Gerard Gordeau
United States Teila Tuli
Netherlands Gerard Gordeau TKO
United States Kevin Rosier 0:59
United States Kevin Rosier
United States Zane Frazier
Netherlands Gerard Gordeau 1:40
Brazil Royce GracieSUB
Brazil Royce Gracie
(Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)
United States Art Jimmerson
Brazil Royce GracieSUB
United States Ken Shamrock 0:57
United States Ken Shamrock
United States Patrick Smith

Cultural significance[edit]

The event and its outcome catapulted Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (also known as Brazilian jiu-jitsu) to new heights in the United States and worldwide. Its gate and pay-per-view buys ensured that there would be more UFCs in the near future, which proved to be the case.[6] The event sold nearly 90,000 live pay-per-view buys, in addition to drawing new audiences through video rental stores such as Blockbuster Video.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UFC 1: The Beginning". tapology.com. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  2. ^ Walter, Donald F. , Jr. Mixed Martial Arts: Ultimate Sport, or Ultimately Illegal? Grapplearts.com. December 8, 2003. Retrieved June 2, 2006.
  3. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (November 15, 1993). "Television: Pay-Per-View Battle, Instead of Being Merely Gory and Funny, Gets Interesting After the First Two Bouts". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
  4. ^ Sandra E. Kessler (1 April 1994). "Shotokan, Taekwondo, and Kung Fu challenge Jujutsu". Black Belt Magazine. Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 6 September 2017 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b "Still King of the Hill: Jujutsu Fighter Royce Gracie Tells the World "If You Want Me, Come Get Me!" (An Interview by Sandra E. Kessler)". Black Belt. 32 (8): 48–52. August 1994.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Merlino, Doug (2015). Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts. ISBN 9781620401569.
  7. ^ "Promoter Issues Invitation". Black Belt. 30 (11): 6–7. November 1994.
  8. ^ Rossen (2009-07-14). "Volkanovski vs Topuria | Can the Champ Weather the Storm? UFC 298 Prefight Breakdown". Retrieved 2011-02-08.
  9. ^ Snowden, Jonathan (12 November 2018). "UFC 1, 25 Years Later: The Story Behind the Event That Started an Industry". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  10. ^ "MMA Origins: The UFC's Fight for Survival". 22 December 2012.
  11. ^ Joe Rogan Experience MMA Show #26 with Big John McCarthy
  12. ^ McNichols Sports Arena information at the Boxing's Official Record Keeper, BoxRec.com.
  13. ^ "UFC 1: The Beginning: Playboy, Mortal Kombat and the hunt for an ultimate fighter". BBC Sport. 9 November 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  14. ^ Snowden, Jonathan (12 November 2020). "UFC 1, 25 Years Later: The Story Behind the Event That Started an Industry". Bleacher Report. WarnerMedia. Retrieved 5 November 2020.

External links[edit]