Most view it as a turning point in the evolution of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a seminal event that proved mixed martial arts could be a viable business venture when given the right ingredients.
UFC 40 “Vendetta” went down on Nov. 22, 2002 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and featured the long-awaited showdown between archrivals Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. A crowd of 13,770 poured into the venue, resulting in what was then a record gate of $1.54 million. More importantly, UFC 40 drew more than 100,000 pay-per-view buys from the public and showed parent company Zuffa LLC that it had made a worthwhile investment when it purchased the foundering organization in 2001.
All eight bouts resulted in finishes, beginning with Phillip Miller’s rear-naked choke submission on Mark Weir and ending with Ortiz’s technical knockout of Shamrock. The Ortiz-Shamrock rivalry dates to UFC 18, where Ortiz donned a T-shirt that read, “I Just [Expletive] Your Ass” after smashing Lion’s Den rep Jerry Bohlander. He followed it with an equally dominant performance against Guy Mezger, another member of Shamrock’s Lion’s Den, and sported a post-fight T-shirt that read, “Gay Mezger is my bitch.” Shamrock was enraged by the disrespect, climbed on top of the Octagon and screamed at Ortiz. The feud was born.
They would not meet in the cage for nearly four years, their hatred for one another simmering all the while. When they finally locked horns, Ortiz tortured his bitter rival with an extended beating and pummeled him to such an extent that Shamrock was barely recognizable by the time his corner threw in the towel after the third round. Ortiz landed three of his five takedown attempts -- the UFC light heavyweight champion took down Shamrock once in all three rounds -- and connected with 155 of his 214 total strike attempts. Ortiz outlanded Shamrock by a 74-12 margin in significant strikes, with 64 of those strikes directed at the head.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship went on to squeeze the Ortiz-Shamrock turnip two more times: “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” stopped Shamrock with elbows at UFC 61 on July 8, 2006 and put him away with punches at UFC Fight Night 6.5 three months later, needing less than four minutes combined to author the finishes. While all three of their bouts drummed up widespread interest, nothing compared to their first encounter, which took place 15 years ago today.