UFC 1 Executive Producer Campbell McLaren Recalls First Event

Nov 22, 2013

Campbell McLaren had no idea what he was getting into with UFC 1.

In an interview with the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Rewind” show, the executive producer recalled the historic event, the UFC’s early days and much more.

McLaren on planning UFC 1: “We had no idea what was going to happen. Don’t forget that first fight was 26 seconds long, and we had a three-hour block for live on pay-per-view -- a live three-hour block. If each fight went 26 seconds, it meant the whole event was going to be over in about 11 minutes even with slow entrances, leaving us with something like two hours and forty minutes’ worth of dead air. It was nerve-wracking all around.”

On marketing the UFC in the days before social media: “There was no way to get word-of-mouth out except by word-of-mouth. We were reaching out to every martial arts group -- taekwondo groups, kung fu groups, everyone -- and having people call them and tell them the show is going to be on. We had a marketing budget, I think, about as big as the first fight was long. We had a couple ads in Black Belt Magazine, in some of the martial arts magazines. Not only was the budget miniscule, there was nothing to show. What would you show for an event that had never been done? We didn’t have a picture. We couldn’t make a TV commercial even if we could afford it.”

On promoting violence as an early marketing strategy: “I did say some out-there stuff, but it was very calculated. … When we decided to say fights could be stopped [by] tapout, referee’s intervention or death -- let me ask you this: Have you ever heard of a fight continuing after death? A lot of what we were doing, if you looked at it and used a little common sense and got past the hyperbole, you saw that it was pretty calculated.”

On whether he thought a fighter might die: “No, I didn’t think anyone was going to die, not at all. … Look, you can accuse me of a lot of different things and I will accept responsibility for many of them, but no, under no circumstances did we think someone was going to die.”

On working with the fighters: “I was trying to establish a rapport with the fighters. Ken [Shamrock] scared me, but you know what? Royce [Gracie] scared me. Teila [Tuli] scared me. Gerard Gordeau was really scary. I didn’t know what was going to happen and so I didn’t want to communicate that. I was trying to be as clear as I could, and then I think everyone had no idea what was going to happen either. What happened was we made history.”

Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:08).

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