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5 Things You Might Not Know About UFC 1


Every entity has an origin story.

WOW Promotions and Semaphore Entertainment Group gave birth to the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Nov. 12, 1993 at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver. America was in the first year of the Clinton presidency. “The Three Musketeers,” “Carlito’s Way” and “My Life” were 1-2-3 at the domestic box office. Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” was in its second week atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The average price of a gallon of gas was $1.11. So it was that 10 martial artists from various disciplines rode into The Mile High City on a blustery 44-degree day to determine the best form of hand-to-hand combat. Royce Gracie introduced the world to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, putting away three opponents in less than five minutes to emerge from the groundbreaking tournament with his hand raised. The UFC has since promoted nearly 700 events and blossomed into a multi-billion-dollar business behemoth, but it can all be traced back to one Friday in November during a much simpler time.

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Now more than three decades removed from the revolutionary fight card, here are five things you might not know about UFC 1:

1. The venue was no stranger to historic sporting events.


A modest 7,800 fans were in attendance for the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut at McNichols Sports Arena. The facility had hosted the 1984 NBA All-Star Game and the 1990 NCAA Final Four. However, it may be best known as the site of the highest-scoring game in NBA history. On Dec. 13, 1984, the Detroit Pistons defeated the Denver Nuggets 186-184 in triple overtime before a crowd of 9,300. Five different players erupted for at least 40 points: Isaiah Thomas (47), John Long (41) and Kelly Tripucka (35) for the Pistons, Kiki Vandeweghe (51) and Alex English (47) for the Nuggets.

2. Bathroom breaks were at a premium.


Four of the eight fights at UFC 1 ended inside one minute. Gerard Gordeau took out Teila Tuli—and a few teeth—with a head kick in 26 seconds and later forced a corner stoppage against Kevin Rosier in 59 seconds; Gracie disposed of Ken Shamrock with a rear-naked choke in 57 seconds; and Jason DeLucia subdued Trent Jenkins with a rear-naked choke in 52 seconds.

3. Only seven survivors remain.


Three of the 10 fighters on the card are no longer with us. Rosier died at the age of 53 on April 14, 2015, Patrick Smith passed at the age of 55 on June 19, 2019 and Art Jimmerson died on May 8, 2024.

4. There were some unexpected one-and-dones.


Two referees were assigned to UFC 1: Helio Vigio and Joao Alberto Barreto. Neither of them officiated another UFC bout. “Big” John McCarthy made his Octagon debut at UFC 2 four months later.

5. Standup exchanges were few and far between.


Only 51 significant strikes were landed across the eight fights at UFC 1. Rosier and Zane Frazier accounted for more than half of them (27) in their encounter. Rosier punched out Frazier 4:20 into the match, resulting in the first of his two career victories.
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