Former UFC Executive Producer Reflects on Rules, Spectacles & More

Nov 22, 2013

The early UFCs were a learning experience to say the least.

In an interview with the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Rewind” show, executive producer Campbell McLaren discussed UFC 1, marketing, hyperbole and much more.

McLaren on rules and UFC 1: “It was very obvious we needed rules not after UFC 1 -- during UFC 1. In the first fight, the ref should have stopped that fight. That was the thing that was most apparent. It’s funny, though. I was looking at my rules list from UFC 1, from the first fighters’ meeting and Rorion [Gracie] had stood up, and at one point this was what Rorion said to everybody … ‘Gentleman, we are not animals. So no biting,’ and then he sat down. That was his contribution, and then we were back and forth. Could you tape hands? Could you do this? Could you do that? We didn’t know. We were doing the best we could with little to no information available.”

On Teila Tuli’s contribution: “Everyone was arguing and yelling. The adrenaline and the testosterone were really high. Everybody was nervous and no one knew what we were getting into and everyone was really bickering, and I was trying to get them under control, not with great success. Teila stood up. He wore this crazy little skullcap and he took it off and he banged it on one of the tables and he said, ‘I take the fight, I’m gonna fight,’ and he walked out of the fighter’s meeting. Then everybody sat down and everybody shut up, and we told them how we were going to do it.”

On hiring Joe Silva, who is now the UFC’s matchmaker: “Joe knew more about the UFC [by] UFC 3 than I did, and I didn’t know how he knew it because to a great extent, I was making up a lot of this. Again, before the Internet, Joe was doing things like taking a yellow legal pad -- imagine this, right -- and on all 70 pages filling in handwritten notes and then Fed-Exing me that. I’d get these packages and I’d be like, what a lunatic, whoa. Then I’d read it and I’d go, wow. He saw the development of the sport. He caught on to it very quickly and then got ahead of the curve.”

On matchmaking philosophy in the UFC’s early days and now: “I always liked very dramatic fights with one style versus another and guys that you thought were going to win easily and then would lose. Because again, I went back to this sort of heroic story, big drama and theater and spectacle that people have accused me of, but that stuff works and I liked it. It wasn’t just venal, like oh, let’s make money. We were trying to make money, but I loved that. I loved the circus. I loved the spectacle, and still I think some of the best UFCs today -- other than the ones I did like UFC 7, UFC 3, UFC 11 -- are ones that incorporate that very big spectacle and the very big personality and the very big sense that this is something happening here.”

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

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