How a UFC Imposter Became Australia's First NHB Event: An Interview with Jacob Debets

Mar 16, 2021

Sherdog senior editor Ben Duffy sat down with Australian contributor Jacob Debets to talk about his most recent work for Sherdog, a landmark article about the first no-holds-barred fighting event ever held Down Under. The event now known as Caged Combat 1, which took place on March 22, 1997, faced opposition from law enforcement as well as from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, whose trademarks were gleefully nicked by the Australian upstart, but also featured the debuts of such modern-day MMA fixtures as Michael Schiavello and Elvis Sinosic.

The article is a detailed oral history of a wild time and a wild event, and the story behind the story is every bit as wild. Jacob shares some anecdotes that didn't make the final edit, as well as additional pictures and documentation.

Enjoy this video companion to the five-part series, which you can find here.

0:00 Why should we care about this event?
7:28 Randy Bable: How did an American expat working in commercial construction, end up putting on Australia's first mixed martial arts event?
12:45 Who was this guy? Was he delusional, a genius, or a bit of both?
18:43 Mark Castagnini: How did the managing editor of a major Australian martial arts magazine, end up involved in this event, to the point of supplying commentary?
21:33 Was there anyone you wanted to interview, but couldn't track down, or who refused to talk to you?
23:35 Let's talk about Chris Haseman, Australia's greatest MMA pioneer, and his controversial night of work at Caged Combat.
29:14 Jacob was able to get candid quotes and even original source documents from SEG-era Ultimate Fighting Championship personnel who were fighting Bable over trademark infringement. Let's talk about that fight, and how strange it is that the UFC effectively lost.
33:45 When we say "trademark infringement," what are we talking about? Here, have a look. (It's hilariously blatant.)
37:24 While Bable managed to get several big names into his cage that night, UFC vet Zane Frazier dropped out two days before the event despite flying to Sydney and spending fight week there. Here's why his story doesn't add up, and here's what little we know about the real reasons he withdrew.
41:04 Let's talk about how crazy — and awesome — it is that Matt Rocca was able to produce his original, signed bout agreement.
43:48 Rest in peace Neil Bodycote, unsung pioneer of Australian MMA.
48:36 Caged Combat was the first mixed martial arts event to feature Michael Schiavello on the mic. In hindsight, it is absolutely stunning how good he was as a 21-year-old newcomer to the sport.
53:12 Where Are They Now? A rundown of the later doings of some of stars and non-stars of Caged Combat
58:12 The Five Sacrificial Lambs of Pancrase: Bonus story and perhaps an article to come at a later date
1:05:00 Conclusion: How much of a near-miss was this? It feels as though Caged Combat might have had a far more lasting impact if not for just a few bad breaks. As it stands, however, Randy Bable's crazy idea is an unlikely one-night success story and a one-of-a-kind piece of combat sports history.

More video interview

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