MMA-101: Evolution
by Nelson "DOC" Hamilton
Grappling Magazine / October 2007

This is the second installment of a four-part series exploring both the
circumstances that have contributed to the evolution of the MMA “Unified
Rules”, and the sports phenomenal growth.

History was made on 11/21/93, when War of the Worlds (WOW) promoted
the first ever pay-per-view (PPV) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), at
the McNichols Arena, in Denver, Colorado. In an effort to determine which
discipline would prevail, the UFC brought together eight international
competitors representing a diverse sampling of martial arts, including karate;
kung-fu; judo; wrestling, kickboxing; jiu-jitsu, and sumo.

Billed as a no holds barred competition, fights could only be won when a
competitor was knocked out or tapped out. The rules allowed for an unlimited
number of five-minute rounds, and disallowed only biting and eye gouging.
According to Rorion Gracie, co-founder of WOW with Art Davie and
Semaphore Entertainment Group, “we never had rules, what we had was two
restrictions: no eye gouging and no biting. But neither of those was
forbidden. I knew from the beginning that once the fighters went in, you
could not stop the fight, no matter what. If one guy eye gouges the other
and we stop the fight, people would say, ‘what kind of fight is this?’
Everything was permitted. The consequences if you eye gouged the other
guy or bit him would be a fine of one thousand dollars and the money would
go to the guy who got bit or gouged.”

Although no one was certain what to expect, the contemporary sport of MMA
was born. Rorion’s effort to publicize his sport was doubly rewarded; not only
did it capture the imagination of both the television audience and those in
attendance, but Joyce Gracie, Rorion’s younger brother, won the tournament.
In an effort to capitalize on the success of UFC-1, UFC-2, ‘No Way Out’ was
held on 03/11/94 at the Mammoth Gardens in Denver, Colorado. Once again,
the rules stipulated that only biting and eye gouging were fouls.
There were no rounds or time limits, and once again, fights could only be
won by knockout or tap-out. Although the promoter, SEG, wanted to
eliminate the referee all together, the decision was made to have ‘Big’ John
McCarthy serve as the referee. However, he was not allowed to stop a fight,
even if a fighter was defenseless. At the end of the show, after a fight in
which Patrick Smith severely beat Scott Morris, whose corner refused to
throw in the towel to signal defeat, McCarthy told Rorion that he would not
referee any more shows unless he had the authority to stop a one-sided
fight. Rorion subsequently agreed, but stipulated that McCarthy use that
power with discretion.

On 07/04/95, UFC-5, ‘The Return of the Beast’, was held in Charlotte, North
Carolina. In an attempt to insure that pay-per-view (PPV) customers received
their moneys worth, a time limit was instituted for the first time for the main
event. This was the result of some fights in UFC-3 and UFC-4 exceeding their
PPV time limits. This resulted in thousands of dollars in refunds being paid by
the promoter to viewers whose PPV had stopped before the end of the bout.
This was definitely no way to turn a profit!

UFC-5 also saw Ken Shamrock and Joyce Gracie take part in the very first
‘Super fight’. Since there were no judges, and no way to determine a
champion, at the end of the thirty-minute time limit, a five-minute overtime
was fought. After thirty-five minutes the fight was declared a draw.
On 09/08/95, UFC-7, ‘The Brawl in Buffalo’ was held in Buffalo, N.Y. This was
the first show in which time limits were instituted for all fights. By so doing,
the promoter hoped to prevent the agony associated with paying expensive
refunds to PPV customers. Unfortunately for the promoter, there was a power
outage for about twenty minutes, which resulted in the show running much
longer than expected. Many viewers never got to see Marco Ruas stop Paul
“the Polar Bear” Varelans to become the UFC champion. Consequently,
millions had to be refunded to subscribers once again. To say the least, this
was not a profitable business model.

To be continued...

©2007-2008 REFS: Ring Experienced Fight Specialists.