When, Where, and Why (pt. 1 of 3)
by Nelson "DOC" Hamilton
Grappling Magazine/ August 2005
Although it is generally agreed that the Ten Commandments were carved in
stone and are a divinely inspired set of rules, the same cannot be said for the
rules governing society or those associated with mixed martial arts (MMA).
If you read my column in the May issue of Grappling, then you know that on
Feb. 22, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) adopted the rules
and regulations that will govern mixed martial arts (MMA) in the state.
While preparing my rules recommendations for the CSAC vote, I came to
realize that the rules governing MMA, regardless of the promotional
organization, have frequently evolved in direct response to the old adage,
"Necessity is the mother of invention"
Since MMA in the United States originated with, and is inseparable from the
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the following time line will illustrate
the evolving nature of the rules from UFC 1 through the adoption of the
"MMA Unified Rules" and beyond. This is the first of three parts.
As most of you know, on November 12, 1993, UFC I: "The Beginning," was
held at McNichols Arena in Denver, Colorado. Billed as a no-holds-barred
competition, fights could be won only 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.
However, according to (co-promoter) Rorion Gracie, "We never had rules.
What we had were 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 $1,000, and the money would have
gone to the guy who got bit or gouged."
"No Way Out" was held on March 11, 1994, 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 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 authority to stop a one-sided fight.
Rorion subsequently agreed, but he stipulated that McCarthy use that power
"The Return of the Beast" was held on July 4, 1995, in Charlotte, North
Carolina. A time limit was instituted for the main event to insure that payper-
view (PPV) customers received their money's worth. This was the result
of some fights in UFC III and UFC IV exceeding their PPV time limits. This
resulted in thousands of dollars in refunds being paid to viewers whose PPV
had stopped before the end of the bout. Definitely a tough way to turn a
UFC V also saw Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie take part in the very first
Superfight. Because there were no judges and no way to determine a
champion, at the end of the 30-minute time limit, a five-minute overtime
was fought. After 35 minutes, the fight was declared a draw.
"The Brawl in Buffalo" was held in Buffalo, New York, on September 8, 1995.
Not wanting a repeat of the very expensive refunds previously experienced,
this was the first show in which time limits were instituted for all fights.
Unfortunately for the promoter, there was a power outage for about 20
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
©2005-2008 REFS: Ring Experienced Fight Specialists.