Since it’s the UFC’s “silver anniversary” year, I figured why not take a look back at my first experience with the greatest sport known to man, MMA. Well, even before there was MMA, there was NHB – no holds barred!
October 1993 – I had just turned 13 years old. While sitting around playing my Super Nintendo or watching whatever pro wrestling shows I could on the weekends (my usual routine at the time), little did I know that in less than a month, I would witness something more exciting than I ever thought possible…
See, back in the 80s and 90s, I basically watched every single wrestling pay-per-view that occurred – WCW, WWF, even the random, one-off PPVs that you’d see sometimes like the infamous debacle that was “Heroes Of Wrestling”. The reason I was able to do so was that my family had, what was referred to at the time, as “black box cable”. I’m revealing this here because, well, I was a minor and not responsible for it in any way. If anything, I was being corrupted ahem.
For younger folks who may not be aware of “black box cable”, how it worked was, you’d get a basic cable subscription from your provider. You could then buy a modified cable box from certain “companies” (if you can call them that) that would unscramble all of the premium channels and PPV channels for you so you could watch them all for free. I say all that to say this – “black box cable” was the reason I got to watch UFC 1 live, as it occurred, on November 12, 1993.
I honestly don’t remember how my family and I found out about the event. I don’t remember any promos for it and I can’t seem to find any online either. That makes sense because, well, how are you gonna promo something that’s never occurred before? There’s no footage you can use as an example of what to expect. Whatever the promotional tactics were that my middle-aged, memory-fogged brain can’t recollect, we found out it was occurring and tuned in, not really knowing what to expect. We figured, just based on name alone, the Ultimate Fighting Championship sounded worthy of checking out. Especially because… you know, the whole “free” thing.
Once the show started, original Octagon announcer, Rich Goins, started explaining exactly what we were going to see and introduced us to the fighters. By the time Bill Wallace burped his way through the words, “McNichols Arena”, I was already excited. This was gonna be like “Blood Sport” come to life! Who doesn’t love the Academy Award-winning film, “Blood Sport”, right? Jean Claude Van Damme’s “Citizen Kane”, if you will. I was especially psyched to see the man himself, Jim Brown, was part of the commentary team. As opposed to the other two commentators, Bill Wallace and Kathy Long, Jim had no idea what was going on with the various techniques he was about to witness. I’m assuming someone hired him because they figured his ass would enjoy a good brawl and be entertaining once he got excited – which he was, I must say.
As everyone knows by now, the UFC shed it’s virginity the hard way, at least for poor Teila Tuli who got his teeth kicked out within the first 20 seconds of the very first televised fight. Technically, a “dark match” occurred between alternates Jason Delucia and Trent Jenkins prior to the event going on the air but this was the first taste everyone, aside from the few thousand in the arena, got of the UFC. That’s one thing that surprised me, the brevity of a lot of the fights. Tuli gets his teeth kicked out, it’s over. Pat Smith gets taken down and put into a heel hook, it’s over. This was an era before World Star Hip Hop. There were no street fighting compilations or vines and the only street fights you ever saw were ones you were in or happened to witness as they happened. I had no idea that some fights could end so quickly. I also remember recognizing the first rear naked choke I ever saw as being the “sleeper hold” used by some of my pro wrestling heroes!
One last thing that sticks out to me was witnessing the epic battle between Zane Frazier and Kevin Rosier. Ironically enough, since I mentioned “Blood Sport” earlier, Zane Frazier apparently, at least partially, got his spot in UFC 1 by kicking “Mr. Bloodsport” Frank Dux’s real-live ass at a conference, months prior.
UFC 1 made a huge impact on me. It was an amazing thing to witness. To you younger fans, when you think us old heads are weird or bloodthirsty or “bad for the business” – just remember that we were spoon fed, oftentimes bloody violence by fighters who didn’t care about “big paydays” or their future health issues; they just wanted to fight! Can you really blame us for being a little disturbed?
*Adam Zimmerman (a/k/a The Grappling Gamer) is also a staff writer and contributor to Canadian Bulldog’s World (www.canadianbulldogsworld.com)*