The Dark Ages: 10 Crazy Stories From UFC 1

  • By Ross Cole - Jul 8, 2016
    This weekend, almost 23 years after the birth of the UFC, the promotion will host UFC 200 live on pay-per-view from the brand-new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

    Milestone events like this bring about a sense of nostalgia for other historic moments in the history of the sport, and of course the one that stands out above all others is a show on Friday, November 12th, 1993 in Denver, Colorado that made all the others possible – UFC 1.


    These days the UFC is a well-oiled machine, but back then in the very darkest ages of the sport, it was anything but, making it a white-knuckled rollercoaster ride from start to finish for everyone involved.


    As such, UFC 1 has become an endlessly fascinating breeding ground for behind-the-scenes stories regarding the crazy things happened that night, and in the days leading up to the show, both inside and outside of the cage, and in this article we’ll delve into ten of the best.

    Rorion Gracie


    Family Dispute Left Rorion Gracie Fearing For His Safety


    As Rorion Gracie was a co-founder of the UFC, and his brother Royce was due to compete at the first event, there was a lot at stake for the famed Gracie family, and tensions were running high between them in the lead-up to UFC 1.


    Originally, Rickson Gracie had been seen as the man to represent the family in the Octagon, but when he had a bitter falling out with Rorion it led to Royce Gracie being chosen instead.


    As the event drew close, other members for the Gracie family were due to fly in from around the world to watch the show, and some were reportedly angry with Rorion for his business dealings, which had included trademarking the ‘Gracie Jiu-Jitsu’ name in North America.


    Rorion began to fear for his safety after being threatened by one unnamed member of the family, to the extent that he asked future UFC referee ‘Big’ John McCarthy, who was a policeman by trade, if he could get him a gun so that he could protect himself.


    McCarthy refused to give him a firearm, and thankfully the family feud didn’t boil over at the event, with everyone being too busy celebrating Royce’s success.

    Rorion Gracie Art Davie

    The Event Almost Derailed 24hrs Before It Began


    At 7pm on the eve of UFC 1, UFC officials and the fighters gathered for a pre-fight meeting in a hotel conference room in Denver, Colorado.


    Hard as it is to believe, at this late stage in the day the fighters still didn’t know exactly how the event was going to work, and they hadn’t yet signed the necessary paperwork in order to compete.


    So, when co-founders Art Davie and Rorion Gracie announced that the three main rules were, “No eye-gouging, no biting and no groin strikes,” it sparked off a heated debate among the competitors, who were also confused as to whether gloves, hand wraps, gum shields, shin-guards and various other equipment would be allowed.


    Unhappy with some of the answers they were being given, things got heated, and the particularly outspoken Zane Frazier even accused Rorion of trying to rig the tournament in Royce Gracie’s favor.


    It wasn’t long before everyone in the room was arguing among themselves, and the meeting was on the verge of turning into a riot.


    It was at that point that the giant sumo wrestler Teila Tuli suddenly spoke up loud and clear, declaring that he’d just signed his fight agreement.


    ”I don’t know about you guys, but I came here to party,” Tuli stated. “If anyone else came here to party, I’ll see you tomorrow night at the arena.”


    Tuli’s words hit home with the fighters and they broke out into spontaneous applause.  The arguments evaporated and everyone followed suit in signing the contract.


    UFC 1 would go ahead after all.

    Zane Frazier Frank Dux 

    Zane Frazier Was Recruited After Brawl With Frank Dux


    Zane Frazier earned his spot at UFC 1 in an unlikely fashion after getting into a brawl with his rival Frank Dux while both were attending a martial arts trade show in Los Angeles.


    Dux was famous in the martial arts world for having detailed his own alleged 329-0 underground fighting career in Asia for an interview with Black Belt magazine , which later become the inspiration for the cult 1980’s movie, ‘Bloodsport.’ *


    Frazier, a kickboxer champion, and Dux had an ongoing feud that boiled over when they bumped into each other at the trade show.


    Karate International magazine reported at the time that Dux had initiated the fight, but he’d been floored by punches from Frazier and was then body-slammed into a nearby autograph booth. **


    UFC co-founders Rorion Gracie and Art Davie were at the show scouting for talent, and witnessed the scuffle first-hand.


    Impressed with how Frazier had handled himself against Dux, they offered him a chance to fight at UFC 1.


    * Dux served as a fight co-ordinator on the set of ‘Bloodsport’, but in the years since, the validity of his supposed underground fighting career that inspired the movie has repeatedly been called into question.


    ** Dux’s version of events is that Frazier had sucker punched him while wearing brass knuckles. He attempted to sue Frazier afterwards, but was unsuccessful.

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