Tonight we celebrate UFC on FOX: "Velasquez vs. Dos Santos."
But 18 years ago to the day, an event, unlike anything anyone had ever seen, took place in Denver, Colorado. The event was called "The Ultimate Fighting Championship" (UFC). The purpose? To see who was the best fighter in the world.
Fighters from all disciplines, from all over the world, came to test their skills against one another.
Though the event was billed as "no holds barred," there were a few rules in place to protect the competitors, like no biting and no eye gouging. There were no weight classes which meant that, since it was tournament format, any fighter could easily outweigh his opponent by more than 25 pounds.
The fight card consisted of athletes that at that point, no one had ever heard of before.
Gerard Gordeau, Teila Tuli, Kevin Rosier, Zane Frasier, Art Jimmerson, Ken Shamrock, Patrick Smith, Trent Jenkins, Jason DeLucia and eventual tournament winner, Royce Gracie, all convened in "Mile High City" to see who truly was the best.
Gracie, who was the smallest competitor in the tournament, amazed everyone with a fighting technique that not many people had heard of before. The discipline was known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). The undersized Gracie submitted Art Jimmerson, Ken Shamrock and Gerard Gordeu as he became the first-ever winner, taking home bragging rights along with a $50,000 check.
Throughout the years to come, the UFC fought tooth-and-nail to get the recognition and respect it deserved. From battling politicians such as Senator John McCain, who labeled the sport "human cockfighting," to trying to gain fans to accept a new style of fighting, it took 18 years but the UFC has truly come full circle.
Thanks to Zuffa, the UFC has received a complete makeover.
From adding rules, weight classes and getting sanctioned by the majority of stateside athletic commissions (as well as traveling to countries all over the world), the UFC is now one of the biggest and richest sports organizations on the planet. The days of people shying away from the sport may now be over.
Now, blue chips sponsors such as Harley Davidson and Bud Light proudly display their product throughout the UFC and it seems that everyone is knocking at the door trying to get a piece of the MMA pie.
From dominating the pay-per-view arena, to making millionaires out of countless fighters, to selling out arenas all over the world, the UFC, with its new FOX partnership, has finally been accepted into the mainstream world. The UFC will hold its first title fight on free cable TV tonight (Nov. 12), as it debuts on the FOX network.
The same FOX network that carries the NFL's Super bowl and MLB's World Series.
Unlike UFC 1, in which a young and undersized fighter dominated the night, two of the biggest and best heavyweights in the world will take center stage at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos will battle for the right to be called UFC heavyweight champion of the world.
Like Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin at the first ever Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Finale, Velasquez and Dos Santos have a chance to do something special for the UFC. The two heavyweights will be responsible for introducing the sport of MMA and the brand that is the UFC to a whole new audience and in the process, usher the promotion into a whole new era that will change the landscape of MMA for the years to come.
Happy 18th birthday, Ultimate Fighting Championship.
For UFC on FOX results and live play-by-play for "Velasquez vs. Dos Santos" click here.