It’s 2023, and not only is it a brand new year, it’s the 30th year of the existence of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The first-ever UFC went down on Nov. 12, 1993, and to celebrate its 30-year anniversary, the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) organization released a new video on New Year’s Day dubbed, “Changing The Game Since 1993.’
The highlight / documentary video takes us all the way back to those first bloody unpredictable events where a young and unexceptional Royce Gracie took the MMA world by storm, beating out three opponents in one night to be the first UFC tournament winner. He’d repeat the feat at UFC 2 and UFC 4, establishing himself (and Brazilian jiu-jitsu) as a force to be reckoned with.
“I was eager to have Rickson [Gracie] be the Gracie athlete and [UFC co-founder] Rorion [Gracie], by July, had not made a selection,” UFC co-founder Art Davie said in a UFC Turns 30 article on the promotion’s website. “Rorion said, ‘You know, forget my political problems with Rickson — it would be better to have Royce.’ I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘He looks like a little altar boy in that white gi. If he wins the event, it’s the Bruce Lee thing. A little guy with skill can beat a big guy.’ They wanted to see if the skill was going to be dominant.”
“Ken Wayne Shamrock looked like Captain America. And with that name, it was a marquee name, he had that handsome face, that big jaw, the muscles and the red speedo. If he wins, I’m not sure we’d be talking today.”
We certainly are talking about the sport today, and while UFC President, Dana White, hasn’t quite managed to build up MMA to the point where it’s “bigger than soccer,” the sport is thriving with endless promotions holding their own events around the world and UFC sitting at the pinnacle of MMA competition (sorry, Bellator).
It’s unclear exactly what UFC has planned for its big 30-year anniversary, and we can only hope the promotion continues to delve deep into its history, holding up the athletes who sacrificed everything back when there was little money or mainstream respect that came with a UFC championship belt. We’re off to a good start, though, with videos like the one above and articles on UFC.com with the founding fathers of UFC and MMA.