Coming off a weekend where an MMA event aired live on network TV to millions of homes, it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t so long ago that the sport was still in its dark ages. Perhaps nothing illuminates that more effectively than videos of Igor Vovchanchyn‘s victories in the one-night "Mr. Strong Guy*" tournament in Minsk, Belarus back in January of 1996. "Ice Cold" fought three times that night, once against a guy who appears to be wearing street shoes, and all three times in a pit covered by a wrinkled tarp. The footage is in black and white and we can only assume that it’s because color TV hadn’t made it to Belarus yet, or else it had and they simply thought it frivolous. And the music? Well, obviously it’s nothing less than an inspired, though somewhat risky choice for a bare-knuckle fighting tournament.
We post these not to suggest that any MMA that comes out looking better than this is beyond reproach, but rather to remind ourselves that complaining about watching the world’s best heavyweight for free on CBS, even if it did thwart the DVR technology that didn’t even exist in 1996, is a very recent luxury for MMA fans. That’s all. Well, that and the fact that this whole tournament seems pretty damn fascinating in a weird way. The other two videos of Vovchanchyn’s victories are after the jump. There’s really no way for you to not watch them and still call yourself a fan.
* Some people say the name of the tournament actually translates to "Mr. Powerman SEKAI," but that’s more confusing and not quite as funny as "Mr. Strong Guy," and is therefore the inferior translation in our eyes.