(Gerard Gordeau stomps Kevin Rosier in the semi-finals of UFC 1. Image courtesy of Real Fighter.)
In honor of the upcoming 15th anniversary of UFC 1, Real Fighter magazine has published an incredible oral history called “Starting a Fight,” where all the fighters and organizers involved share their memories about the watershed event. You can (and should) download the article at BloodyElbow. Our favorite bits are below…
“Big” John McCarthy: I had put in my application for it. Rorion said, “What are you doing? You can’t fight. You’re with us. When Royce is done, we’ll put you in there.”
Rorion Gracie: We thought of a ring that had a moat and we could put alligators on the outside, [or] chariots running around the ring and dropping the fighters off, people with trumpets and Roman togas announcing them. This is Hollywood.
Art Davie: I don’t think I came up with the moat idea. But the electrified copper fence was mine.
McCarthy: Jimmerson said, “How in the world do you think Royce is going to beat me when I’m flicking out a jab? He can’t get past that.” We went into a back ballroom area and I grabbed him in a double leg and put him on the ground. He looked up at me and said, “Oh, my God. He’s going to break my arms and legs, isn’t he?”
Ken Shamrock: Tuli goes down to his knees and Gerard kicks him in the mouth and his teeth go flying into the front row. Prior to that, everyone [backstage] was hitting pads and trying to hide their fear. It went dead silent.
Gerard Gordeau: I broke my hand and a little bone in my foot. If his head was farther away from the fence, I could kick with my shin. And then I think maybe he would be dead.
Jason DeLucia: Gordeau’s foot was broken in two with teeth lodged in the side of it. He fought the next two fights with teeth in his foot.
Gordeau: You have to take medicines for six weeks because the teeth are very dirty.
Art Jimmerson: My managers at the time, who were not really boxing people but lawyers, looked at that and said, “Listen, if you don’t want to do this, don’t do it.” What a confidence builder to go backstage and have your guys say, “Don’t do it, man. You’ll get hurt.” I wore a glove on one hand to protect my hand and also to sucker Royce in. They [the Gracies] were, like, “You sure you don’t want to wear two of them?” They loved it.
Royce Gracie: He said he was going to hit me so many times that he didn’t want to break his hand.
Jimmerson: When he got me down, my whole thing was to just hold him. I knew it was a five-minute round.
Royce Gracie: It surprised me that he didn’t even put up a fight, but it didn’t surprise me he quit because he didn’t know anything. I could see he was lost, out of his environment.
Jimmerson: It’s like a phobia, like you’re in a closet or scared of heights. I started getting nervous. I’m used to moving around.
DeLucia: Royce had his own room with closed-circuit TV, that kind of thing. He had his own oxygen tank. We all had to share an oxygen tank.
Rorion Gracie: I thought it would be a great idea to have a couple of kids mopping the blood off the canvas. One was my kid and one was my nephew. We did it one time and people went, “Oh, my God!”
Davie: Monday morning, I got a call from New York and they said, “We’re through the roof.” We started to get preliminary numbers in from the cable operators. We knew by Wednesday that we had done 86,000 buys.
Check out the rest of the article here.