It was October 17th, 1997 — sixteen years ago today — and the night was just getting started. Behemoth wrestler Mark Kerr entered the Octagon at UFC 15: Collision Course in search of another heavyweight tournament sweep, and his first opponent that evening was a doughy former Army Ranger named Greg Stott, who entered the bout with an NHB record of 0-0, touting a made-up fighting style called “RIP” (which stood for Ranger International Performance, in case you’re curious). Even before the bell rang, you could probably tell that this was going to be one of the ugliest mismatches in MMA history. Fans who were watching the pay-per-view at home settled in to witness the closest thing Americans had to a public execution in the late 20th century.
And then it happened. As Bruce Buffer read the fighter introductions, the UFC production team spotted a diamond in the rough, cutting to a fan in the crowd who wore the letters “UFC” painted green on his forehead, the phrase “JUST BLEED” in bold white on his chest, and what might have been his interpretation of the Nike “swoosh” logo underneath it. He was shirtless, and holding a paper cup full of an unidentified beverage. He began to flex, harder than anyone has ever flexed before. He gnashed his teeth, frothed at the mouth, howled like a rabid wolf. Behind him, Lorenzo Fertitta‘s redneck cousin Cletus Fertitta appeared to puff a doobie.
Among the many fantastic UFC crowd-shots we’ve seen over the years, “Just Bleed Guy” remains the #1 P4P G.O.A.T. And sixteen years later, the sight of JBG hasn’t lost its ability to both amuse and mortify. Just Bleed Guy wasn’t just a clown you could laugh at and forget. He’s still referenced to this day as an embodiment of lunkheaded MMA fandom — a stand-in for the type of UFC viewer who doesn’t care about strategies, scorecards, winners or losers. He wants blood, and blood alone.
Just Bleed Guy’s real name is James Ladner, and he would later do some prison time for an appropriately lunkheaded crime — acting as a fence for stolen farm equipment. Meanwhile, the venue where UFC 15 took place doesn’t even exist anymore; Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Casino Magic Bay St. Louis back in 2005. To me, that detail makes the event even more mythical. UFC 15 is one of the most important UFC events that nobody ever talks about. Here’s why…