Ariel Helwani, MMA Fanhouse and Versus: "My favorite UFC memory was watching UFC 65 in a bar in Montreal. Since I moved away in 2001, I didn't realize how much the local interest in the sport had grown over the years. So when I decided to watch the pay-per-view at a sports bar, I was shocked to see a huge line of people stretching over a block waiting to just get in the place. Of course, this was Georges St-Pierre's big rematch against Matt Hughes, and everyone was coming to see whether the hometown boy could finally win the title. Well, he did, and I will never forget the sound that bar made when the fight was called and GSP was officially crowned the new welterweight champion. I truly felt like I watching the Canadiens win another Stanley Cup -- it was a wild scene. That moment made me realize that, at least in Montreal, the UFC and MMA were a very relevant part of the sporting world."
Dann Stupp, MMA Junkie: "Just as MMAjunkie.com was taking off and building a pretty big audience, the UFC came here to Ohio for the first time. Without a doubt, my favorite MMA memory (besides the Strikeforce events at the Playboy Mansion) was UFC 68 in Columbus, Ohio. Randy Couture came out of retirement and defeated Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title. At the time, it was the largest crowd ever to watch a UFC event, and the atmosphere was just amazing. All 19,000 fans stood for the entire 25-minute fight and counted down the final seconds like it was New Year's Eve in Times Square. So many people who were at the event will try to tell you just how special it was, but it really was the type of thing you needed to experience in person. I still listen to Bruce Buffer's main-event introductions and get goosebumps."
Michael David Smith, MMA Fanhouse: "My favorite UFC memory is also my first one: Watching UFC 1 with some buddies in high school. None of us had any idea what to expect -- or more accurately, all of us had a clear idea what to expect, and we were all wrong. We all thought this 'Ultimate Fighting' thing was going to be a bunch of huge guys punching and kicking each other until someone was unconscious, and none of us had any idea that there was a way to win a fight without a punch or a kick. But Royce Gracie introduced all of us to Brazilian jiu jitsu, and we were fascinated to learn that there was a less violent, more elegant way to win a fight.
MMA has come a long way as a sport from where it was then, and none of the fights we saw at UFC 1 were nearly as good as what we're sure to see at UFC 100. But UFC 1 will always be special to me."
Ben Fowlkes: Cage Potato and SI.com: "It's almost hard to recall now, but there was a time when being an MMA fan was like being a part of a secret club. Outside of jiu-jitsu gyms you might occasionally meet someone who had heard of the UFC -- maybe -- but if you mentioned Pride they were more likely to think you were talking about a fabulous parade than a fight organization. In the spring of 2005 I realized those days were over. That's when I showed up at a local sports bar to watch UFC 52 and, out of nowhere, the place was packed.
I was in grad school at the time and couldn't afford luxuries like cable TV or nice beer, so I sat there all night with my future wife downing pitcher after pitcher of PBR and struggling to see the TV between the throngs of college kids. It was the night that Matt Hughes mounted a thrilling comeback to beat Frank Trigg for the second time, and Chuck Liddell knocked out Randy Couture, who seemed to suddenly age ten years right before our eyes. That the people around me actually knew what and who they were watching, rather than simply cheering on violence for the sake of violence, signaled a tremendous shift.
'This thing is going to be huge one day,' I told my wife.
'I know," she said. "But right now you're spilling beer on your pants.' "
Michael Chiapetta, MMA Fanhouse: "If I could put a non-MMA fan in a time machine to one event in an effort to convert them, I'd send them to UFC 83. Montreal's crowd energy for the entire night was indescribably electric. It was like a cross between a World Cup Final and a World Series Game 7, with chanting, cheering and a decibel level likely unmatched in MMA history. By the time Georges St. Pierre was announced, the crowd was completely drowning out ring announcer Bruce Buffer and you literally could not hear the person next to you. His win ended up being like a coronation.
The best part of being a sports fan is the event experience, and no MMA event ever captured the big game atmosphere of sports the way UFC 83 did. Because of that, it remains my favorite UFC memory."
Luke Thomas, Bloody Elbow: "As generic as it may sound, the first time I watched. It was in one sitting and included the first four UFC events. I've had as much fun as anyone else watching the fights over the years, but none has a truly special signature for me. Except for Gracie. I still remember thinking at the time that someone finally figured out how to make martial arts really work. Everyone was shocked at what he could do, winning so dominantely it felt like he was cheating and we were helpless to stop him. I even got a sense of wanting to see more from the Kimo beating. So, for me, the first impression really mattered. I just can't forget the moment "it clicked" about two VHS tapes in when I understood what Gracie was attempting and what this UFC thing was all about. Kudos to the UFC for making this thing work."
Zak Woods, Watch Kalib Run: "My fondest memory of the UFC would have to be UFC 68. Not only was this the UFC's first trip to my hometown of Columbus but one of my favorite fighters, Randy Couture, was making his return to the UFC. That meant I had to throw a pay-per view party to celebrate the occasion (I was living in Cincinnati at the time). As many of the attendees were new to the UFC and MMA I immediately began to regret the decision out of fear that Tim Sylvia would simply lay on top of Randy for twenty-five minutes. I thought that I had invited guests over to watch what had the potential to be one of the all time boring fights in the UFC. Luckily for me I was completely wrong, it wouldn't be the last time. In the first minute 'Captain America' dropped Sylvia with an overhand right and the local Columbus crowd went ballistic. The fight went on to be one of the most memorable of 2007 and I had succeeded in my goal of converting several friends into MMA fans. It was also the moment when I realized Tim Sylvia looks like a sea otter."
Ryan Harkness, Fightlinker: "The time I went horse riding with Dana White. I was shy at first, but he made me feel very comfortable even though it was my first time. We talked about his desire to open a pastry shop in Oregon, and just get away from it all. I told him it may not be possible as God had put us on the path He needed us to go. But I promised that one day when we're old and gray I'd give him a call and ask him if he still wanted to share his french lemon flan with the world. And if the time was right, we'd do it ... together." (Ed. note: This one may not be true.)
For me, I was at my grandma's house, taking care of her when she was sick. I agreed to stay with her that night only after I made sure that she had Spike in her cable package. Why? Because it was the night of "The Ultimate Fighter" finale, season one, and I needed to see what Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar would do. See, I had watched MMA before, but I didn't really begin to follow it until a friend of a friend, some guy named Josh Koscheck, was going to be on the show.
From then, I was hooked. The fighters, the coaches and mostly the fights drew me in, so I couldn't wait to see what was in store for the finale. Thankfully, Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar delivered with a dizzying fight for the ages. My poor grandma didn't understand why I was so excited about this fight, or why I loved seeing Griffin smile through the blood on his face. But after watching these two leave their all in the Octagon, I couldn't help but love this sport, and have it take a special place in my heart.
- Randy Couture