UFC 30: Dawn of a new era
The UFC’s modern era got off to a modest start with UFC 30.
In the weeks before the Feb. 23, 2001 event at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, original owners Semaphore Entertainment sold the company to the newly formed Zuffa, LLC, run by Las Vegas casino magnates Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, for $2 million.
Dana White, a childhood friend of the Fertittas who was previously the manager for fighters Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, became president and minority owner in the company.
While the new promoters no doubt had visions of big gates and million-buy pay-per-view events, they inherited a badly damaged brand. The UFC was still banished from most cable PPV outlets at the time and had limited satellite dish penetration. Live attendance at UFC 30 was estimated at 3,000, with a paid gate of $110,000.
If the night wasn’t a financial success, it was at least an artistic one. The few who caught UFC 30 live saw a card that featured five present and future UFC champions: Tito Ortiz, Evan Tanner, Jens Pulver, Josh Barnett and Sean Sherk.
And the fans were treated to an action-packed evening, with three knockouts and three submissions among the cards’s eight matches. Ortiz, in his second defense of what was still called the middleweight title, punctuated the evening by defeating future 185-lb. champion Evan Tanner in just 30 seconds with a nasty knockout slam.
UFC 30 featured the first and to date only bantamweight championship match in UFC title history, as Jens Pulver defeated Caol Uno by majority decision to win the title. Starting with UFC 31, the UFC adopted the unified rules weight class structure used by reputable state athletic commissions, and Pulver’s title was renamed the lightweight title. Pulver left the UFC in 2002 as champion in a contract dispute and the title stayed vacant for four years, until Sean Sherk beat Kenny Florian at UFC 64.
Pedro Rizzo served up one of the most famous knockouts in company history when he took out Josh Barnett at 4:21 of the second round. It marked the only time in 29 pro MMA fights Barnett, a former UFC heavyweight champion, was stopped via strikes. Barnett got revenge last summer, as he KOd Rizzo in the second around at Affliction: Banned.
While it took some time for the new regime to fully put its imprint on the company, some things were noticeable from the get go. The old guard’s cheesy gladiator musical entrances were ditched, as fighters were allowed to enter the cage to music of their own choosing. And UFC 30 was the first event released on home video since UFC 22, as Semaphore had run out of money to produce the videos.
Sean Sherk def. Tiki Ghosn, verbal submission, 4:47 R2
Phil Baroni def. Curtis Stout, unanimous decision
Bobby Hoffman def. Mark Robinson, KO, 3:27 R1
Pedro Rizzo def. Josh Barnett, KO, 4:21 R2
Elvis Sinosic def. Jeremy Horn, submission (armbar), 2:59 R1
Fabiano Iha def. Phil Jones, submission (armbar), 1:47 R1
UFC bantamweight championship: Jens Pulver def. Caol Uno, majority decision
UFC middleweight championship: Tito Ortiz def. Evan Tanner, KO, 0:30 R1