The Ultimate Fighting Championship was created in an attempt to answer the question debated by so many throughout the years of which fighting form was the best. But Rorion Gracie also wanted to introduce the world to a style that had made his family legendary in Brazil: Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
And so to prove a point that size was no issue in terms of fighting technique, he selected his slender, 176-pound younger brother, Royce, to represent the family in UFC 1.
The event was billed as a no-holds-barred affair on Nov. 12, 1993, in Denver's McNichols Arena, though fighters weren't able to bite, attack the groin or gouge an opponent's eyes.
It featured an eight-man tournament in which the winner would need to defeat three opponents to win the $50,000 first prize.
In addition to Gracie, the contestants included boxer Art Jimmerson, sumo fighter Teila Tuli, tae kwon do champion Patrick Smith (who was actually a boxer), kickboxers Kevin Rosier, Gerard Gordeau, Zane Frazier and pro wrestler Ken Shamrock.
There were no weight classes – Gracie reputedly weighed 176 pounds, while Tuli was billed as 430 but was in truth closer to 350 – and no time limits.
It was, in many ways, a bizarre night with such sights as Jimmerson coming to the cage with a boxing glove on his left hand and only tape on his right.
Rorion Gracie was satisfied at the end of the night, and he made his point when Royce Gracie submitted each of the three men he fought in order to become the tournament winner. He tapped Jimmerson, though he only was mounted on Jimmerson and hadn't put on a lock of any kind; he choked out Shamrock with his gi and he won by putting a rear naked choke on Gordeau.
Gracie would go on to become arguably the biggest name in mixed martial arts. He also won UFC 2 and UFC 4 and was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. But his reputation took a hit in 2006 when he was beaten and battered in the first round of a match at UFC 60 against Matt Hughes.
The eclectic announcing team featured play-by-play man Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, Kathy Long, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, Rod Machado and current FOX News Channel anchor Brian Kilmeade.
In the opening match, Gerard Gordeau knocked out four of Telia Tuli's teeth with a kick. Two of them ended up in the crowd, the other two ended up embedded in Gordeau's foot. Gordeau fought the rest of the evening with the teeth in his foot and ended up hospitalized back home in Holland when the foot became infected.
According to Jon Wertheim's book "Blood in the Cage", Sports Illustrated sent a reporter to the event, only to have the story quashed because upper-level editors were squeamish about the level of violence.
Gerard Gordeau def. Telia Tuli, TKO, 0:26
Kevin Rosier def. Zane Frasier, TKO, 4:20
Royce Gracie def. Art Jimmerson, submission (Jimmerson tapped once he hit the ground), 2:18
Ken Shamrock def. Patrick Smith, submission (heel hook), 1:49
Gordeau def. Rosier, corner stoppage, 0:59
Gracie def. Shamrock, submission (rear naked choke), 0:52
Gracie def. Gordeau, rear naked choke, 1:44
- Rorion Gracie
- Royce Gracie
- Gerard Gordeau
- Art Jimmerson