UFC 13 might have been the single most significant event since UFC 1, not because of what happened inside the cage but rather because of who competed.
The show, held May 30, 1997, at the Augusta Civic Center, featured the debut of UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture as well as that of future Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz.
A three-time All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State, Couture would say later in interviews that he was afraid he was going to pee his pants as he walked to the cage in the tiny arena. He recalled that the fans were very close to the action and very intense.
It was the start of a historic career for Couture. He won the heavyweight tournament that night by defeating Tony Halme and Steven Graham, the first sign of greatness in a career that would include five combined world titles at heavyweight and light heavyweight.
Ortiz, it was reported during the pay-per-view broadcast, was to be fighting as an amateur. He was competing as an alternate and defeated Wes Albritton easily in the alternate showdown.
Ortiz in that fight gave fans a hint of what was to come, as he finished Albritton with a brutal ground-and-pound attack that would become one of his staples.
Ortiz got a spot in the lightweight finale against Guy Mezger, whom he would go on to have a feud with, when Enson Inoue had to withdraw after getting injured in his semifinal win.
Ortiz got caught in a guillotine choke as he went for the takedown and had to submit, but it was the start of a career that would make him one of the sport's biggest stars.
Halme, Couture's first MMA opponent, had a colorful life. He was a former professional boxer, with a victory over one-time world champion Iran Barkley, and was a heel known as Ludvig Borga in the World Wrestling Federation in 1993 and 1994. Later, he became a member of parliament in Finland.
Albritton was described by play-by-play man Bruce Beck as the World Kickboxing Association state champion. Beck never mentioned the state in which Albritton was supposedly champion.
Joe Rogan, who is now the UFC's ringside analyst on its broadcast, was the locker room interviewer during the broadcast. He's now known for his t-shirt and jeans attire during the fight cards, but on that night, Rogan was dressed conservatively with a black sports coat.
Tito Ortiz def. Wes Albritton, TKO, 0:31
Jack Nillson def. Saeed Hosseini, TKO, 1:24
Guy Mezger def. Christophe Lenninger, unanimous decision
Enson Inoue def. Royce Alger, submission, 1:37
Mezger def. Ortiz (substitute for Inoue), submission, 2:00
Steven Graham def. Dmitri Stepanov, submission, 1:30
Randy Couture def. Tony Halme, submission (strikes), 0:57
Couture def. Graham, TKO, 3:13
Vitor Belfort def. Tank Abott, TKO, 0:53
- Tito Ortiz
- Randy Couture
- Enson Inoue