The main event of UFC 60 on May 27, 2006, wasn't competitive in the cage, which is precisely what made it one of the most important events in the company's popularity surge.
UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie maintained his unbeatable aura for years after he left the company. The fans who tuned into the early days saw an undersized fighter use jiu-jitsu to defeat bigger foes and changed the way the world looked at fight techniques in the process.
So while Gracie had fought in Japan and lost since his final UFC match in 1995, American fans who only tuned in during the early days still considered him the unbeatable pioneer, with a style no one could match.
In the interim, a new generation of mixed martial artists had been made, and few fighters personified the new school like then-UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes. Hughes was at the peak of his power by 2006, having seemingly cleaned out the division.
So, in one of the UFC's business masterstrokes, the company coaxed Gracie back into the octagon after an 11-year absence – with a $400,000 guaranteed purse plus pay-per-view bonuses – to meet Hughes at a catchweight of 175 pounds at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Using a strong promotional push, including the UFC's "Countdown" show on SpikeTV, the company generated a huge buzz for the fight. Fans who watched the UFC during the early days but had yet not come back were intrigued by the thought of Gracie's return, and many, who had not followed the sport's progression in the interim, assumed there was no way Gracie could lose.
The spike in interest ended up with a record pay-per-view buyrate of 620,000, besting the mark set at the previous month's UFC 60 by nearly 200,000. Those new fans by and large stuck around, as buyrates stayed strong throughout the year and peaked with 1.05 million buy's for December's Tito Ortiz-Chuck Liddell rematch.
What both new and old fans saw was that the game had passed by the old school. Hughes was rarely threatened against Gracie. Just a couple minutes in, Hughes trapped Gracie in an armbar, but sensing that Gracie would let his arm snap rather than submit to someone else's jiu-jitsu, chose to release the hold. Hughes gained top control and when Gracie flipped onto his stomach, he left himself open for a series of unanswered punches. Referee John McCarthy put a stop to the carnage at 4:39.
The best fight of the night was a wild undercard brawl between lightweights Spencer Fisher and Matt Wiman. In the second round, Wiman made the mistake of stopping to taunt Fisher, and left himself wide open for a kung-fu-movie-style flying knee that knocked Wiman cold and ended the match.
While the event was a monster pay-per-view success, the card was something of a tough sell in the Los Angeles market, coming six weeks after UFC 59 down the road in Anaheim. There were approximately 5,000 empty seats in the building, with a total attendance of 14,765 and just over 10,000 paid. The company's planned October card will be its first at the venue since.
Just one of the nine matches on the card, Diego Sanchez's unanimous decision win over John Alessio, went the distance. Five of the remaining eight fights were finished in the first round and the other three were done before the midpoint of the second.
Melvin Guillard def. Rick Davis, KO, 1:37 R1
Gabriel Gonzaga def. Fabiano Scherner, TKO, 0:24 R2
Spencer Fisher def. Matt Wiman, KO, 1:43 R2
Jeremy Horn def. Chael Sonnen, submission (armbar), 1:17 R2
Mike Swick def. Joe Riggs, submission (guillotine choke), 2:19 R1
Brandon Vera def. Assuerio Silva, submission (guillotine choke), 2:19 R1
Diego Snachez def. John Alesso, unanimous decision
Dean Lister def. Alessio Sakara, submission (triangle choke), 2:20 R1
Matt Hughes def. Royce Gracie, KO, 4:39 R1
- Royce Gracie
- Matt Hughes