UFC 8, on Feb. 16, 1996, scheduled for the Ramon Rodriguez Arena in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, featured the beginning of the problems that nearly doomed the sport.
Just days before the show, the Puerto Rican government made a ruling banning the event. Two days before the card, Cablevision became the first major carrier, of what over the next few years would become nearly every major cable system in North America, to ban the show, stating it never expected to air UFC or similar type of programming ever again.
The ruling came from pressure from Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal, and from organized religious group protests in the state that garnered the support of U.S. senator Joseph Lieberman. This was precipitated by a negative piece on ABC's "20/20" the week before the show.
The card itself was saved the day before the event, when a federal court ruling went in the company's favor.
The star of the show was a fireman from Tucson, Ariz., named Don Frye. A former college wrestler and pro boxer, he defeated another newcomer, Gary Goodridge, a former arm wrestling champion from Barrie, Ontario in the finals in 2:15 of what was billed as the "David vs. Goliath" tournament, where first-round matches pitted under-200 pound Davids, including Frye, who was about 195 pounds at the time, against larger Goliaths.
In the finals, Goodridge, who outweighed Frye by about 60 pounds, took the former wrestler down twice but Frye escaped, got on top, and threw punches until Goodridge tapped out.
The Superfight championship match saw Ken Shamrock take Kimo Leopoldo down first. Leopoldo slipped out of a choke attempt, got on top, threw a few head-butts (they were legal at the time) and got in a nice punch. Leopoldo's second punch hit nothing but mat, and Shamrock hooked his leg and made him tap to a kneebar in 4:24, to retain the championship.
One of the highlight matches saw Jerry Bohlander, at 190 pounds, a Lion's Den fighter who later became one of the early stars of the under-200 pound division, choke out 330-pound Scott Ferrozzo with Ferrozzo's own shirt. You didn't find fighters wearing shirts much after that.
Tank Abbott wasn't on the card, but that didn't stop him from fighting. He got into a brawl in the stands when he went after Allan Goes, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist who later fought in UFC. Abbott was apparently mad because he thought Goes had bragged about tapping Abbott out in his dojo. Abbott also made a nasty insult toward Elaine McCarthy, the wife of referee John McCarthy, that caused McCarthy to go after Abbott. Abbott ended up being suspended until UFC 11, later in the year.
Between UFC 7 and 8, UFC held a card called "Ultimate Ultimate 1995," which is not counted in the numbered series of major events. The Dec. 16, 1995 card in Denver featured an eight-man tournament, won by Dan Severn, who defeated Oleg Taktarov in the finals by decision.
Even though the crowd was loud and enthusiastic, to this day, there has never been another UFC event in Puerto Rico.
Sam Adkins def. Keith Mielke, submission (strikes) 0:50
Don Frye def. Thomas Ramirez, KO, 0:10
Paul Varelans def. Joe Moreira, decision.
Jerry Bohlander def. Scott Ferrozzo, submission (guillotine), 9:05
Gary Goodridge def. Payl Herrera, KO, 0:13
Frye def. Adkins (substitute for Varelans), 0:48
Goodridge def. Bohlander, TKO, 5:32
Frye def. Goodridge, TKO, 2:14.
Ken Shamrock def. Kimo Leopoldo, submission (kneebar), 5:32.
- Gary Goodridge
- Don Frye