25 Years Ago In The UFC: Hawaiian Sumo Wrestler vs. Eye Gouging Karate Black Belt

2018 has been a roller coaster ride for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. At one point, it was on its low. It struggled to amass decent pay-per-view records on its previous offerings, the infamous bus attack on April put the promotion in the centre of criticism, then another ugly brawl last month rubbed more salts on its wound. 

But at another point, it was on its high. Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov showdown at UFC 229 headliner shattered all PPV records with an estimate of 2.4 million buys, its rising stars, such as Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker, Yair Rodriguez to name a few, are continuing to take the sport by storm, which could guarantee a bright future for the promotion, and the most notable success this year was the brand’s value now sits atop the $7-billion mark, almost doubling its original price when it was purchased at $4 billion two years ago.

Despite the ups and downs, the UFC remains as the most prestigious mixed martial arts promotion in the world.  It has really made huge leaps and bounds since its introduction in 1993. On its 25th birthday, let us take a trip down the memory lane as we recall the first ever UFC match that gave birth to a formidable MMA outfit.

No Rules

Back on November 12, 1993, when the UFC first raised its curtains, there were no actual rules set for the competition except the prohibition of biting and eye gouging.  The goal of the show was to determine which fighting style (Karate, Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, etc) was the greatest discipline in martial arts.  There were no gloves, no mouth guards, no time limits, no judges, and the only ways to seal a win were through knockout, submission, or throwing in a towel.

The McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado played host to its inaugural affair, where almost 8 000 fans were in attendance to witness history. Rorion Gracie and promoter Art Davie gave birth to the promotion in an attempt to prove that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the superior martial arts discipline regardless of the size and height of a practitioner.

Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Patrick Smith, Gerard Gordeau,  Kevin Rosier, Zane Frazier,  Art Jimmerson, and Teila Tuli starred in a five-fight card but it was the Karate expert Gordeau and Sumo wrestler Tuli who gave fans a bloody opening to the show and a scintillating introduction to MMA.

UFC 1’s Lasting Impression

The first ever fight in UFC history featured two fighters with opposite style. One was a Karate specialist who was renowned for eye gouging in MMA while the other was a Sumo wrestler. One relied on his speed and technique while the other counted on his size and strength. As they set foot in the Octagon, the crowd was in obvious confusion, thinking of what these fighters have in their bags. There were no loud cheers, no uproars, everything was pure anticipation.

The Hawaiian pagoda was the first to charge as he tried to slap Gordeau with his hands, while the Dutch fighter was not able to connect on his counter. Gordeau, then, sent the wrestler to the mat before launching a devastating head kick, which broke the crowd silence and sent them into earsplitting cheers.

With Tuli absorbing a brutal kick to the face, three of his teeth escaped his jaw, with one of it flew in the crowd, then a nasty uppercut resulted in a huge cut under his eye. Gordeau knocked out Tuli in the 26-second mark and the fight left a lasting impression that catapulted UFC to greater heights in the next 25 years.

Relive UFC 1’s opening fight in the video below:

Thanks to these 26 seconds of actions from Gordeau and Tuli for setting the bar high for the UFC, which helped the promotion reached massive success in the next 25 years.

(Featured Image Source: Top Turtle Podcast/Twitter and Getty Image)

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