Sen­a­tor McCain called it “cock­fight­ing” and tried to ban it.

The first UFC tour­na­ment in 1993 became a sen­sa­tion: these were real fights with­out rules — bloody and mer­ci­less. In the cage, steroid mus­cle­men, sumo wrestlers and fight­ers in gi (kimono) fought with their bare fists.

You won’t see this now: we remem­ber the first UFC tour­na­ment, which shocked the world.

Bare fists and minimum rules

Fight­ers from dif­fer­ent schools came to the first UFC tour­na­ment: box­ing, kick­box­ing, karate, sumo, taek­won­do, shoot-wrestling, and French Savate box­ing. Brazil­ian Jiu-Jit­su was rep­re­sent­ed by Royce Gra­cie, a mem­ber of the leg­endary clan of jitzers who pop­u­lar­ized the mar­tial art in the West.

The legendary Gracie clan

The fights took place in the Grand Prix for­mat: to win, you need to get from the quar­ter­fi­nals to the final — in one evening. This is nor­mal for old school tour­na­ments where fight­ers fight 3–4 times a day. In the final, the fight­ers were exhaust­ed and the one who retained more strength and avoid­ed injury won.

At the first UFC tour­na­ments, fight­ers fought with­out gloves and had to fol­low only two rules: do not bite your oppo­nent and do not put pres­sure on his eyes. The rest was allowed, but was silent­ly con­demned by the fight­ers, who rarely resort­ed to dirty tricks (how­ev­er, there were excep­tions — blows to the groin and pokes in the eyes).

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First fight in UFC history: a sumo wrestler’s teeth were knocked out with a kick

The debut fight for the UFC was between sumo wrestler Tey­la Tuli and karate­ka Ger­ard Gordeau. The 200-kilo­gram Tuli had no chance — Gor­do was a drum­mer. Already at the 20th sec­ond, he knocked out his oppo­nent, who had lost his bal­ance, with a kick and broke his jaw. Accord­ing to eye­wit­ness­es, Tuli’s teeth flew onto the judge’s table with a loud crunch.

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Two teeth remained in Gordo’s leg: the doc­tors did not pull them out because they were afraid of infec­tion. Gor­do con­tin­ued to par­tic­i­pate in the tour­na­ment and reached the finals, where he was met by Royce Gra­cie.

200kg Tuli vs Gordo

The tournament was won by the smallest jitser

Royce Gra­cie was the small­est in the tour­na­ment — height 183 cm, weight 80 kg. In the quar­ter­fi­nals, he faced aver­age box­er Art Jim­mer­son, who fought with the glove on one hand. Gra­cie eas­i­ly took his oppo­nent to the ground, where he knocked with­out wait­ing for the choke.

In the semi-finals, Gra­cie defeat­ed the over­sized wrestler Ken Sham­rock (future UFC leg­end), who fought well. This fight was called an ear­ly final: Sham­rock had the ini­tia­tive, but gave Gra­cie his back and sur­ren­dered to a choke. The judge did not notice this and want­ed to con­tin­ue the fight, but Sham­rock him­self admit­ted defeat.

In the final, Gra­cie faced Gor­do, who had been limp­ing through­out the tour­na­ment due to teeth in his heel. Proud­ly sur­passed his oppo­nent in height — 196 cm ver­sus 183. The audi­ence liked the show: almost 100 thou­sand watched the broad­cast of the final.

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Gra­cie knew he would lose stand­ing up, so he used wrestling. Gor­do grabbed the net to stay on his feet, but still end­ed up on the ground. In the sec­ond minute, Gra­cie hit his oppo­nent with his head a cou­ple of times, grabbed him and stran­gled him — despite Gor­do bit­ing him.

The era of “no rules” in the UFC will end because of Senator McCain

Gra­cie received a prize of 50 thou­sand dol­lars. After UFC 1, jiu-jit­su became pop­u­lar in the Unit­ed States, and peo­ple saw it as an ide­al means of self-defense. Sales of mem­ber­ships to the Gra­cie Fam­i­ly Hall grew with­in a month from a few dozen to a thou­sand or more.

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But things will not be so smooth for the UFC: they will con­tin­ue to hold tour­na­ments, but with UFC 9 they will begin to intro­duce rules to lim­it cru­el­ty. The prob­lem was Sen­a­tor McCain: he received a tape with record­ings of the tour­na­ments and announced a large-scale cam­paign to fight the UFC. The con­ser­v­a­tive called the UFC “human cock­fight­ing” and tried to ban it.