On this very date 20 years ago the Ultimate Fighting Championships held it’s first ever event in Denver, Colorado.
The birth of mixed martial arts was watched by 2,800 spectators at the McNichols Sports Arena and a further 86,000 on pay-per-view, on a night where eight men of all shapes and sizes from various different combat disciplines fought it out in a one-night tournament with $50,000 up for grabs for the eventual winner.
It was of course a slightly built, wiry Brazilian by the name of Royce Gracie who would go on to be crowned the winner at UFC 1, propelling the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into the spotlight and reserving himself a special place in the history books.
In the quarter-finals Gracie smothered boxer Art Jimmerson into submission in just 2.18mins, then took out Ken Shamrock by rear-naked choke in 57 seconds in the semi-final stage before finally applying another RNC finish in the final against Gerard Gordeau in 1.44mins.
The sport has evolved by leaps and bounds since then, but watching that final fight over again it’s easy to see how big an influence Gracie had, from the clinch work against the cage, to the takedown and then the rear-naked choke finish – still statistically the most effective submission move in MMA two decades later.
The UFC will officially celebrate their 20th birthday this coming Saturday night at UFC 167 which is headlined by a welterweight title fight featuring one of the sport’s biggest ever stars Georges St.Pierre and his latest challenger Johny Hendricks.
Take a trip down memory lane and watch the final of UFC 1 for yourselves below.