UFC doc showcases the rise of MMA

‘Fighting for a Generation: 20 Years in the UFC’ debuts on
FOX Sports 1
Tuesday night, November 5 at 9/6p ET/PT.

For sports fans there are always those moments that stand out in
a more personal way than any other iconic time in competition. In
1994 as a junior in high school, I wasn’t worried too much about
what professional team did on any given weekend or who hit a
homerun in the big game. I liked sports like most guys my age, but
I think real ‘fandom’ is developed a little later in life for
almost everybody.

That all changed for me when a friend invited me over to his
house to watch a VHS tape of an event he had rented from the local
video store featuring ‘no holds barred’ fights where there were no
rules, no time limits and only one man could be left standing.

The event was UFC 1 held at McNichols Arena in Denver, Colorado
and it was a spectacle like I had never witnessed before. From the
moment Gerard Gordeau punted Teila Tuli’s teeth into the front row,
I was hooked and there was no going back to football, baseball or
basketball after watching this kind of competition on TV. My love
of the UFC was entrenched even further when I saw a skinny kid
named Royce Gracie absolutely decimate the field with his takedowns
and submissions, which at the time were unheard of in the martial
arts world. Outside of Jean Claude Van Damme making Chong Li say
uncle in ‘Bloodsport’ this was a foreign concept to a lot of
people.

Ultimate Fighting Championship creators Art Davie and Rorion
Gracie reveal in the new documentary ‘Fighting for a Generation: 20
Years of the UFC’ that their plan to hook in viewers was exactly
what caught my eye. They were all about spectacle as sport. This
was a brutal, unfiltered look at what happens when a karate master
meets a street fighter. This was a showcase of tae kwon do against
sumo wrestling. And what we all ultimately learned through the
first few UFC shows is this was a platform for the world to
discover Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

The new two hour documentary delves into the history of the UFC
with interviews, behind the scenes footage and a real look into how
this event that started out as platform for pay-per-view producers
to make some money turned into one of the biggest sports in the
world.

For most fans the interviews and the look at how the UFC was
created will be an eye opening experience. The first 60 minutes
alone will engage anyone that’s ever watched the UFC because the
narrative behind how this event was created and marketed is
fascinating.

For instance did you know that the original concept for the cage
that would be used in the UFC was going to be surrounded be a moat
with alligators filling the water? One producer even suggested
razor wire surround the top of the cage. You then learn how the
Octagon eventually came to be with a little inspirational help from
Conan the Barbarian.

Now some of these ideas that the creators of the UFC had might
sound crazy, but crazy is just what they were looking for and
wanted to exploit. It’s how the UFC found footing in the early days
by promoting itself as a bloodbath of human carnage like nothing
that had ever before been produced on television.

Some revelations in the documentary are somewhat disturbing
— for instance the methods of victory and how a fight could
be stopped came back to haunt the promoters in a big way as they
looked to expand the brand on a national level. The idea of the UFC
from the very first day was promoting the event as ‘no holds
barred’ where anything could happen including a fighter literally
dying on national television. That flew for a few events, but
eventually lawmakers like Senator John McCain got involved and as
state after state started to shut their doors on the UFC, the sport
was barely hanging on via life support and the plug was almost
pulled.

And that’s where MMA’s white knights — the Fertitta
brothers along with an old pal named Dana White step in to try and
revive the sport. That revival didn’t come without a cost, however,
and hearing White and the Fertittas talk about those early losses
should really let everyone know just how close this sport was to
the funeral pyre instead of a future on FOX.

Even as a journalist that’s covered MMA for the better part of
nine years now, there were still nuggets of information revealed
during the Zuffa era that I had never been privy to before now. The
look behind the scenes of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter
was an especially fun experience with no better moment being shown
that Dana White’s infamous ‘do you want to be a f—king
fighter?’ speech. The greatest part about that moment is why it
actually happened, and that’s a little bit of Ultimate Fighter
mythology that’s revealed in this special.

As the modern era begins to unfold the story is a little more
familiar, but the documentary definitely acknowledges that with the
bulk of the time being spent on interviews from the early days, the
outlaw days of the UFC. One of the best parts may be watching Joe
Silva, who does not grant interviews to journalists (a little known
fact about the UFC’s matchmaker) travel from his days as a
‘consultant’ when he started with the promotion in 1994 all the way
to his days as vice president in the current era of the UFC.

How did Joe Rogan get involved with the UFC? How did gloves get
introduced? Why was the fight between Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn
at UFC 9 so god awful? All of these questions are answered and much
more.

After all these years, I thought I knew just about everything
there was to know about the genesis of the UFC, but there were more
than just a few surprises along the way. ‘Fighting for a
Generation: 20 Years of the UFC’ is definitely a documentary
showcasing how the UFC became one of the biggest promotions in the
world today, but more than anything it’s a history lesson on the
birth, near death, even nearer death and resurrection of the sport
of mixed martial arts.

‘Fighting for a Generation: 20 Years in the UFC’ debuts on FOX
Sports 1 Tuesday night, November 5.