UFC 1: The Beginning

“I watched the first one, as it happened, as it was

broadcast. I was sold instantly,” says Amthony Kiedis, lead

singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, echoing a sentiment shared by

thousands of people who remember watching a non-threatening looking

Brazilian named Royce Gracie win the first ever UFC tournament on

November 12, 1993.

After years of being a hypothetical question, Art Davie, Rorion

Gracie, and the Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG) sought to

determine which martial art was the greatest through an eight-man,

no-holds-barred tournament that would come to be known as the

Ultimate Fighting Championship.

No one knew what to expect – not the promoters, not the

fighters, and not those tuning in to watch this spectacle –

but from the opening bout, it was clear this was, as SEG executive

producer Campbell McLaren puts it, “unlike anything you have

ever seen before.”

The first bout in UFC history made that point abundantly clear,

as sumo wrestler Teila Tuli faced off with Dutch kickboxer Gerard

Gordeau, and though the bout lasted just 26 seconds, it made a

lasting impact.

Tuli charged at Gordeau, who backpedaled rapidly, keeping the

Hawaiian sumo at bay before tossing him to the ground along the

cage. As Tuli looked to stand, Gordeau unleashed a vicious

roundhouse right.

“And all of a sudden this tooth goes flying over my

head,” says UFC 1 commentator Bill Wallace.

While the initial bout set the stage for the brutality that

would come under fire from critics and politicians in the years to

come, Gracie’s performance turned the fight game on its ear,

as the smallest man in the tournament showed everyone the art of

Brazilian jiu-jitsu and how formidable it could be inside the


“Ken Shamrock thought it was going to be an easy

win,” says David Isaacs, the co-executive producer of those

early events under SEG. “He was in great shape, and when we

saw him, we were like, “ My god – that’s Captain

American. He’s going to knock his head off.”

“That’s what made Royce Gracie seem even more

sublime,” asserts veteran MMA journalist Jeff Wagenheim.

“Because on the one hand, you had this ultra-violent fight

where a guy gets his tooth knocked out of his face, and then this

little guy comes across, and within seconds, the bigger, stronger

guy is quitting.”

Fans were hooked and the ball was rolling. Little did we know

it, but combat sports changed forever that night in the McNichols

Arena in Denver, Colorado.

Go back to the night that started it all in this segment from

the captivating documentary Fighting for a Generation, and listen

as everyone from the promoters and eventual winner Royce Gracie to

current UFC fighter Chael Sonnen and “Iron” Mike Tyson

share their memories of UFC 1.