The Ultimate Fighting Championship (later renamed UFC 1: The Beginning) was the first mixed martial arts event by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), held at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado, on November 12, 1993. The event was broadcast live on pay-per-view and later released on home video.
Although the event was the lowest profile by the contemporary standards (the venue was less than half-packed, the grand prix of the tournament was as big as a regular sparring partner biannual salary, major martial arts observers and columnists didn’t bother to show up, the press in general neglected the event, big-name fighters turned down the offers to participate in,) it pioneered the intestylistic match-ups between the practitioners of different martial arts, and set the pattern for the future sporting events of the kind.
UFC 1 was co-created by Rorion Gracie and the Torrance-based UFC promoter Art Davie, who decided to take locally famous Gracie Garage Challenge fights versus California’s martial artists to a new level, televised nationally, with the opponents picked internationally.
They didn’t come up with a 16-man tournament, as the big-name martial artists, mainly kickboxers, namely Dennis Alexio, Benny Urquidez, Stan Longinidis, Jean-Yves Thériault, Rick Roufus, Stan Longinidis, Maurice Smith, Bart Vale, Hee Il Cho, George Dillman, Gene LeBell, Rob Kaman, Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hoost, Masaaki Satake, were among the others “publicly invited” by Art Davie, but have shown no interest in participation. Davie placed ads in martial arts magazines to recruit fighters. He found less than a dozen, who answered the call. The promoters came up with an eight-man tournament format, with the winner receiving $50,000.