UFC’s 20th anniversary a good time for reflection, but beware the nostalgia trap


  • Share on Tumblr
  • submit to reddit

UFC 1: The BeginningIt was 20 years ago today that the UFC held its first event, which makes this a time ripe for nostalgia in the MMA community.

It’s a time for us to dig out those old VHS tapes of early UFC events, then remember that we don’t even know anyone with a machine that can play them, then head on over to YouTube to search for grainy clips that will remind us not only how far MMA has come, but also how much simple TV graphics have improved since the early 1990s.

Maybe it’s also a time for us to remember that those early days weren’t as glorious as we sometimes make them out to be in our memories. But then, when is that not the case?

I know everyone loves to talk about where they were and what they thought when they saw UFC 1, but I suspect a lot of us didn’t actually watch it. Not when it happened, anyway. I know I didn’t.

For one thing, I was 14 years old, so buying something on pay-per-view wasn’t so much a decision I made as a doomed suggestion I offered, one swiftly brushed aside by my father, a longtime boxing fan who felt there was no way anyone in America was truly going to air some one-night, bare-knuckle brawl on live TV. Not really.

Maybe it would be fixed. Maybe it wouldn’t happen at all. Maybe it would happen in some sense, but be nothing near what was advertised. The idea, after all, sounded pretty implausible.

It wasn’t until a couple years later that I rented some UFC events (on VHS, of course) and saw a skinny dude in pajamas owning everybody. I won’t claim the fights were always all that fun to watch, or that I even understood what was happening in many of them. I certainly won’t say that I became a fan of the sport right then, mostly because it didn’t seem like there was much of a sport to become a fan of. It was more like an old argument being settled.

Who would win if you took a karate guy and a boxer and a sumo wrestler and anyone else crazy enough to say yes and you threw them in a cage together? Turns out it’s the Brazilian jiu-jitsu guy, which I didn’t even know was a thing until I saw it in the UFC. But OK, good to know. Argument settled. So where can I learn what that skinny dude in the pajamas already knows?

It wasn’t until years later, when I was in college and had actually begun learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu, that I looked up and realized this UFC stuff was still going on. Not only that, it had changed. Then it kept changing, until it gradually became the sport that would trump all other sports for me and many of my friends.

Still, that didn’t happen for years, and not until it had morphed into something very different from the thing it started as.

We forget that sometimes. We tell ourselves stories – or, more commonly, the people making money off of it tell those stories to us – and we believe them. We recall those early UFCs as something pure and wonderful rather than the ugly and amateurishly brutal affairs they often were. We buy this idea that Brazilian jiu-jitsu won out solely as an accident of martial arts Darwinism and forget that it was the pajama dude’s family who helped set the whole thing up in the first place.

Even now we get one version of the history – the Zuffa version, at times heavily revised and self-serving – and we let it dominate the conversation. We should be wary of that. Just because fighters such as Frank Shamrock or Randy Couture don’t get mentioned in the UFC’s documentary about itself, that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist, or that they didn’t matter.

As we head into Saturday’s UFC 167 event, which will no doubt come with plenty of UFC-branded nostalgia, that’s worth remembering. This sport is a result of all of the stuff that happened – the good and the bad, the highlights and the low, the skinny dude in pajamas and the fat dude who got his teeth knocked out. It’s not just the stuff that makes for the best story, or just the stuff we feel like remembering when we get together to talk about our hazy remembrances of a time that never was.

For more on UFC 167, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

(Pictured: Royce Gracie at UFC 1)

view original article >>

Related News

  • 23 days ago
  • 5 views

In this week’s Trading Shots, retired UFC/WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to look at the Fight Pass model from a fighter’s perspective.Filed under: News, UFC more

  • 23 days ago
  • 45 views

In this week’s Trading Shots, retired UFC/WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to look at the Fight Pass model from a fighter’s perspective.Filed under: News, UFC more

  • 23 days ago
  • 27 views

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has confirmed a second failed Chael Sonnen drug test. This test included failures for Human Growth Hormone and EPO. Chael Sonnen's UFC legacy may have been strong enough to survive his positive drug test in Nevada earlier this year, but tonight's news likely ends any talk that he was a "clean fighter." Sonnen had failed a February test in Nevada when the drugs Clomiphene and Anastrozole showed up in his sample. Those were, Sonnen claimed, used to help his bod more

  • 24 days ago
  • 38 views

After a high-profile arrest -- and release from UFC -- Thiago Silva returns to mixed martial arts (MMA) in "The Sunshine State." Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight Thiago Silva is not only out of jail, he's back in the fight game, inking a new deal with Fight Time Promotions that puts him inside the cage at Fight Time 20 on Aug. 29, 2014, inside War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Fight Time announced the deal earlier today (via Sherdog). The Brazilian more

  • 25 days ago
  • 4 views

The last time Jeremy Stephens saw his name on the marquee as one half of a UFC main event, he wasn’t the same guy he is now, in or out of the Octagon. more

  • 26 days ago
  • 26 views

Ronda Rousey is just about to step in the cage with Alexis Davis, but on a recent episode of Yahoo Insder, the UFC women's bantamweight champ showed a little of her softer side... although not too much. more

  • 26 days ago
  • 33 views

UFC Middleweight Josh Samman details his affair with a distinctly different sport than the one you may know him from. There’s a six mile stretch from my home in Hollywood, Florida to I-95. There’s nothing particularly special about it; it’s merely sidewalk along Sheridan Road. At certain times of day there’s heavy traffic and the exhaust makes it unpleasant to be near the interstate. Most days I wait until it’s not even day anymore, until the sun goes down and the cars have gone home. Once I get more

  • 26 days ago
  • 47 views

BE's striking specialist Connor Ruebusch, having already delved into the crap, now turns to the good moments from UFC 174, including Demetrious Johnson's exhibition of technical clinching against Ali Bagautinov. A few bad apples can spoil the whole bushel. That was certainly the case with UFC 174 which, like a bad bunch of apples, left a sour taste in the mouths of fans. Perhaps this was the UFC's fault, for putting together the most underwhelming pay-per-view lineup since UFC 161, but we've all more

  • 27 days ago
  • 30 views

MMA veteran Alexander Emelianenko is facing some very serious charges as, according to MMABoxing.RU (h/t BloodyElbow.com), the Pride veteran is currently facing four to six years of prison time stemming from sexual assault allegations. The victim's lawyer released the following statement: First, the court should extend Emelianenko's arrest which ends June 30, and we will defend our position that he is really dangerous to society. Most likely, Alexander Emelianenko get imprisonment from four to s more