30 For 30 Podcast Focuses on UFC Creation
The second edition of the 30 For 30 Podcast’s second season focuses on the genesis of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Prior to Dana White being the face and biggest target of scorn in Mixed Martial Arts, there was Art Davie.
Davie, an auto dealer by trade and someone who could “get s*** done,” developed the idea of the UFC when he was a young man and was asked who would win between a boxer (him) and a wrestler while on the beach. The wrestler won, and Davie would have that idea in the back of his head for years after.
“You’re always looking for the Apex predator.”
The documentary follows Davie as he tries to research and develop the idea, going through libraries and attempting to find all he could about mixed combat fighting, finding the Grecian idea of pancration, which was a boxing and wrestling hybrid.
“I was simply bringing back the glory of the ancient world, how could I go wrong.”
Davie, while researching martial arts and mixed fights, he comes across a Playboy magazine article about the Gracie Jiu-jitsu school in southern California.
The podcast then discusses the Gracie mythos from the patriarch of the family and Horion Gracie, the man who would develop the Gracie BJJ business starting in his Hermosa Beach garage, and the infamous $100,000 challenge offered to any person willing to fight a Gracie.
This podcast does a great job to help set the stage and learn about the characters and their specific influences heading into the UFC.
Davie and Gracie’s business partnership and the tape “Gracies in action” help lead to the development of what was originally title “War of the Worlds” a street fight to see who could beat up anybody with No Holds Barred.
Following what many in marketing now call “ideation” the duo attempt to sell their concept, and are turned down by HBO, Showtime, and ESPN.
All of the major components of the original UFC are here, from Campbell McClaren and Bob Meyerwitz who lead Semaphore Entertainment Group (SMG) would develop the product for PPV.
It is the SMG who would change the name to UFC because War Of The Worlds was too “science fictiony,” and help give the Coca-Cola of fighting the brand name it would need to succeed.
The podcast also goes into why the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver was chosen (No commission, and the building was cheap), the development of the Octagon (Gracie joked about an empty moat being involved), and production members were frightened that the jerry-rigged cage would fall if Teila Tuli fell against the cage.
Davies also explains how he found most of the fighters, ranging from men who were bodyguards for club promoters and Stevie Wonder, to a fighter who beat the basis of Bloodsport, Frank Dux up in front of Art Davie.
They also explain why it was Royce, and not Hickson Gracie, who was selected to represent the family’s name. They wanted to show that a smaller man can defeat anyone if they are utilizing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
One section that may in-fact make the entire documentary is during a contentious rules meeting with the fighters, Telia Tuli walked out of the room and told the other fighters…
“I came to party… If you came to Party I will see you in the arena.”
McClaren, Gracie, and Davie agree he saved the UFC.
The UFC starts with a burp, literally as the novice lead commentator Bill Wallace burps into his microphone less than a minute into the pay per view. Not covered is the hiring of Pro Football Hall of Famer, Jim Brown.
From there the podcast covers each fight on the original card and all of the injuries that plagued UFC I, from Telia Tuli getting his teeth knocked out and his opponent, Gerard Gordeau breaking his hand and having pieces of Tuli’s teeth stuck in his foot.
Zane Fraiser needing to be taken to the hospital to be intubated due to the high altitude and smoke machines exacerbating his asthma.
Cathy Kidd, the fighter safety coordinater claiming they hired three ambulances, and two were used by the third fight.
Ken Shamrock is interviewed and one of the voice you hear more in the latter half of the podcast discusses his aggravation with his fight against Royce Gracie. Shamrock would claim that the UFC stacked the deck for Royce to win, as well as Gracie choking him out with his GI and not his arm.
“Disneyland is fun, because you can be a kid again.” – Royce Gracie.
The podcast ends with the aftermath of UFC I, from the buy rate and the inevitable controversy and attacks from Senator John McCain and New York Times.
It breaks down the different sales of the UFC leading to the WME-IMG deal in 2016.
The final voice you hear is UFC Creator Art Davie saying…
“Its like a divorced father, and seeing someone else raising your kid, but they’re doing a good job, so its okay.”
This is a fantastic effort from ESPN and the 30 For 30 team in trying to tell the UFC story in an audio medium, there is so much more they can do with a full length documentary, but this is a great listen none the less.