No one knew 27 years ago that a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist named Rorion Gracie would help create the first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view event–a series of televised mixed martial arts competitions that started in 1993.
In the upcoming documentary UFC 1: Origins, filmmakers explore the history of the UFC, which was originally founded by Gracie and advertising executive Art Davie. The UFC pay-per-view events may have started with an inaugural event, but since then, UFC has grown into a multi-billion global sports phenomenon. The organization just wrapped up UFC 253 in late September 2020.
The Gracies have been a prominent martial arts family from Rio del Janeiro for the last 80 years. When Rorion Gracie teamed up with Davie, his plan was to showcase Brazilian jiu-jistu against other combat styles like muay thai and taekwondo. In the film’s trailer, Gracie describes it “like Mortal Kombat for real.”
Unlike the UFC events today, UFC 1 started as a 16-man tournament. Think of the 1988 Jean-Claude Van Damme Bloodsport. “No rules,” Gracie said. “Anything can happen.”
The history-making event held in Denver, Colorado, was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before in the world of sports. At the end of the event, Rorion Gracie’s younger brother Royce, who had followed him to America eight years prior to help expand jiu-jitsu across the country, won the competition and the UFC was born.
Over the years, plenty of Latino fighters have stepped into the octagon for battle, including Diego Sanchez, Nate Diaz, Tito Ortiz and Cain Velasquez, among others.
UFC 1: Origins will screen during a live event October 14 at 8 p.m. EST. Purchase tickets here. The film will be available on VOD October 16.