Sunday Se7en: Seven Videos from MMA “Back in the Day”


By: Albert Miller -Part of my routine to keep content consistent and regular is a combination of deadlines & consequences. For the Friday 5ive, if I don’t make the Friday 5ive, I’ll do a “Saturday 6ix,” …and if I miss the Saturday deadline, I will do a “Sunday Se7en”. With that being said, welcome to the first ever Sunday Se7en!

As Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is about to enter yet another paradigm shift, it becomes more important than ever to truly remember and understand where we’ve come from. Reports this morning are saying that WME-IMG is looking to hit financial goals by slashing expenses and carefully monitoring their spending habits. Does anyone really remember what MMA was like before there were multi-million dollar budgets for production? As an avid collector of MMA DVD’s and videos, I can tell you that I have seen some fights that weren’t much above Backyard Wrestling. The good news for MMA fans is that a smaller budget does not necessarily mean sacrificed quality. Gladiators of the Cage and Pinnacle FC don’t possess the production budget that the UFC does (or maybe they do, I don’t meddle in their accounting) and they still put on high quality fights.

All of this talk about budgets and expenses got me thinking about what the worst case scenario would be, about how MMA would look if it was like it was before. Then It got me thinking about how MMA looked back in the day. Long story short: I got sidetracked and started watching YouTube. The search was not in vain, I actually came up with seven YouTube videos from back in the day that I thought were worth sharing.

Note: The videos in this week’s Sunday Se7en is not ranked, one video being listed before the other is not indicative of any ranking or superiority.

Travis “The Ironman” Fulton vs. Jeremy Bullock

Everything about this video screams mid-90’s: the girls in the Budweiser garb, the video quality, …the fact that one of the first Mixed Martial Artists in the planet is fighting a guy who is doing Van Damme Splits. Travis Fulton has an incredible legacy to be proud of, he fought fights that no other man would take, and in a time frame that was simply inhuman. This video is the very short fight between Fulton and traditional Martial Artists Jeremy Bullock, serving as evidence that the modern combat warrior had to evolve to remain relevant.

“The Legend” Frank Shamrock vs. Dan “Hendo” Henderson

There are times when I really believe that Combat Sports were ahead of their time. In this video, taken in 1997, we see two of MMA’s greatest ground tacticians squaring off in a grappling match. In 1997, MMA was hardly accepted by regulatory bodies or by main stream audiences, or regulated enough to be embraced by politicians. Long story short: it was a witch hunt. If I told you “Hey, Frank Shamrock and Dan Henderson” are going to throw down in a grappling match, you’d think I was talking about the Eddie Bravo Invitational or Metamoris, right? This concept was revolutionary, but again, far ahead of its time. It would be pretty close to fifteen years before major grappling-exclusive events would be streamed for mass consumption.

Kimo Leopoldo vs. Scott “Bam Bam” Bigelow

Sigh. I remember the first time I watched this video, and I remember thinking that it was progressive and future thinking for the time. As soon as MMA became a thing (and I always believe that it was with UFC 1), MMA was always going to be compared to other “mano y mano” combat sports; boxers were going to come out of the wood work to say that they could knock out any cage fighter, karateka’s were going to keep lining up because they thought their specific discipline of Karate would be the one to knock Royce Gracie out, and strong-style professional wrestlers were going to believe that they would do well. Ken Shamrock was the only professional wrestler for a long time to step into the Octagon, so for Bam Bam Bigelow to step into a cage with Kimo, it seemed like someone was finally putting up or shutting up. And then you start hearing the rumblings: …Bigelow says the fight was a “work,” or that the outcome was predetermined. As for a video, for this list, it does have the “Back in the Day” feeling we’re going for. It’s interesting to note that after the first MMA boom started, Kimo wanted to start an MMA promotion that had pro-wrestling style story lines.

“El Guapo” Bas Rutten challenges Rickson Gracie to a fight!

I think the Universe owes us an answer: why didn’t this fight happen?! This is the one that got away! This is the hot chick who was hitting on you and you were too stupid to know that she was into you! This is the winning lottery ticket that you didn’t buy because you wanted a bag of M&M’s! I watched this video a long time ago, and it actually made me sit back and say “Woah.” Rickson Gracie vs. Bas Rutten would have been so tremendous, so gravitational. Alas, because the fight never came together, all we have left is one of the most bad ass gauntlet throws ever.

“The Polar Bear” Paul Varleans vs. Igor “Ice Cold” Vovchanchyn

Has Paul Varleans or Igor Vonvchanchyn crossed your mind in a while? Varleans was a UFC contender and Ultimate Ultimate combatant; Vonvchanchyn was a PRIDE FC contender and often considered to be the Soviet prototype to Fedor Emelianenko. The two came head to head, fist to fist, and toe to to at an event …that hardly anyone had ever heard of. In fact, I wouldn’t have known about this fight had it not been for a clearance DVD bin at my local Wal-Mart. Prevailing evidence that the first MMA boom was over could be found in the sections of retail stores where clearance merchandise is kept. I bought this event and another one from the International Fighting Championship (IFC) for a whopping total of $2.12. This video demonstrates what the early UFC alternatives looked like; similar imitations but nothing quite close.

Debi Purcell vs. Christine Van Fleet

There is nothing incredibly special about this video; in fact, I could have chosen any Debi Purcell fight to include. The list is being curated to show you what MMA looked like back in the day, and this is what women’s MMA looked like. In a more progressive world, women’s fights aren’t spectacles anymore, they are just fights. Women aren’t “women’s champions” as much as they are “champions.” If you look at the physiology of both males and females, I need to point out that we as dudes aren’t spawning human life from our junk; with that being said, why was there a need for women’s MMA to have shorter rounds and different rules?

Ralph Gracie vs. Makoto Muraoko

Let it be said: Extreme Fighting was the UFC’s first great imitator. I included this fight to demonstrate how desperate that Extreme Fighting was to emulate what the UFC had done. In the first Extreme Fighting event, they made it very clear that they had their own Gracie too, just like the UFC had Royce. With hindsight being 20/20, a Russian Sambo expert by the name of Igor “Houdini” Zinoviev ended up being their sleeper star and not Ralph Gracie.

This week on the Prizefight Podcast, I talked about what MMA could look like in the future, and I think that’s what’s important to focus on. I counted down seven videos to remind me of what it used to be like, but it is truly more beneficial and helpful to focus on what could be and where we are going.

I hope you all had a great weekend and thank you for joining us this week!