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Ultimate Fighter Championship Early Competition
Royce Gracie utilized Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the UFC's formative years to defeat much stronger opponents. The art is prevalent today. WOW Promotions and SEG produced the first event, later called UFC 1, at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado on November 12, 1993. Davie functioned as the show's booker and matchmaker.
The television broadcast featured kickboxers Patrick Smith and Kevin Rosier, savate fighter Gerard Gordeau, karate expert Zane Frazier, shootfighter Ken Shamrock, sumo wrestler Teila Tuli, professional boxer Art Jimmerson and 175 lb. Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Royce Gracie —Rorion's younger brother, hand-picked by Rorion himself to represent his family in the competition. The show became an instant success, drawing 86,592 television subscribers on pay-per-view.
The show proposed to find an answer for sports fans to questions such as: "Can a wrestler beat a boxer?" As with most martial arts at the time, fighters typically had skills in just one discipline and had little experience against opponents with different skills. Royce Gracie's submission skills proved the most effective in the inaugural tournament, earning him the first ever UFC tournament championship.
However, the show was not intended to be part of a series. "That show was only supposed to be a one-off," Dana White later said. "It did so well on pay-per-view they decided to do another, and another. Never in a million years did these guys think they were creating a sport."
With no weight classes, fighters often faced significantly larger or taller opponents. For example, Keith "The Giant Killer" Hackney faced Emmanuel Yarborough at UFC 3 with a 9 in (23 cm) height and 400 pounds (180 kg) weight disadvantage. Many martial artists believed that technique could overcome these size disadvantages, and that a skilled fighter could use an opponent's size and strength against him. With the 175 lb (79 kg) Royce Gracie winning three of the first four events, the UFC quickly proved that size does not always determine the outcome of the fight.
During this early stage of the organization, the UFC would showcase a bevy of different styles and fighters. Aside from the aforementioned Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Patrick Smith, the competitions also featured prominent competitors such as Kimo Leopoldo, Dan Severn, Marco Ruas, Oleg Taktarov, Tank Abbott, Don Frye and Gary Goodridge.
In April 1995, following UFC 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Davie and Gracie sold their interest in the franchise to SEG and disbanded WOW Promotions. Davie continued with SEG as the show's booker and matchmaker, as well as the commissioner of Ultimate Fighting, until December 1997.