In just over a decade, Zuffa has promoted more than 100 numbered UFC events. It all started for the Las Vegas based company at UFC 30 in Atlantic City, and so that's where it will start for us at SBNation as well. Before every new UFC event we'll take a look back in time to a show 100 UFC's prior. With input from the athletes who were in the cage, we'll bring you the history of the Zuffa era one event at a time.
Venue: Trump Taj Mahal (Atlantic City, New Jersey)
Attendance: est. 3000 (Gate $110,000)
UFC 30 marked a turning point in MMA history. After struggling for years with timid cable companies and blood thirsty politicians, UFC owner Bob Meyrowitz was worn out. He and his Semaphore Entertainment Group were convinced the UFC had a bright future - but they were out of money and options. To the rescue came Zuffa, a company funded by the Fertitta family and headed by family friend Dana White.
The Fertittas were fight fanatics. Lorenzo Fertitta was a former Nevada State Athletic Commissioner who fell in love with the new sport. When White, who was then the manager of UFC stars Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, called to let Lorenzo know that the UFC was for sale, the brothers jumped at the opportunity.
The show was in Atlantic City, as New Jersey was quickly becoming the UFC's home state. Four consecutive domestic shows were held in the Garden state, at the time one of the only major entities to regulate MMA. The UFC had made its debut in the state in 2000, a triumph for the hard work of Jeff Blatnick, John McCarthy, and others who had worked diligently to create and enforce rules strikingly similar to the Unified Rules that govern the sport today.
Although it was the first event under the Zuffa banner, it wasn't yet White's show. It had been put together by the old guard, including matchmaker John Peretti. The preparations for the event were well underway by the time Zuffa assumed control. White and new matchmaker Joe Silva put their stamp on the promotion starting with UFC 31.
Sean Sherk def. Tiki Ghosn, verbal submission, 4:47 R2
Phil Baroni def. Curtis Stout, unanimous decision
Bobby Hoffman def. Mark Robinson, KO, 3:27 R1
Pedro Rizzo def. Josh Barnett, KO, 4:21 R2
Elvis Sinosic def. Jeremy Horn, armbar, 2:59 R1
Fabiano Iha def. Phil Johns, armbar, 1:47 R1
UFC bantamweight championship: Jens Pulver def. Caol Uno, majority decision
UFC middleweight championship: Tito Ortiz def. Evan Tanner, KO, 0:30 R1
In the preliminaries, two future UFC stars made their debuts. Wrestler Sean Sherk and Phil Baroni both got their careers off to a fast start with impressive wins. While Baroni was happy to have a high profile gig, the real action was still on the other side of the world, where the Japanese Pride promotion was the world's most prestigious MMA show.
When PRIDE was at its best, I was in the UFC. When the UFC blew up and PRIDE was crumbling, guess where I was? I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Australian fighter Elvis Sinosic shocked the world with his submission win over Jeremy Horn. Sinosic had been beaten badly in his previous fight against Frank Shamrock and Horn was thought to be a world class submission expert. Many expected a decisive win - they just never considered Sinosic walking out of the building with his hand raised.
Jeremy Horn is a very talented fighter. But he is one that got there through hard work. He is very well rounded. Has good stand-up and a phenomenal ground game. I had a lot of respect going into the fight with Jeremy. Jeremy had choked out Chuck, gave Frank Shamrock one of his hardest fights and went the distance with Minotauro not to mention what he had achieved in the IFC. This was not a guy to take lightly. Getting into the UFC was one of my career highlights. Just the opportunity to fight for them was amazing.
It was the UFC that got me into the sport and wanting to give it a go. So to be able to step up finally was awesome. Even though the Japanese events had much higher attendance and bigger shows the atmosphere in a UFC event was definitely not lacking. When you were in the UFC you knew you were in the Big Show. Both K1 and UFC have something special. They both have a different atmosphere but in both of them you can feel the energy. You know this is the pinnacle of the sport. I also think there was something almost mythical about the octagon and stepping into the UFC cage for the first time was a rush.
The most memorable fight of the night featured Josh Barnett slugging it out with kickboxer Pedro Rizzo. Barnett was primarily a grappler, but on this night decided to test his striking with one of the sport's best. Barnett charged recklessly forward throughout, playing right into the counter punching Brazilian's hands. Rizzo, a disciple of UFC legend Marco Ruas knew he had been in a fight afterwards, but managed to knock Barnett out in the second round.
Watching him stop (former UFC champion Mark) Coleman and TK (Tsuyoshi Kohsaka) really got in my head a little bit about trying to grapple or shoot in on him. I was having so much success on my feet I decided to stick with it. And against a very experienced and heavy handed striker like Pedro I got caught. He was able to get one shot in and was able to come out on top.
I try never to be in a boring fight. In an exciting fight, win or lose, if people like what they see you're going to have a fanbase. People are going to want to watch you fight. I think some of these promoters get that all mixed up and get too caught up on who's won what. That certainly does matter. But does this guy bring what I want to see? Or is he just somebody who happens to win?
In the main event the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Tito Ortiz solidified his status as one of the best fighters in all of MMA. Former Pancrase stalwart Evan Tanner stood no chance as Ortiz locked onto his body and slammed him to the mat. Tanner was knocked unconscious and Ortiz secured his second defense of the UFC middleweight (now called light heavyweight) title. Tanner would recover to win UFC gold himself, but with this highlight reel slam, Ortiz continued his reign as the UFC's top star.