From the first time fighters touched gloves in 1993, all the way to the star-studded pay-per-views of today, the UFC has transformed mixed martial arts.
Championship cage fighting is a grand spectacle, a soul-bending sensation in a cathedral of violence. The Octagon takes no prisoners, but it humbly rewards its victors.
The UFC has created icons that will live on through generations. Chuck “Iceman” Liddell. Tito Ortiz. Georges St-Pierre. Jon “Bones” Jones. Daniel “DC” Cormier. Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov. Conor McGregor. And “The Last Stylebender” Israel Adesanya.
Not every UFC event lives up to the hype, but every bout, from a slow-moving clash between two mid-carders, to an all-out assault between established superstars, showcases something special, something bigger than the sport itself.
What makes a UFC event memorable? Is it the electricity in the air? Is it the fearless battles? The threat of a knockout? The pure uncertainty of what is going to happen? Whatever it is, fans will know in the moment that they are witnessing an historic event.
Conor McGregor is responsible for turning the UFC into a global phenomenon, but it is worth exploring the events before the meteoric rise of “Mystic Mac” at UFC 189 in 2015.
Let’s take a look at the Best UFC Events Pre-McGregor.
UFC 1 – Nov. 12, 1993
What better event to start at than UFC 1? The inaugural UFC showcase turned the fighting world on its heels, introducing a new type of combat that would inspire all throughout the world.
UFC 1 was the wild west. The first fights had no rules, no judges, no time limit, barely any fans in attendance. But, it had 16 men who wanted to make a name for themselves, who wanted to express their appreciation for the art of fighting to the world.
UFC started from humble beginnings, and that same sense of wonder and amazement still transcends the sport today.
UFC 100: Lesnar vs. Mir II – July 11, 2009
Whether you loved him or you hated him, Brock Lesnar left his mark on the UFC. Lesnar was a certified star. An NCAA wrestling champion and one of the WWE’s biggest attractions, Lesnar hitched a ride to the UFC rocketship.
And he brought in the dollar bills. The UFC’s 100th event was the most bought PPV of all-time with a buyrate of 1.6 million (broken by UFC 202 with 1.65 million), featuring a rematch between the Heavyweight champion Lesnar and Frank Mir, Georges St-Pierre vs. Thiago Alves, and Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping.
UFC 129: St-Pierre vs. Shields – April 30, 2011
Ontario wanted no part of MMA, as it pushed back against legislation that would legalize the sport in the region.
But when UFC 129 came to Toronto, fans in “The 6” came to appreciate the beauty of combat fighting.
Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, Canada’s greatest champion, defeated former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields, demonstrating his deadly striking and undying determination.
UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche – Feb. 23, 2013
Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche took female fighting to heights no one thought it would ever reach. UFC 157 featured the first female fight in the company’s history, signaling to the world that women could make groundbreaking strides in a sport dominated by men.
Rousey was a trailblazer. She legitimized women’s professional fighting and paved the way for stars such as Amanda Nunes, Rose Namajunas, and Miesha Tate.