Bowie V. Ibarra
So, for many of those old school MMA/NHB fans like myself might remember, the early UFC's were outstanding examples of the magic of advertising. The whole early days of UFC were giant commercials for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Like many others, I drank the Kool-Aid very early and was all about the style. Rorion Gracie, the real mastermind behind the event along with Art Davie, put together some of the best martial arts schlubs at the time to compete in what was the THIRD (!!!) controversial event. I was all for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu before this event changed my mind.
Here's how this crazy event went down.
Remember, when the event was originally planned, the legend of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu had already made its way around the martial arts community. The vaunted Rickson Gracie was the martial arts
And so it came to pass Royce made it through the 8-man open tournament of UFC 1, defeating Dutch Savate champ Gerard Gordeu, then making it through a 16-man tourney in UFC 2, defeating Pat Smith in the finals handily, bringing about UFC 3.
The fighting styles represented were bill as '8 deadly arts' of Tae Kwon Do, Kenpo Karate, Sumo, Jiu-Jitsu, shootfighting, Judo, Thai Kickboxing, and Karate.
One of the funny notes from the early days was the announce team. After the infamous 'burping' incident of UFC with Bill 'Superfoot' Wallace to open the show, along with the immensely talented martial artist but horrible voice talent Kathy Long, they had to put another team together.
Ironically enough, Jim Brown was the only one that made it out from the original announce team. He's not exactly the poster child for broadcast excellence.
So they got a dude named Brian Kilmeade. You might recognize this twat from the Fox and Friends morning show, and believe you me, he was just as bad back in his UFC days.
There was also Ben Perry, an alleged great mixed martial artist that was as bland as sawdust-flavored ice cream. Someone just needed to tell Ben the 80s were over.
And Jim Brown. It's pretty sad situation when Jim fucking Brown is your best color commentator.
But remember, the promise UFC made was this:
- No rounds
- No Time Limit
- No Way Out
Ref can stop the fight, corner can stop the fight, fighters can tap out, but they must tap 'four times'.
They also put together a video segment distinguishing the two main styles and why grappling was better: Punchers vs. Grapplers. The video package very clearly intimated Royce would have the advantage. Remember, these were giant GJJ commercials now. And remember, 'the nature of combat says you can't judge if a striker or grappler would win, but person who can do both will succeed.
It's also here where Jim Brown reveals his greatest fear: Ponytails. That's right. When Kilmeade brought up 'Tae Kwon Do' stylist Kimo, Jim revealed that the ponytail he wore 'scares him to death.' If only all those defensive players back in his NFL days had known that, he might not have been one of the greatest running backs to ever step on the gridiron.
So here's how the tournament bracket played out:
Emmanual Yarbrough (Sumo) vs. Keith Hackney (White Tiger Kenpo Karate)
Ken Shamrock (Shootfighting vs. Christophe Leininger (Judo)
Roland Payne (Muay Thai) vs. Harold Howard (Karate)
Royce Gracie (GJJ) vs. Kimo (Tae Kwon Do)
So, Emmanual Yarbrough, 6'8" 616lbs out of Rahway, New Jersey, was representing Sumo. Don't get me wrong, but New Jersey doesn't seem like a state that has a rich tradition in Sumo competition. Football, maybe. But Sumo?
This is around the time tha Kilmeade begins calling the ancient and centuries-old art of grappling 'sumu?' WTF? I know these guys were probably working for peanuts, but Jesus Christ, Rorion and Art! Fork over the dough to get guys who are actually familiar with martial arts styles.
Incidentally, Don 'The Dragon' Wilson was in the crowd looking for a paycheck. He might have ended up sounding like an over-excited high school junior in the booth in later UFCs, but at least he knew what he was talking about. Ironically enough, so did the late Jeff Blatnick.
KEITH HACKNEY vs. EMMANUEL YARBOROUGH
KENPO vs. SUMO
So, anyway, here comes Keith Hackney, 6th degree black belt, 200lbs, fighting out of Roselle, Illinois. Kilmeade claims Keith 'always wanted to be in UFC'. Brother, this is UFC number 3? How can you 'always want to be in the UFC' and its only been around two years? I get the feeling there's plenty of places in Roselle, Illinois, or hell, Chicago, where old Keith could have found a money fight or two. Shit, with how tight Rorion and Art were with the purse strings, Keith might have made out better in a back alley fighting cab drivers.
Anyway, so the fight goes down and within seconds, Keith clocks Emmanual and knocks the leviathan down. He eventually gets back up and shoves Keith through the gate. And that was a result of Emmanual's 'strength', and not the shitty slide lock you find on a puppy pen. It was one of many firsts. I guess that simple slide lock won't work when a combined 800+ pounds of pit fighter gets shoved against it. And here's Kilmeade again, saying the move was reminiscent of a sumo match with an opponent getting shoved out of the ring, but still calls it, 'Ultimate sumu'.
So as you might imagine, the athletic Keith gets the jump on the obese Emmanuel and beats him down, gets $1000 for his efforts and a broken wrist. Ben Perry ends up calling Emmanuel an 'Asset to the art'. Hmmmm. I wonder what Takanohana or Kaio would think about that? When Emmanuel has gained the title of at least an ozeki, let's talk. Shit, how about just a juryo.
KEN SHAMROCK vs. CHRISTOPHE LEININGER
SHOOTFIGHTING vs. JUDO
It's cool to watch these early shows because you can see the early days of the 'Lion's Den' camp with Jason DeLucia, Frank Shamrock, and Masa Funaki assisting Ken to his corner. Even old Bob Shamrock, the adopted father of Ken, Frank, and about 100 other kids, too. True story.
They also made the point that Ken was 'wearing shoes' so he 'cannot kick'. That has been one of the dumbest rules from the beginning for dudes to not wear shoes, even into the unified rules. Look how many champs have broken their foot or toes because of this rule, even as recently as 'Bones' Jones and Jose Aldo.
So, Christophe walked to ring looking out of his league, dazed, like reality was setting in. 'Holy shit, I'm about to be put in a cage for a money fight with some juiced up angry dude.' And that's pretty much how it played out. Ken smothered Christophe with ground and pound, and Christophe eventually tapped out from punches, which is frowned upon these days. But back in the day, when dudes weren't training to counter GnP, it was common.
By the way, the announce team referred to this lopsided match of GnP as a 'Chessmatch'. More like General Patton playing checkers with a 7th grader.
ROLAND PAYNE vs. HAROLD HOWARD
THAI KICKBOXING vs. KARATE
So, Muay Thai. Devestating art, and the broad foundation of how MMA strikes are taught. We've seen Tong Po in 'Kickboxer'. Even Paco in Bloodsport. Hell, we know Sagat in 'Street Fighter'. Tall dude. Long legs.
Well, look who Art Davie and Rorion Gracie book as the representative of Thai Kickboxing. The 5'9", shortest kickboxer possible in the world, "Carolina Pain" Roland Payne. The announcers note he is the 'Smallest man in competition'. Way to stack the deck, Rorion, you fuck.
But the best part of this event was Harold Howard. Harold was a Karate champion from Canada who had a great phrase from where he comes from, and here it is, backed by the dulcet tones of Eddie Money, featuring Ronnie Spector: 'If you're coming on, come on!
The fight was one of the best on the card, with Harold not quite displaying the most skillful 'Karate', but had more of a brawling style. He even hit a very primitive suplex on Payne before putting the little guy away with a great three-punch combo.
ROYCE GRACIE vs. KIMO
GRACIE JIU-JITSU vs. 'TAE KWON DO'
I say 'Tae Kwon Do' because its pretty clear Kimo had absolutely no Tae Kwon Do training in his life. In the lead-up video, he was seen working bizarre slo-mo hand strikes with his fingers at his cornerman's hands. I don't know much about formal TKD, but I do know enough to know its a very kick-centric style.
His cornerman was named Jo Son. Jo Son was Kimo's right hand man. An alleged 'man of God' with Kimo who eventually went to jail for shoving a pistol up a woman's vagina during a gang rape. He also ended up killing his cell mate. True story. Google it. Or Bing it, whatever you do. I can't do all the work here.
Kimo declared he was competing in the UFC to 'spread the gospel of Jesus Christ'. Seems there's more effective ways of spreading the word than walking to the ring carrying a giant crucifix on his back. But he did it.
So, up to this point, Royce had 'won' up to $110,000 in prize money, which essentially means Rorion never had to pay out the money since he was basically Royce's personal banker.
So, we got the match started, and we got to see Kimo's amazing TKD-style kicks in a flurry of blurred action that kept Royce on the defensive.
Okay, not really. He took a crappy wild swing and was immediately clinched by Royce.
And, as you might imagine, the door opened again. Royce was given an advantage by not breaking the clinch and continued on. With Jo Son shouting at Royce by the fence, Helio and his brothers joined the shouting match from the fenceline. The problem the Gracie's were trying to work through was Kimo's power, who was denying Royce the takedown. Head-butts were delivered, and Royce grabbed Kimo's ponytail that Jim Brown was so afraid of.
Eventually, Royce gassed out Kimo and got the armbar win. But he was clearly cashed out.
FELIX LEE MITCHELL (alternate) vs. KEN SHAMROCK
WESTERN KICKBOXING vs. SHOOTFIGHTING
So in the tradition of the early UFCs and current new MMA orgs, an alternate had 10 minutes to gear up for a fight with one of the greatest shootfighters of the time. He came out wearing protective grappling gloves before 'Tank' Abbott popularized them three events later, but he took them off when he saw Ken was bare-knuckling it.
And then we got to see Ken Shamrock put on a clinic with his tremendous submission skill and world-class talent with a plethora of knee-bar, chokes, and arm bar attempts.
Just kidding. It took the tired Ken Shamrock four plus minutes to get the fresh Felix down before smothering him with strikes on the ground before choking him out. After his second fight, Ken looked gassed.
We are then treated to a video package of Harold Howard, claiming to have created a system of fighting bringing the 'karate aspect back to jiu-jitsu'. Because there was once a karate aspect to jiu-jitsu, apparently.
And then shit falls apart....
HAROLD HOWARD vs. ROYCE GRACIE
KARATE vs. GRACIE JIU-JITSU
Here's where I totally just lost my shit.
So Royce shows up to the ring with his family in that goddamn 'Gracie Train' that Kilmeade and Perry had such a hard on for, looking like a mess, completely cashed out. Howard shows up ready to go. And with Royce hanging his head on the octagon padding, his brothers throw in the towel for him and literally carry him out.
Howard throws a hissy-fit and his manager at first seems happy his charge made it to the finals, then artificially shares Howard's disgust. That is, until Howard is walking away and his manager hams it up for the camera.
Incidentally, that guy is still a part of the UFC organization, and you can see him walking to the octagon with fighters.
So, you think the chaos is over. Nope. Here comes Kimo and Jo Son to the ring to take credit for defeating Royce.
And you can't have general mayhem without Gary Busey somewhere in attendance. Imagine that? Gary Busey showing up at a money fight.
HAROLD HOWARD vs. STEVE JENNUM
KARATE vs. NINJITSU
So, here's your crazy final for UFC III: Harold Howard vs. Steve Jennum.
Harold Howard, who beat up 'The littlest Tong Po' and got a forfeit victory over a cowardly Royce Gracie. And Steve Jennum, a ninja from Omaha, Nebraska, who had spent the entire night watching the tournament play out from the stands and had to get ready in about ten minutes time.
Now THAT'S PPV magic!
Anyway, Harold Howard shows up keyed up, yelling and shit. You know he was ready to go, but knew he probably was going to get hosed fighting a dude who was in the finals fresh.
But to his credit, he pulled out every trick he learned on the 'Alaskan Pipeline' as Ben Perry intimated earlier in the show, because I imagine when Ben Perry needed extra dough he'd fly to the Alaskan Pipeline for moneyfights. So, Harold's ace in the hole was a Flip kick, but no dice. Jennum grapples with the tired old man and takes the mount before Howard submits to punches.
So that's the big finish to the biggest and most fun fiasco in UFC history. The alternate cashes in on 60000 dollars, Harold Howard bows to Jennum as if their 2 minute bar room brawl was some kind 'passing of the torch'.
Art Davie signs check. So does Rorion. You can tell both of them are all mad that they actually had to actually pay out.
If you loved the early days of MMA competition, then you will enjoy the Pit Fighter series from ZombieBloodFights.com. 'Pit Fighters: Baptism by Fire' and 'Pit Fighters: Double Cross' are both loving fictional tributes to the wild 90s and the advent of mainstream MMA in the US.
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BOWIE V. IBARRA is a Texas author living in San Antonio. He has a BFA in Acting and a MA in Theatre History.
Network with Bowie at his official website, ZombieBloodFights.com