We’ve seen many big moments take place in the UFC but 20 years ago, one of the most significant took place at UFC 40.
Over the course of the last few decades, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has firmly established itself as the mixed martial arts leader in more ways than one. In recent years, in fact, they’ve arguably become the premier form of entertainment within the combat sports space.
As we know, though, they weren’t always in such a privileged position, and the company’s first run was full of many obstacles.
Back in 2002, Zuffa owned the UFC with Dana White serving as president in his second year. They were doing everything in their power to get MMA off the ground and yet while they had some big stars and entertaining events, Zuffa was said to be considering their options with some believing they would’ve cut their losses if UFC 40 had proven to be a failure.
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Thankfully, in addition to the likes of Robbie Lawler, Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell being on the card, they also had a highly-anticipated main event between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock.
Video: Tito Ortiz battles Ken Shamrock
These two men had been wanting to go at it for years and when they eventually met, their rivalry had gone mainstream with a parade of major outlets picking up on it.
This caused the buyrate for UFC 40 to explode up to 100,000 which was over double the 45,000 they’d been averaging in the last handful of shows.
John McCarthy, a former referee for the UFC, once said the following regarding the showcase.
“They put themselves far into a hole and that’s a hard place to be no matter how much money you have. They stood by it and when UFC 40 with Ken and Tito rolled around, that was a time when I really looked at it and thought it could make it. Before that there were many times when I thought it was going to die. This sport is going to die, it’s not catching on. At UFC 40 I remember standing in the ring and looking around feeling the electricity that I thought it was going to make it.”
One for the history books
When you consider that the UFC was sold for over $4 billion back in 2016, it really is remarkable to think about the journey they’ve been on.
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Dana White, and the cavalcade of world class fighters he’s had at his disposal, have put together something quite special.
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