STUDIO: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 89 Minutes
Hall of Fame Interviews

The Pitch

“Tired of watching Van Damme and Eric Roberts fight in fictional no holds barred tournaments? Get ready to watch real people beat the crap out of each other in a monumental clash of styles!”

The Humans

Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Gerard Gordeau, Kevin Rosier and Jim Brown

The Nutshell

Eight fighters from around the globe converge in Denver, Colorado to determine who the ultimate fighter really is. The fighters specialize in various fighting disciplines ranging from boxing to sumo to ju-jitsu. All will compete in one tournament to settle once and for all what the superior fighting style is. The fights are no holds barred and no time limits are in place. The winner will be the fighter with the skills and heart to outlast all comers. The rest will be picking their teeth up off of the canvas.

No one ridicules Jim Brown’s performance in Mars Attacks and lives to tell about it. No one.

The Package

UFC Classics 1 is presented in full screen format in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. The event hasn’t been altered in any way shape or form, so you get to experience the tournament in all of its early ‘90s glory. The beginning of the event employs the use of several horrible early video effects in a futile attempt to look cool. These slow motion effects are so jarring and awfully executed that they’ll give most viewers headaches.

The video quality is good throughout the event but is hardly up to the standards of modern MMA event releases. This can be attributed to the low quality of the initial pay-per-view broadcast or perhaps the original VHS release was used as the source material. The audio track is of good quality, which might not be such a good thing considering the annoying voices of the terrible announcers on this event.

The only extras are two short interviews with Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie. Two grizzled veterans of the sport, both give their unique recollections about participating in the first MMA event of the modern age. They share their observations on the evolution of the sport as well as their rebuttals to the critics of the UFC.

The Lowdown

Mixed martial arts fighting is quickly becoming a popular sport in the United States thanks in part to the UFC and their Ultimate Fighter reality show. MMA’s ultimate aim seems to be surmounting boxing in popularity and as each day passes that goal seems more attainable. MMA is more than just two men fighting. It’s a complicated contest between two fighters in which both must employ strategy and toughness to knock the other out or make them submit. Despite claims that MMA is a bloodsport and unnecessarily violent, the sport is actually quite safe in its current form and every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of the participants.

But it wasn’t always that way. UFC Classics 1 presents the very first Ultimate Fighting Championship. A far cry from the current form of MMA, UFC 1 is a bloody tournament in which there are no rules. The event represents the dawning of a new sport, but simultaneously represents all the fears and criticisms of MMA made real. This event contains all the sheer brutality and violence that critics of the sport abhor, making it difficult to watch. Make no mistake, this isn’t the current form of intricate fighting a modern MMA fan expects – it’s a bar room brawl.

This is the inaugural UFC event, and as such it’s readily apparent that no one involved has any clue what they’re doing. The announcers are incredibly inept, bumbling over each other and completely unable to describe what’s going on. The referees are uneducated on the intricacies of the sport, allowing fights to continue even after tap-outs and people are knocked out. The event flaunts the lack of rules as if it’s a good thing, allowing hair pulling and eye gouging. The fights don’t even have time limits or judges. The fight continues until someone submits or they get beaten so badly that their corner throws in the towel.

Discount tooth removal courtesy of Dr. Gordeau

UFC 1 is by no means a MMA classic. New MMA fans will probably be shocked at the lack of technique and celebration of brutality that the event represents. UFC 1 is more of a history lesson than an entertaining event, and should be viewed by anyone who wants to see how far the sport has come. The first event of its kind, UFC 1 pitted fighters of various combat styles against each other. It sounds like a good idea on paper, but it quickly became apparent that particular styles were much better suited to the octagon. Fighters utilizing boxing and sumo were quickly defeated, some submitting even though they weren’t in holds – they simply had no clue how to grapple.

MMA fans interested in history should view UFC 1 for the sole purpose of observing Royce Gracie in action. Gracie is one of the few fighters in the tournament to employ submission techniques and defeats most opponents without even breaking a sweat. Royce’s dominance would lead to the evolution of MMA fighters cross-training in several disciplines and becoming well-rounded in all techniques. The sluggers participating in UFC 1 wouldn’t last thirty seconds in modern MMA tournaments.

As a event in itself, UFC 1 is barbaric, sloppy and hard to watch, but as a history lesson on the sport it’s invaluable. If UFC continues to release their past events on DVD, the series should provide a clear evolution of the sport throughout the past decade. Whether you’re a new MMA fan or an old hand at the sport, UFC Classics 1 is worth checking out once just to see how it all began.

7.0 out of 10