UFC

How Art Davie Came Up With the UFC Concept: ‘I Got My Ass Kicked By a Wrestler’

Dana White is the current face behind the UFC. Despite this notoriety, he didn’t actually create the MMA organization. The UFC was actually founded by a group of people who are, unfortunately, largely forgotten nowadays. Let’s look at Art Davie, one of the UFC founders, and how he came up with the idea in the first place.

How Art Davie came up with the UFC concept

According to MMA Fighting, the roots of his idea for the UFC were actually planted decades ago in 1964. He, like many people, wondered about who the best fighter in the world was. Davie was interested in boxing, and he may have thought that Muhammad Ali was the best fighter in the world at the time. He also happened to be talking about this with his friend, who was a high-ranked high school wrestler.

Eventually, their discussion took a more physical turn. Since the two were on a beach, and the two were knowledgeable about their disciplines, they decided that they should fight each other to see who’d win, the boxer or the wrestler. And, according to MMA Fighting, it wasn’t close. Davie thought that he’d box his friend up, but instead, his friend just took him down and submitted him.

This experience opened his eyes to the fact that fighting was more than just boxing. Davie said, according to MMA Fighting, “I got my ass kicked by a wrestler. I got educated that there was more than meets the eye to fighting.” Fast-forward a few decades, and Davie is trying to take this humbling experience to the next level.

How the UFC was founded

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By the ’90s, Davie was a grown man still interested in finding out who the best in the world was. So, he devised an idea, a one-night tournament that featured fighters from different martial arts disciplines. There’d also be minimal rules, as the whole point of this tournament was to find the best fighting style. Davie called this tournament the War of the Worlds, but few cable companies wanted it. 

But then, Davie talked to Campbell McLaren, and McLaren loved the idea. By this time, Davie also had the support of Rorion Gracie from the acclaimed Gracie family of Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialists. Together, they got an audience with Bob Meyrowitz, who was McLaren’s boss. Ultimately, Meyrowitz was sold on the idea, and agreed to do the thing. 

That said, this was a rocky relationship. According to MMA Fighting, the men all had different ideas about the future of War of the Worlds. One of those ideas involved its name. Eventually, War of the Worlds had its name changed into the Ultimate Fighting Championship. And it hosted its first event in Denver, Colorado.

The UFC crashed and burned, but then returned stronger than ever

The early UFC attracted many fans, as it fulfilled its promise of mixing martial arts styles in order to find the best fighters in the world. That said, due to several issues, many of which were legal, the UFC was banned in many states. It was also facing financial ruin. 

This is where Dana White comes in. He was one of those early UFC fans. While he had little money to his name, he had rich friends, the Fertitta brothers. The three of them bought the UFC at a relatively low price and eventually rebuilt it into what it’s known for today.

And then, in 2016, they sold the UFC for a hefty $4 billion. Davie and the other UFC co-founders may regret their decision to sell so early in the UFC’s life. At the very least, however, Davie is now a UFC Hall of Famer.