The UFC Ran Out of Ambulances at Its 1st Fight Ever: ‘We Didn’t Anticipate How Much Injury There Would Be’

Before Dana White and his friends bought the UFC, the organization was a completely different one than it is today. There weren’t many rules in the UFC’s early days. This allowed for crazy fights between totally mismatched fighters. In fact, they ran out of ambulances at UFC 1 due to how many injuries occurred.

How the UFC first began

As MMA Fighting reports, Art Davie was curious about the best fighter in the world. Everyone fought differently, so he was interested in which fighting style was best. In the ’90s, he thought of an idea called the War of the Worlds, a competition featuring fighters from different martial arts. This idea later became the UFC, but Davie first had to convince everyone that his idea was good. 

He first convinced Rorion Gracie. After many cable companies shut them down, the two convinced SEG, which could host a pay-per-view event as Davie and Gracie wanted. With a company backing them, they just needed to set the event up. Due to the lax laws when it came to combat sports, the UFC settled on Denver, Colorado, according to The Denver Post.

Denver was perfect for the first UFC event. A loophole allowed it to happen, and since Colorado didn’t have a boxing commission at the time, the UFC did its thing with practically no oversight. On top of that, the stadium for the event was also empty on the night, and as a result, the UFC rented it for just $4,000.

What happened at UFC 1 in Denver

Royce Gracie and Art Jimmerson at UFC 1
Jiu-Jitsu black belt Royce Gracie kicks at cruiserweight boxer Art Jimmerson at UFC 1 in Denver, Colorado | Markus Boes/Getty Images

Setting up a sports event is difficult enough, but the first UFC also had a problem of basically setting up a brand-new sport. There were simply many unknowns that none of the UFC’s founders could’ve really accounted for. One of those unknowns had to do with injuries.

Like The Denver Post said, the first fight for the tournament was between a sumo wrestler and a French kickboxer. The sumo wrestler had a massive size advantage over the kickboxer. But in less than 30 seconds, the French kickboxer kicked the teeth out of the sumo wrestler’s face. Obviously, the sumo wrestler lost, and this was just the first fight of the tournament. 

More injuries followed, and eventually, the UFC ran out of ambulances for the event, according to The Denver Post. “We didn’t anticipate how much injury there would be and what [damage] would be done,” Davie said. In fact, UFC 1 was so violent that one of the bosses at SEG said, according to The Denver Post, “This is brutal. This is uber-violent.”

The aftermath of UFC 1


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In response to his boss, Davie said, “Yeah, but it’s going to be big.” As it turns out, both were right. The UFC became very popular very quickly, and it had many fans. At the same time, however, its shortage of rules and its extreme violence made it a public enemy for many politicians. Several states started banning the UFC and similar organizations, and something had to be done.

That’s where Dana White’s purchase of the UFC came in. He and his friends bought the UFC, and not only that, but they also transformed it into a mainstream sport. The UFC nowadays has plenty of rules, and many of the things that were legal back in UFC 1 are no longer legal today. On top of that, there are now many regulations in place to ensure the safety of the fighters, including plenty of medical care.