Last week, Caged Insider spoke with Art Davie, the man who founded the UFC, about a range of topics (here are parts one & two). Today the series wraps up, with Davie summing up his contribution to MMA history — and also offers his thoughts on the current MMA scene.
There are several names out there which also boast the title of MMA pioneer. A motivation for Art Davie in writing “Is This Legal?” is to set the record straight:
“There were three founders of the UFC: me, Rorion Gracie, and Bob Metrowitz,” Davie says. “Campbell McLaren was an employee, he was involved in marketing and on-air talent. But none of these people would have come to the party if I hadn’t called them.”
He’s also quick to credit folks like Gene LeBell, the colorful judoka/wrestler who had a mixed boxing vs. wrestling challenge fight against Bob Savage in 1963. There were several pre-UFC, proto-MMA events, but nothing on the scale of the original UFC.
As Davie puts it, “I wasn’t the first guy to think of this. But I was the first guy to make it work.”
So, what does he think of what MMA has become?
“I like today’s MMA product,” Davie says. “I’m a fan of Vitaly Minakov, the Bellator heavyweight champion. I loved Mike Chandler and Eddie Alvarez. I’m a huge Jon Jones fan and I was a huge GSP (Georges St-Pierre) fan. We loved Canada! Campbell McLaren and I said if we can make it in Canada, we’ll retire. Canadian fans love a good fight. They were always great fans, and to have a champion like GSP? Can’t get better that!”
“I’m a big Ronda Rousey fan,” he continues. “People criticize her and call her egotistical, but the sport needs five more Ronda Rouseys, male or female. It’s not UFC vs. Bellator, or whoever. It’s MMA vs. the world, absolutely.”
“I give a lot of credit to Dana White,” Davie adds. “He saw what this was. He understood this was underutilized. Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, they really put their money where their mouth is.”
“Now, Bob Meyrowitz has a different tale to tell,” Davie adds, “from when he tried to get Nevada sanctioned. But look what they’ve done with the franchise since then. They’ve put their money where their mouth is. They knew — as I did — that you need a weekly cable show. I was pitching a MMA show at the same time as The Ultimate Fighter, and they got the shot because they had the franchise. Lorenzo and Frank spent ten million dollars to do it. They (ZUFFA) were upside down thirty, forty million bucks! It took guts.”
Davie says his show would have been similar to The Ultimate Fighter, which is now approaching its 20th season, in ways.
“We were all looking at what Vince McMahon did with the WWE,” Davie adds. “You create heroes and villains in a weekly cable show, and that would bring the fans in to PPV and rake in the money. We all knew the formula. I was knocking on the same doors that Lorenzo was, only he was willing to spend money. I didn’t have ten million dollars in my pocket!”
Now, Davie seems happy in his place at MMA’s foundation, and excited to tell his side of the story.“Everybody who has read the book, including Campbell McLaren and John McCarthy, have been really impressed,” he says. “They’re saying, this is definitive, this is exhaustive. This is stuff I didn’t know.”
And regarding the future, he only sees growth. “Fighting is everywhere. People like to see a good fight. From Norway to Thailand, people love MMA. How big is the Chinese market going to be? It’s only going to get bigger.
Davie’s book, “Is This Legal?”, will be in stores July 1; it also will be available as an E-book at online outlets.