Last night the UFC announced that they’d be officially inducting Maurice Smith into the Hall of Fame.

…Yeah, most of you probably don’t know who Maurice Smith is or what he meant to the sport. But that’s okay, ’cause I’m going to paint a little picture for you.

Imagine that you live in New York City in the summer of 1997. The sport has been banned just about everywhere, including in New York, but there are still UFC events every few months, and they’re broadcast on satellite TV. There is literally one place to watch the UFC, an Irish bar downtown, near the World Trade Center, and so a bunch of fans gather to watch their forbidden entertainment.

Only one big TV is playing the event (UFC 14), but we get to eat the wings leftover from a party that afternoon for free, and we pretty much have the place to ourselves. And of course, Mark Coleman is fighting, the unstoppable Mark Coleman, the wrestler who would pound any Gracie into jelly if they faced him. His opponent is Maurice Smith, a kickboxing who sparked a good bit of interest in Extreme Fighting before that promotion folded, but no one really thinks Smith stands a chance. Wrestlers are dominating MMA now, and not even a jiu-jitsu black belt can deal with the intensity Coleman (or Mark Kerr, or the rest) are bringing into the cage. Smith is doomed.

And when Smith gets taken down and pounded on, well, that was what was supposed to happen. He was just a kickboxer after all.

But then Smith weathers the storm, AND GETS UP, and every one of us watching in that bar goes absolutely bonkers at the feat, and we lose our collective minds when Smith starts kickboxing an utterly spent Coleman to death. You could’ve heard our cheers up in the Bronx.

You see, we’d just seen the sport evolve right before our very eyes.

Maurice Smith did that. He belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Here’s the UFC’s official story on him.