This Day in MMA History: April 7

By: Ben Duffy
Apr 7, 2020

The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 249 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.

Held on April 7, 1995 in Charlotte, North Carolina, UFC 5 saw a number of changes for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which was then still barely 18 months old. For the first time, the eight-man tournament was supplemented by a “superfight,” in this case a rematch of the UFC 1 semifinal between Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock. Also for the first time, a time limit was imposed. This was in contrast to the first several events in which fights went until one man submitted or was rendered unable to continue.

The tournament cemented UFC 4 runner-up Dan Severn as a force to be reckoned with in the new sport. “The Beast” mauled his three opponents, including future standout Oleg Taktarov, in a combined nine minutes of cage time. The Gracie-Shamrock superfight, however, was anything but super: Shamrock shot a single-leg takedown early on, Gracie pulled guard and then nothing happened for half an hour. Neither of the two made an earnest attempt to pass, sweep or submit, and it is difficult to imagine even the most ardent grappling fan wanting to re-watch the ordeal. After 31 minutes, referee “Big” John McCarthy made the ad hoc decision to append a five-minute, sudden-death round. Five more minutes of next to no action took place, and the UFC 5 superfight was ruled a draw. At 36:06, it remains the longest bout in UFC history.

After UFC 5, Rorion Gracie ended his association with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, as he and co-founder Art Davie sold their interest in the promotion to Semaphore Entertainment Group. Davie would stay on for several more years. Rorion was not the only member of jiu-jitsu’s first family to step away, as Royce appeared next in Pride Fighting Championships and did not fight again for the organization he helped put on the map until 2006, when he returned to take on welterweight champion Matt Hughes. In hindsight, UFC 5 was the end of an era.

Also of note on the card was the one and only UFC appearance of the 6-foot-7, 295-pound “Giant with an Attitude” Jon Hess. He claimed to be a practitioner of “SAFTA,” short for “Scientifically Aggressive Fighting Technology of America,” but when his quarterfinal bout with Andy Anderson began, SAFTA appeared to consist largely of pushing a much smaller person into the cage and raking his eyes. In a bit of ironic foreshadowing, Anderson had said he would donate his purse to a school for the blind if he won, but he lost his shirt within seconds and his faculties shortly thereafter. Hess, who somehow injured his hand during the assault, was forced to withdraw and was replaced in the next round by alternate Dave Beneteau. To this day, it may still be the dirtiest fight in UFC history, Hess’ protestations that “they said there were no rules” notwithstanding.

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