June 2007 was a strange and unnerving time for fans of no-holds-barred fisticuffs. Just days before, the announcement had come that Pride Fighting Championships had officially been acquired by Ultimate Fighting Championship parent company Zuffa, LLC, putting a definitive end to the signature org-versus-org war in the sport’s history. While the idea was briefly mooted that Zuffa might keep Pride going and simply run both promotions simultaneously—spoiler: nah, they shut that bad boy down by Halloween—a new era was clearly dawning.
For a particular sector of MMA fandom, including those who had a particular fondness for the Japanese-style pageantry and shenanigans that Pride exemplified, as well as those who simply disliked the UFC’s nu-metal-and-energy-drinks aesthetic and hoped to avoid a total takeover of the sport, the fall of Pride was bad news. Fortunately for them, in the midst of this uncertainty, two major players in global MMA banded together to put on a blockbuster card that might show the industry another way forward. They were K-1, the kickboxing juggernaut that had for several years been promoting mixed rules bouts under its K-1 Hero’s brand; and EliteXC, the Showtime network venture that was less than a year away from bringing MMA to American prime time network television for the first time, ahead of the UFC. The event was K-1 Dynamite!! USA, and it took place on June 2, 2007, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
At this point, I must make it clear that there is simply no way I can convey, within the acceptable word count of this column, how hilariously bizarre this event was. If you would like some in-the-moment Cliff’s Notes, please check out the inimitable Jake Rossen losing his mind over the course of six hours as he watched the event live. If you will brave a deep dive into the mouth of madness—and I highly recommend you do—check out Sherdog’s Jordan Breen and TJ De Santis reliving the event a decade later with a wealth of additional detail and backstory, here:
With that out of the way, I can’t even compose paragraphs anymore. Here are some highlights of K-1 Dynamite!! USA, in bullet points. This event featured, in no particular order except where otherwise specified:
• A former NFL wide receiver taking on an African standup comedian and ending up the recipient of one of the most brutal knockouts ever… and then failing his post-fight drug test.
• A Top 10—if not Top 5—lightweight in Gesias Cavalcante, fighting in the opening bout of the card, outdoors in full afternoon sunshine.
• The L.A. Coliseum, 92,000-seat home of USC Trojans football, looking like a complete ghost town with 3,674 paying fans in it.
• Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon, Jr., normally the picture of dignity and gravitas in combat sports, referring to Jake Shields as “Jake Shizz-ields.”
• Dennis Rodman.
• Royce Gracie avenging his historic loss to Kazushi Sakuraba… and then failing his post-fight drug test so badly that his urine may have melted the testing equipment.
• Local radio personality “DJ Hapa,” in his capacity as PA announcer and general hype man for the event, mispronouncing Gracie’s first name with a hard “r” in a way nobody had done in a professional setting since about 1994.
• Oh, and it was also the mixed martial arts debut of Brock Lesnar, who headlined the event—for what that was worth—and would be one of the two biggest stars in the sport in another year or two.