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Old 10-03-2013, 07:49 PM
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Default Where are they now: UFC 1's Gerard Gordeau

From MMAFighting.com (By Chuck Mindenhall)
Gerard Gordeau was a karate champion from The Hague, who had a mixed martial arts career that spanned 18 months in theory, but realistically lasted just two experimental nights.

The first night, on Nov. 12, 1993, was the historical one. Gordeau showed up to Denver, Colo. as a Kyojushin Karate exemplar, to test his style in the medley of combat sports. The first UFC was an eight-man tournament with only the loosest set of rules, most in place to keep the thing from slipping off into something altogether felonious. The winner of this black market affair -- originally conceptualized to have a medieval moat with circling alligators -- would receive $50,000. And so disciplines and body frames of all stripes, sizes and nationalities were loosed on one other to determine who would be the Ultimate Fighting champion.

At the time Jean-Claude Van Damme had the market for this sort of underground. Plenty of people believed that karate, when done by masters, was unparalleled. That kicks, if done by masters, would have fools flying into the rafters. Gordeau didnít look like Van Damme, nor did he hold his hands with the tops of his fingers curled into chops. Though he was an eight-time karate champion with nearly 30 victories, he had an unamused face with virtually no expression at all. He was a 6-foot-5 figure in an everymanís body.

Yet he was violence personified. In the UFCís first ever bout he fought the Hawaiian sumo wrestler Teila Tuli, ceding over 200 pounds in the exchange. What happened next has become part of company lore.

Gordeau kicked Tuli in the face just 20 seconds into the bout. As lore goes, something like a thousand teeth scattered like confetti. Some of them flew onto the press table. Some of them into the stands at McNichols Arena. A couple of them were embedded in Gordeauís foot, and would need to be extracted when he got back to The Hague, some 4,500 miles away. Tuli, it seems in the retellings, had more teeth than your average pacu fish.

In any event, Gordeau won the first ever UFC bout, and set the thing on its course to history.

"I was invited to try something new," the Dutchman, now 54, told MMA Fighting via a translator. "It was exciting event and the first one of its kind. We wanted to find out what we could do with our styles at that time, which was karate, savate, judo, wrestling."

And Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which exploded onto the North American scene that night when the all-too-human-looking Royce Gracie made short work of the field. After Gordeau defeated the kickboxer Kevin Rosier in the semi-finals, he would face the fourth-degree black belt Gracie in the finals. Gracie had already gotten through Ken Shamrock, who was believed to be the killer of the bracket. Unbeknownst to many at the time, Gracie was in the process of becoming a VHS legacy that would inspire half of todayís UFC roster to get involved in the sport.

Gracie was the man in the gi who was quietly redefining fighting, and yet Gordeau was the last man in his way. Fates met at the original crossroads. Gordeau entered the cage with a slight limp, because (obviously) he had Tuliís teeth fragments in his foot. That foot was bandaged. Gracie wasted no time. He shot in, forcing Gordeau to one-leg hop to the fence, which he immediately grabbed to stay upright. Even in the uncivilized early days of "no holds barred" fighting, grabbing the fence was strictly verboten, so the referee threw out his reprimand from afar. Gordeau let go. After a small delay, Royce took him down with a trip. Then Royce was in mount, dropping head butts. As Gordeau applied a sort of big brotherly half-nelson, Gracie coolly took Gordeauís back. Somewhere in there, Gordeau sank his own teeth into Gracieís famous gi.

"If you go down, you might as well give him something to remember you by," Gordeau laughs today.

Gracie quickly secured the rear-naked choke and Gordeau tapped. And Gracie held onto it and Gordeau tapped again. He tapped and tapped until the referee made it clear heíd saw it.

And that was it. Gordeau was finished, and Gracie became a vanguard to a new fight game movement. Former NFL great Jim Brown, who was cameo commentating that first UFC alongside Bill Wallace and Kathy Long, bellowed, "I found my sport."

He wasnít alone in the discovery. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was real.