Let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember some of the biggest influences in the world of MMA by examining the careers and answer the question of who the first five UFC Hall of Famers were.
The UFC Hall of Fame was officially established on November 21st, 2003, at UFC 45. It was later revamped in 2015 and split into four categories/wings. Fighters/Contributors would be inducted every July during the UFC’s annual International Fight Week.
The four categories are:
- Modern: Fighters who made their pro-debuts once the Unified Rules of MMA were established after November 17th, 2000.
- Pioneers: Fighters who were pro before the Unified Rules of MMA were established.
- Fights: Fights of historical significance.
- Contributors: Recognizing the greatest contributors to the sport outside of active competition.
Number One and Two: Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock
Who else but Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock as the inaugural inductees into the UFC Hall of Fame? Both fighters were inducted on November 21st, 2003, at UFC 45. Gracie and Shamrock not only helped establish and put both the UFC and MMA in general on the map.
Dating back to UFC 1 on November 12th, 1993, Gracie and Shamrock competed in the first-ever UFC event. This was when the UFC was tournament based, with the tournament winner being crowned on the same night in the same event. Shamrock defeated Patrick Smith by submission in the quarterfinals, while Gracie also won his quarterfinals bout-defeating Art Jimmerson by submission. Gracie and Shamrock met in the semi-finals; Gracie defeated Shamrock by submission in under a minute to go on to win the first UFC tournament by defeating Gerard Gordeau by submission.
Shamrock and Gracie met once more in the UFC cage at UFC 5 on April 7th, 1995. The rematch was for the first Superfight championship, and it was ruled a draw as both fighters reached the allotted time limit. The initial time limit for the matchup was 30 minutes but went 31 minutes before an on-the-spot decision was made to extend the fight by five minutes. There was still no winner after 36 minutes, and the fight was ruled a draw.
|Ken Shamrock’s UFC Recognized Accolades||Royce Gracie’s UFC Recognized Accolades|
|One-time UFC Superfight Champion|
Two UFC Superfight Title Defenses
UFC 3 Tournament Finalist
One-time Pancrase Open Weight Champion
One Pancrase Title Defense
King of Pancrase Tournament Winner
|UFC 1 Tournament Winner|
UFC 2 Tournament Winner
UFC 4 Tournament Winner
Most Tournament Wins in UFC History (11)
Most Tournaments Won in UFC History (3)
First Tournament Champion in UFC History
Number Three: Dan Severn
Dan Severn joined the UFC in 1994, debuting at UFC 4 on December 16th, 1994. Severn defeated Anthony Marcias by submission in the quarterfinals and Marcus Bossett by submission in the semifinals before facing off with future Hall of Famer Royce Gracie in the finals and losing by submission after fighting for over 15 minutes.
Severn was the first world-class wrestler to enter the UFC, paving the way for future legends such as Don Frye and Mark Coleman. ‘The Beast’ soon returned at UFC 5, defeating Joe Charles, Oleg Taktarov, and Dave Beneteau on way to winning the tournament. After Gracie and Shamrock had a draw for the Superfight title in the same event, the UFC paired up Severn vs. Shamrock to determine the first Superfight champion, Severn was defeated by Shamrock by way of submission.
Severn entered the UFC’s Ultimate Ultimate, 1995-consisting of past tournament winners and runners-up. ‘The Beast’ laid claim to the title by defeating Paul Varelans, ‘Tank’ Abbott, and Taktarov. Severn would earn his rematch with Superfight champ Shamrock at UFC 9, conquering his rival and winning the title by split decision. Severn was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame at UFC 52 on April 16th, 2005.
Dan Severn’s UFC Recognized Accolades
One-time UFC Superfight Champion
UFC 5 Tournament Winner
Ultimate Ultimate 1995 Tournament Winner
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Number Four: Randy Couture
Randy Couture made his pro-MMA debut at UFC 13 on May 30th, 1997, a part of the four-man heavyweight tournament. Immensely undersized against his opponents, Couture defeated Tony Holme in under a minute by submission and Steven Graham by TKO in the finals.
Couture returned at UFC 15 on October 17th, 1997, to face the young ‘Phenom’ Vitor Belfort to determine the number one contender for the UFC’s Heavyweight title. Couture was a heavy underdog but scored the huge upset by defeating Belfort by TKO. Couture eventually defeated Heavyweight champ, Maurice Smith, by a majority decision at UFC Japan on December 21st, 1997.
Other notable names Couture defeated in the UFC were the likes of Kevin Randleman, Pedro Rizzo (twice), Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Tim Sylvia, Mark Coleman, and even Boxing great-James Toney in his MMA debut. ‘The Natural’ was inducted into the UFC’s Hall of Fame on June 24th, 2006, at The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Team Ortiz vs. Team Shamrock.
Randy Couture’s UFC Recognized Accolades
- Three-time UFC Heavyweight Champion
- Three UFC Heavyweight Title Defenses
- Two-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion
- UFC 13 Heavyweight Tournament Champion
- First Fighter to Hold Two UFC Titles in Two Separate Divisions
Number Five: Mark Coleman
Mark Coleman debuted for the organization at UFC 10 on July 12th, 1996, defeating Moti Horenstein, Gary Goodridge, and Don Frye in the finals to win the UFC 10 tournament. Coleman followed up with another tournament win at UFC 11, defeating Julian Sanchez and Brian Johnson.
Coleman wasn’t done pursuing dominance as he defeated Dan Severn at UFC 12 by submission to win the inaugural UFC Heavyweight title. Coleman lost the title by decision in his next bout against Maurice Smith in a grueling and long battle. Coleman is often credited for the term “ground-and-pound” due to saying, “I’m going to ground him and pound the g**d*** s*** out of him” to Joe Rogan before his bout with Smith.
‘The Hammer’ was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame at UFC 82 on March 1st, 2008.
Mark Coleman’s UFC Recognized Accolades
- One-time UFC Heavyweight Champion
- First UFC Heavyweight Champion
- UFC 10 Tournament Winner
- UFC 11 Tournament Winner
- Pride Grand Prix 2000 Tournament Champion
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