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EXCLUSIVE: UFC Founder Reveals Intial HBO and ESPN Rejections Over Controversial Match Endings Including ‘Death’

Debmallya Chakraborty

EXCLUSIVE: UFC Founder Reveals Intial HBO and ESPN Rejections Over Controversial Match Endings Including ‘Death’

Back in the day, the UFC had rules where the fight could possibly end with the death of a fighter! And this led to the promotion getting shot down by channels like HBO, Showtime, and ESPN. As shocking as the idea might sound, this was the truth revealed by none other than the Creator of the UFC himself, Art Davie. The UFC has expanded to be the giants of the MMA community and has developed as a full-fledged discipline. It has some very strict set of rules to prevent the physical wellbeing of the athletes. However, the story was far from reality in its early days. 

As the UFC celebrates 30 years of its journey, The SportsRush caught up with Art Davie to discuss how it all started. Speaking about the initial struggles of trying to get a broadcaster, Davie stated that he approached media giants like HBO and ESPN. 

Unfortunately, after hearing his entire plan, both the organization was doubtful about the authenticity of the UFC. In Davie’s words, “In North America I went to HBO, I went to showtime, I went to ESPN. And everybody said the same thing. Is this legal? Can you do this legally?”

Well, ESPN and HBO had their reasons to be concerned. Davie ideated a competition with the vision of showcasing the different forms of combat styles going against each other. However, in order to do so, the competition apparently became a “human cockfight” with no weight classes and a no holds barred rule. Surprisingly, as this was not enough, Art Davie revealed that his initial draft allowed the death of an athlete! 

UFC Creator Art Davie speaks about initial draft rules permitting the death of a fighter

After getting turned down by ESPN and HBO, Davie decided to get UFC on PPV. Going against the popular practice of cramming in commercials in between rounds, Davie recalled that the UFC did not have rounds. This meant that a possible break would only happen if the fight got over. 

Speaking about the ways in which a fighter can win, Davie revealed three possibilities. He said to The SportsRush, “On PPV UFC, there would be no commercials. That means the bout could only end one of three ways- either the fighter quits, he got injured, or he dies” The 76-year-old further confirmed that while initially drafting the rules, he did have the death clause in the books. 

Thus, with the UFC now being a worldwide name, the recollection of its controversial days would be sure to enthrall the fanatics and get them more excited about the promotion. 

Post Edited By:Debmallya Chakraborty

About the author

Debmallya Chakraborty

Debmallya Chakraborty


Debmallya Chakraborty, the UFC Lead editor and a senior journalist at The SportsRush, is a seasoned connoisseur of the UFC landscape since 2015, and has seamlessly transitioned from an enthusiastic observer to a distinguished sports journalist with a dedicated focus on mixed martial arts. Over the past two years, he has meticulously curated and refined more than 4000 articles, delivering compelling news and insightful analyses to the discerning audience of UFC aficionados. His commitment to providing a nuanced perspective and staying abreast of the latest developments has firmly established Debmallya as a respected authority in the dynamic realm of UFC journalism. Beyond the fast-paced world of the octagon, his interests extend to the refined sport of cricket, where he actively engages with the game, gracing the cricket grounds with a passionate pursuit of sporting excellence. In the intersection of these two sporting worlds, Debmallya endeavors to bridge the gap between raw athleticism and strategic finesse, offering a unique blend of expertise that caters to the diverse spectrum of sports enthusiasts.

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