UFC co-founder talks McGregor, Khabib, how the organization has changed

Posted at 10:57 AM, Oct 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-13 11:33:55-04

As a teenager, Art Davie wanted to know something - in a match between a boxer and a wrestler, who would win?

"22 seconds later, I'm on the sand," Davie said.

He was the boxer, a friend of a friend was the wrestler. It was with his head in the sand that he came up with the best question of his life.

"Who's the greatest fighter in the world? Is it a judo player, is it a boxer, a wrestler - who is it?" Davie asked.

There was only one way to answer that question - so he wrote a business plan and began pitching TV networks. 

"It's called the world's best fighter - the world's greatest fighter," he said. "They said, 'well how would it work?' It's a tournament. It would be on pay per view and they said, 'this sounds uber violent.' I said, 'yeah, actually it would be.'"

He heard no after no before finally getting to yes. The night of UFC 1, he said he knew it would be "huge." The pay per view numbers were evidence of that - he hoped for 40-50,000 and ended up with more than 86,000. Davie continued to grow the UFC for five years, when he sold his share of the company for a million dollars. He said what happened post-fight Saturday likely wouldn't have happened in the UFC's early days.

"These guys afterwards would just hug each other," Davie said. "They were brothers because they had been in a war together. There was a sense of camaraderie that was pretty unique to the time."

As for whether Davie thinks the UFC could've done anything to prevent the post-fight brawl?

"I'm not sure how much more you could've done other than assign a cop to every single fighter and entourage member. And even then, they may be able to slip past you and throw a punch."

And although Davie has mostly watched the recent success of the UFC from outside the ring, he says he only has gratitude for the adventure.

"Very few people in life get a chance to do what I did and see it survive them and go beyond them. Long after I'm gone, there will still be MMA and there will still be UFC."