(We’ve got a bunch of jackals on the site who know all sorts of details about the good old days of MMA. Here’s the Notorious C.R.S. with a history of Art Davie, one of the original people behind the UFC.)
History has not been kind to the Semaphore Entertainment Group, the original creators of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. On one side you have Dana White re-writing history with “The Zuffa Myth” to totally downplay all the steps Bob Meyrowitz’s UFC made towards regulation. And on the other side you have Meyrowitz trying to get back into the MMA Game with the ultra-embarrassing YAMMA pay-per-view.
But just when you thought YAMMA was as low as you could go, we discover that another key SEG veteran by the name of Art Davie is involved in “>XARM. Yes, XARM: half arm wrestling contest, half fist fight … all retarded. But these guys weren’t always this hopeless. I’ll bet you didn’t know Bob Meyrowitz was shopping around an early version of The Ultimate Fighter as early as 1994 to be shown in syndication. Obviously the UFC was way too controversial for anybody to want to touch at that time, so it went nowhere.
Due to one of the many instances of karma that has affected his life, most of today’s MMA fans have absolutely no idea who Art Davie is. Some people even get his name confused with Toughman Competition founder and general scumbag Art Dore. But Davie is the man who set the wheels in motion for the UFC to exist.
He was an advertising executive who had a client who wanted martial arts advertising studied. Davie was looking at an issue of Black Belt Magazine, where he saw advertisements for a series of Home Videos called Gracie’s In Action. He was mesmerized by the idea of scrawny Brazilian guys easily defeating larger, intimidating striking martial artists with their ground skills. He sought out Rorion Gracie to teach him the art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, also befriending fellow student John Milius, an action movie director. The trio came up with the idea for the UFC, shopped it around to seemingly everybody (including Don King) and got nothing but rejections. They were finally able to convince Bob Meyrowtiz’s Semphore Entertainment Group, an extremely classy media company known for putting on pay-per-view events interviewing OJ Simpson and lingerie catfights, to fund them. The rest is history.
By 1995, suddenly everyone from ?wmode=transparent” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen> will be some politically correct liberal who comes along and decides what we are doing is the victimization of fighters. I thought Sen. Schroeder because she’s from Colorado and we ran our event in Denver. It didn’t turn out to be her at all. It turned out to be a Republican P.O.W. war hero. Very surprising. It shows you can’t pick who your friends and enemies are going to be. He came out of the woodwork. He was a college boxer at the Naval Academy. He understands boxing. He doesn’t know beans about the martial arts.”
Davie stayed on with the company, even as Rorion and others involved at the start left. He was in charge of the UFC’s sanctioning body the UFA, and was the original match maker for the company until December 1997. His match ups were criticized by fans (and even in interviews by John McCarthy), although their low ratings had more to do with cable companies refusing to air the shows to stay on Sen. John McCain’s good side. But nonetheless his final show, UFC 15, was an awful card with such mediocre match ups as Mark Kerr vs. Greg “Ranger” Stott and Tank Abbott being too fat to last much more than 8 minutes against UFC Heavyweight Champion Maurice Smith. It did have the first Couture vs. Belfort fight to save it, though.
So what does a man do when the company he helped create fires him? Get really bitter and try to bring it down. Davie signed on to be K-1 Kickboxing’s American liaison, as the company was desperately trying to run events in Las Vegas. But in the meantime, he would bash the UFC and “No Holds Barred” fighting to anyone who would listen. And he got the perfect ammo he needed on March 18th, 1998 when Doug Dedge, an American martial artist suffering from blackouts and seizures due to a head injury preventing him from fighting in America, went to Kiev, Ukraine to fight in a non-sanctioned fight he was killed in. The day after Dedge died, Eddie Goldman leaked a letter Davie had written to Meyrowitz and a certain Presidential Candidate we all love to hate:
Art Davie Promotions
[Address and Phone Deleted]
Robert Meyrowitz, CEO
SEG Sports, Inc.
I’m writing to urge you, as the owner of THE ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS TM (UFC), to reconsider promoting these tournaments in light of the untimely death of American Douglas Dedge. As you well know, Dedge’s participation in an ultimate fighting event in the Ukraine caused severe brain injuries and resulted in death. He is survived, in this tragedy, by his wife and five children.
As the man who discovered these spectacles, I packaged them and brought them to you to televise in 1993. I wrote the only rule books that exist for the UFC and served as Commissioner of the UFA, the UFC sanctioning body, from September 1995 to December 1997. I know, better than anyone, the dangers inherent in this type of combat.
When I brought this event to you, I advised you that this was hand-to-hand combat and not a sport. Our original contracts with the fighters warned them that they faced “….risks and rigors not normally associated with traditional martial arts, boxing or kickboxing events”.
(Page 2, Section 4; Risks of Injury and Medical Clearances).
SEG Sports, your company, advertised the earliest tournaments as “….the bloodiest, most barbaric show in history”. You and I knew what we were doing. It was only when politicians and cable TV industry executives began to oppose us, that a decision was made by you to resell the UFC (hand-to-hand fighting) as a “sport”. I supported you, at that time, to
protect your franchise.
To continue now to promote these spectacles is risky at best. At the very least, you run the risk of being labeled a hypocrite or a fool and at worst, some young man will eventually die before your very eyes. Are you prepared for that?
I am, as we both know, no longer associated with the UFC and have returned
to the traditional martial arts. I am going to promote athletic contests that are acceptable to the States that regulate them. Twelve States have outlawed the UFC….and now a young man has died tragically. This is a wake-up call….I strongly urge you, as your friend, to reconsider your
decision to promote the UFC.
cc: Senator John McCain
Fans were immediately outraged by this letter as it made its rounds on the internet. Davie was dubbed “The Ultimate Judas” and lambasted as being a guy so jealous over his termination he wanted to kill the company. Davie gave interviews to anyone who would listen bashing the UFC and calling for a universal ban on “No Holds Barred” fighting. But by this time the UFC’s popularity was so depleted that the mainstream media ignored both Dedge’s death and Davie’s crusade for the most part.
Davie then felt he needed to explain himself to MMA fans, so he sent a letter to TapOut’s website explaining himself further:
When I received a call from Anne Hartmeyer, of Fox TV News in New York, telling me about the sad events in the Ukraine, I was in a state of shock. …It’s an understatement to say I was upset.
The biggest single misconception we’ve used to defend ourselves from opponents of NHB was that it was “safer”. I was never under the grip of such a delusion. I remember when Rorion Gracie, my partner at WOW Promotions, went to Chuck Norris’ house to ask Chuck to be ringside at the first event, maybe even commentate. Chuck’s response: “Is this legal? I don’t want to be involved with anything that isn’t legal!”
I am telling you that any time you put two men in a cage with the only rules being no eye gouging and no biting, it’s not a sport. It’s a fight! And a gut-wrenching and eye-filling spectacle! It is no mystery that SEG, after the firestorm of criticism became a backlash, backed off the spectacle angle and started to push the UFC as a “sport”. We all know that gloves (and consequentially more frequent and harder punches) came with these “improvements”. And, with these attempts to repackage the tournaments, there grew the myth that it was “safer”. How ironic and how sad, because after the March 18 Ukraine tragedy, that myth should now be exposed for all of us to see. The hard truth is that there have only been a few hundred NHB bouts since UFC 1 and with time and more fights, there will be more deaths. Do not be deluded…. This is at the heart of my recent interview on Fox and the subsequent letter
I wrote to my friend Bob Meyrowitz at SEG. It is hypocritical of all of us to deny that there are very real dangers in this type of competition and its a mistake to attempt to continue business as usual in light of Patricia Dedge’s loss. Bob (Meyrowitz) called me the day after my interview aired to congratulate me on my new role with K-1 and to discuss the interview with me. I told him that it wasn’t meant as a criticism of the UFC, but was an attempt to speak truthfully and not hypocritically of the competitions we love.
He disagreed with the points I’ve written about and denied that the UFC was ever conceived as a spectacle. When I wanted to load a tournament in 1996 with 8 sharks (the longer we were in business, the more the good fighters were willing to come out for the higher purses), SEG wanted gimmicks like the “David vs Goliath” tournament…sharks vs goldfish! I was told to put in an overweight, inexperienced fighter, who was of a certain ethnic background that SEG wanted more of on the PPV broadcast, into a tournament where he was seriously overmatched. It’s this type of thinking that must now be looked at critically in light of Dedge’s death.
These are the real issues from the past which are still with us in NHB. How many less experienced promoters have done a poor job of copying the basic UFC formula and endangering fighters? As many know, I’ve moved back to the more traditional martial arts which have an underlying philosophy of honor, respect and widespread acceptance. I believe that NHB acceptance is not going to happen in North America any time soon for the following reasons:
A) The barroom image these fights create in many people’s minds
B) The misconception or myth that NHB is not really dangerous…a fact that NHB’s critics will use to crucify this type of event.
C) Too many powerful establishment enemies.
D) Not enough fans since cable TV has dropped the UFC in half of the U.S.
E) Too many show people….and not enough fight people in key positions in NHB promotion.
Lastly, let me say thank you to the many fans who’ve supported me and NHB. I may not agree with everything you say, but you have every right to your opinions. And, as the man who discovered NHB and booked Royce, Ken, Dan, Kimo and even Tank (I gave him that name) into some of the wildest fights ever seen anywhere, I have a right to my opinions also.
P.S. Assuming it checks out as legit (someone please let me know what you find out), we should all donate to: Patricia Dedge Trust Fund [Address Deleted]
Obviously that egotistical letter was ripped to shreds by fans and Davie began to fade into obscurity as his stint with K-1 America went nowhere. As you all know the UFC continued to hemorrhage money based on a satellite pay-per-view system and home video sales. Unfortunately SEG was so broke they couldn’t even afford to release home videos anymore, so UFC’s 23 through 30 have never seen the light of day following their pay-per-view broadcasts. And SEG ended up selling the UFC to Zuffa, a group who actually knew how to handle a mixed martial arts company, and they took it to the heights they are at today.
But a funny thing happened along the way. Suddenly Art Davie is proud of his tenure with the UFC. Davie proudly discussed his role in the UFC’s creation in the great Real Fighter Magazine article on the 15th anniversary of UFC 1. Rorion also left the company around the same time due to a dispute on how the Gracie Family was treated by SEG. And history has pretty much erased both of their accomplishments, with Bob Meyrowitz getting all of the credit for the SEG days and Dana White taking credit both due and undue for advancing the sport. Davie now runs a multimedia company called Davie Communications, and prominently features his UFC past on his resume. Interesting.