Less than three weeks after 9/11, the UFC held a show in Las Vegas that was notable for a few reasons. First, the card marked the organization’s first time setting up shop in Sin City. It also featured stars like Matt Serra, Jens Pulver, Tito Ortiz, and Chuck Liddell. However, what many fans most likely remember about UFC 33 was the PPV feed cutting out after a number of decisions forced things to run long. To this day UFC President Dana White refers to UFC 33 as the worst event in promotional history. It was far from PRIDE’s biggest show of the era, but the September 24 offering still featured some worthwhile moments. Heavyweights headlined the affair with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira submitting Mark Coleman in the evening’s main event. Other bouts offered included a closely-contested tilt between Ricardo Arona-Guy Mezger as well as Gilbert Yvel being thrown out for gouging Don Frye’s eyes. While the MMA world certainly hadn’t forgotten 9/11 so soon after the wake, PRIDE 16 at least gave countless fans a brief respite from constant news on the tragedy. 2001 was an important year in the life of Hall of Fame fighter Randy Couture, particularly in regards to his two tussles with Pedro Rizzo. Couture was only 9-3 when he first crossed paths with Rizzo, defending his recently won heavyweight belt successfully by picking up a decision nod. He then followed it up in November by stopping Rizzo with strikes. There was a solid chunk of time where fans dreamed of the possibility of fighters bouncing back and forth between PRIDE and the UFC. However, concerns about cross-promotion didn’t always exist, as former UFC light heavyweight king Chuck Liddell proved in 2011. “The Iceman” knocked out Kevin Randleman on May 4 at UFC 31, then stopped Guy Mezger with strikes less than a month later under the PRIDE banner. In September 2001, a significant number of today’s superstars were children or teenagers. Some stand-outs in the bunch include Jon Jones (14), Jose Aldo (15), Junior dos Santos (16), Rory MacDonald (12), Ronda Rousey (14), and Anthony Pettis (14). Also interesting, Dos Santos’ birthday is on 9/12, while Aldo’s is on 9/9.
Nearly everyone over the age of 25 remembers exactly where they were twelve years ago on September 11, 2001 when hijacked passenger planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania in what ultimately marked the worst terrorist attack in American history. Since then society has changed in countless ways, some positive and others not so much. Rather than focus on the bleaker side of the story, it’s time to instead take a glimpse at the world of MMA from that time and see how different the world looked back then in that regard instead. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images)