UFC 8 was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on February 16, 1996, after a last-minute banning in New York state (a banning that continues today). This was one of the most troubled times in MMA's history, culminating in an all-out assault by Senator John McCain, who coined the now infamous phrase “human cockfighting” to describe the fledgling sport.
But UFC 8 was actually a showcase of the sport's maturation. The early specialist-versus-specialist days were dying; the announcers at the event were noting that a well-rounded knowledge of both striking and grappling was essential to success. This card was also full of important newcomers. “The Predator” Don Frye fought his inaugural MMA fights that night, winning the entire tournament by utilizing both his boxing and wrestling skills. But the most memorable debut was that of a Canadian arm wrestling champ named Gary Goodridge. In the 90-degree Puerto Rican heat, he wore a full gi and started his 50-fight career by delivering one of the most vicious knockouts in the sport's history.
Goodridge met Paul Herrera in the opening round of the tournament that night. The fight started with the grappler Herrera shooting in for a takedown. Goodridge sprawled and immediately transitioned Herrera's single-leg/fireman’s carry attempt into a crucifix. With both of Herrera's arms trapped, Goodridge landed eight consecutive elbows to his head, knocking the wrestler unconscious before "Big" John McCarthy was able to separate them. In his 2011 memoir Let’s Get It On, McCarthy would admit that he “wasn’t near enough when Goodridge started dropping heavy elbows, and I was slow to react. I’d never do that again.”
This knockout remains a staple of YouTube compilations and represents a transition in the history of combat sports. Visually, it is an amalgam of eastern and western fighting styles: A wrestler is outgrappled by a boxer and then KO'd by strikes on the ground. The speed with which it all went down was emblematic of the idea that "anything could happen" in MMA. And even today, the violence of the KO gives pause to even the most diehard fan; it reminds us of the risk that every fighter agrees to when he or she steps into a cage.
The play-by-play here showcases just how shocking, violent, and captivating Goodridge's KO was, stunning two of the three announcers into momentary silence.
Announcer: "Oh my!"
Announcer: "Elbows in number by Goodridge!"
Announcer: "We're seeing some effective striking from the ground now."
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