The Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG) era played a crucial role in laying the foundation for what the UFC has become today. SEG produced the inaugural event in conjunction with WOW Promotions. The original ownership created a product that quickly made them a serious player in combat sports. Their tournament format of matching fighters from multiple disciplines against one another made them a success.
Fighters wanted to prove that their respective backgrounds were the most effective and they finally had the platform to prove it. The champions and tournament winners during the promotion’s early years became MMA pioneers and earned their place in history. Although there were many big fights, the promotion missed out on many lucrative matchups largely in part due to financial constraints.
SEG couldn’t afford to pay their fighters once they gained popularity. This resulted in fighters like Ken and Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture, and Jens Pulver leaving the promotion for more lucrative offers. In 2001, Zuffa purchased the promotion and they eventually became the top MMA organization in the world. This list will look at five SEG era UFC fights that never happened.
#5. UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock vs. Tank Abbott
Ken Shamrock vs. Tank Abbott remains a missed opportunity during the UFC’s SEG era. The two MMA pioneers were set to clash in the semifinals of the Ultimate Ultimate 1996 tournament. However, Shamrock was forced to withdraw after breaking his hand during his submission win over Brian Johnston in the quarterfinals.
The fight never came to fruition as ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ left the promotion and joined WWE after the event. Despite not taking place in the tournament, SEG could’ve benefited had they made a strong push to reschedule the fight.
The promotion could have generated plenty of interest had they booked it in a main event as Shamrock’s final fight. At the time, he was one of the most popular fighters and one of the top pound-for-pound athletes in the sport. Abbott’s knockout power and ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’s submission skills would have made for an intriguing bout.
#4. Vitor Belfort vs. Mark Coleman – UFC heavyweight championship
It’s surprising that Vitor Belfort never got an immediate title shot against UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman in 1997. ‘The Phenom’ had become the youngest fighter to win a tournament in the promotion.
What makes this even more surprising is that Coleman won the heavyweight championship on the same night as Belfort’s tournament win. ‘The Hammer’ defeated superfight champion Dan Severn to become the inaugural heavyweight champion and unify the titles. The promotion booking a bout between the new champion and heavyweight tournament winner would've seemed like the logical thing to do.
Instead, Belfort fought Tank Abbott in the following event and Coleman defended his title against Maurice Smith in July 1997. Based on the events that followed, the heavyweight title bout wasn’t meant to be. ‘The Phenom’ lost a title eliminator to Randy Couture, while ‘The Hammer’ lost his heavyweight championship to Smith.
#3. UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz vs. UFC Hall of Famer Dan Henderson
A fight between former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz and Dan Henderson would’ve been fun to watch. In 1997, Ortiz was the runner-up of the lightweight tournament as an alternate at The Ultimate Force. Meanwhile, Henderson defeated Carlos Newton by split decision to win the middleweight tournament at Redemption in 1998.
‘Hendo’ and ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ would have matched up well. They both had great wrestling backgrounds and were well rounded fighters. Henderson would’ve had the edge in the striking as he had the powerful overhand-right later referred to as the ‘H-Bomb.’
The fight didn’t end up happening, though. ‘Hendo’ left the promotion after winning the tournament and would make a name for himself in PRIDE FC. If he stayed, he likely would have fought Ortiz and could have even challenged reigning light heavyweight champion Frank Shamrock.
#2) UFC Hall of Famer Don Frye vs. UFC Hall of Famer Bas Rutten
Despite competing in the same era, Don Frye and Bas Rutten’s paths never crossed in the UFC. Frye began his career in the promotion’s early years and won two out of the three tournaments he competed in. Rutten on the other hand, competed in the Japanese-based Pancrase promotion where he was the reigning King of Pancrase champion.
In 1997, ‘The Predator’ took a break from MMA in favor of a move to New Japan Pro Wrestling. Meanwhile, ‘El Guapo’ joined the promotion in 1999, so their paths never crossed in the cage. If Frye returned in 1999, he could’ve fought Rutten for the then vacant heavyweight championship.
Based on their respective fighting styles, a bout between the two could’ve gone down as a classic slugfest. ‘El Guapo’ would’ve had a slight advantage with his kicks and submissions, but ‘The Predator’ proved to be a tough fighter to put away throughout his career.
#1) UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell vs. Frank Shamrock
UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell and former light heavyweight champion Frank Shamrock could’ve been very lucrative for the promotion.
Shamrock trained out of his brother Ken’s famous ‘Lion’s Den’ and quickly became one of the top fighters in the sport. He represented a new era of fighters as he was well-rounded in all aspects of MMA. Liddell was also important as he eventually became a mainstream star that helped propel the promotion to new heights on pay-per-view.
‘The Iceman’ and Shamrock joined the promotion a few months apart, but the ‘Lion’s Den’ member was much more experienced. He became the inaugural light heavyweight champion and had four title defenses. However, Shamrock vacated the title and left the promotion after defeating Tito Ortiz, so a bout with Liddell never happened. ‘The Iceman’ had an impressive start to his career and a title fight with Shamrock could have eventually taken place.