5 similarities between UFC 1 and martial arts movie Bloodsport

Royce Gracie after becoming The Ultimate Fighter (left) and Bloodsport poster (right - via Twitter @LandOfThe80s)
Royce Gracie after becoming The Ultimate Fighter (left) and Bloodsport poster (right - via Twitter @LandOfThe80s)

The first-ever UFC event revolutionized combat sports. It provided a venue to determine who the best overall fighter was by allowing individuals with various martial arts backgrounds to compete against each other.

It was a successful event that eventually led to the promotion being considered the epitome of combat sports. The event saw an underdog story of sorts when Royce Gracie defeated larger opponents to become the first ever ultimate fighting champion. He demonstrated that Gracie jiu-jitsu was effective regardless of the size of his opponent.

It is also important to note that there were many elements at the event that were similar to the film Bloodsport. The film was released in 1988 and starred Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme. It was significant for Van Damme as it led to him becoming a household name in Hollywood and a popular action hero. After watching the inaugural event and Bloodsport, the similarities become increasingly apparent. This list will look at five similarities between UFC 1 and the film Bloodsport.

#5. Multiple fighting styles represented at UFC 1

Royce Gracie at UFC 1
Royce Gracie at UFC 1

What made the inaugural UFC event unique was that it introduced MMA to a North American audience. The sport was already in its preliminary stages in Japan through promotions like Pancrase. But now, the North American audience were going to find out how effective each fighting style was in actual competition.

There were numerous fighting styles represented at the event. Among those featured included jiu-jitsu, shoot fighting, karate, sumo wrestling, boxing, and kickboxing. Looking back, Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock were the best overall fighters as they were both well-versed in submissions. In Shamrock's case, he was capable of setting up takedowns with his striking.

Below is a clip from the movie Bloodsport showing various competitors training in their original martial arts form:


It shared similarities with Bloodsport as fighters from many different martial arts backgrounds were featured and highlighted in the film. The montage showcased each fighter's own unique preparations for Kumite, a mixed martial arts competition in the movie.

#4) No weight restrictions

In honor of the anniversary of UFC 1

One of the biggest differences between the early years of the UFC and the modern era is that all fights were openweight.

The very first fight of the event set the tone for what viewers could expect. Sumo wrestler Teila Tui matched up with former karate champion Gerard Gourdeau. The result was shocking as Gourdeau dropped Tui with punches and followed up with a vicious head kick. The fight proved that anything could happen and that MMA was unpredictable.

In Bloodsport, a similar matchup is shown between Pumola and Morra. The size advantage was apparent, but the outcome was much different than Gourdeau vs. Tui as the larger fighter wins in the film. The fight scene shows Morra circling and avoiding the larger opponent before landing strikes. However, he eventually gets caught by Pumola, who wins the fight shortly after.

#3) UFC events were considered illegal in most states

UFC 1: Origins From the producers of The Last Dance Here’s the trailer:

Although they're currently a global brand, the UFC wasn't always welcome in other markets throughout the years. The sport of MMA as a whole was viewed in a negative light.

Prior to the commissions and viewers getting familiar with what was happening in fights, the promotion had difficulties legalizing the sport. It wasn't viewed or celebrated like boxing, which led to a stigma placed on it. There hadn't been an event before, so participants vying to be the ultimate fighter likely made matters worse. Years later, there were many other hurdles the promotion and the sport as a whole needed to get through to be accepted as a legitimized sporting event. Fortunately, commissions eventually came around, and MMA became recognized and respected worldwide.

The Kumite was a secret underground martial arts tournament, which is essentially the biggest similarity. Throughout the film, there are scenes that show how the location of the tournament helps it remain a secret. It was even a secret to the point where reporters were banned, which made it difficult to document what took place.

#2) UFC 1 was promoted as no holds barred fighting

Fighters without gloves at UFC 1: The Beginning
Fighters without gloves at UFC 1: The Beginning

The UFC separated themselves from other combat sports in their first event. The one-night ultimate fighting tournament was billed as "no-holds barred combat" on the broadcast. There weren't any judges' scorecards or time constraints, and the only way to win was by knockout, submission, or corner stoppage.

The fights were bare-knuckle, which is the complete opposite of what it has developed into. There also weren't many restrictions to the fighters' attire. Gracie was allowed to wear his Gi, which could be viewed as an advantage.


In Bloodsport, the referee was present to ensure the fight was stopped when the competitor was unable to continue. Obviously, the first ultimate fighting event or any other event following it didn't have the extremes of throwing substances to blind an opponent. But all things considered, the Kumite was a similar no-holds barred tournament.

#1) Royce Gracie honoring Gracie jiu-jitsu at UFC 1

Royce Gracie at UFC 1: The Beginning
Royce Gracie at UFC 1: The Beginning

UFC 1 saw the emergence of Royce Gracie and cemented his legacy as an MMA legend. The jiu-jitsu specialist won the tournament after defeating much larger opponents.

Gracie proved that his family's jiu-jitsu was the most effective form of martial arts and that size was never an advantage. It was a significant moment in his career as he became synonymous with the promotion. Based on what transpired, he proved that a smaller fighter could be successful in an openweight tournament, which generated interest in future events.


The results of the tournament indirectly share a similarity to the plot of Bloodsport. The reason Frank Dux entered the Kumite to begin with was to honor his Sensei, Senzo Tanaka, who lost his son at a previous Kumite tournament. He had an affection towards Dux and treated him like his own son by teaching him ninjitsu. Dux demonstrates skills such as the Dim Mak and honors the Tanaka family when he ultimately wins the Kumite.

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Edited by Allan Mathew
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