The UFC has honored the first black UFC champion, Maurice Smith, for Black History Month.
As highlighted in the video that can be viewed on the UFC’s official website, Maurice Smith holds the distinction of being the first African-American UFC champion. Smith is also the first African-American to hold the title of the toughest man on the planet i.e. the UFC heavyweight title.
Maurice Smith is widely regarded as one of the first true striking specialists who competed in the sport of MMA. The early stages of MMA saw some of the very best strikers in the world – top-tier combat sportspersons from boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, etc. – refrain from competing in MMA.
However, Maurice Smith was one of the few big names in kickboxing who took the risk of transitioning to professional MMA competition.
Some of his accomplishments in the striking-centric combat sports of kickboxing and Muay Thai were winning the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix Preliminary USA, International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) World Muay Thai Heavyweight Championship (1996), World Kickboxing Association (WKA) World Kickboxing Heavyweight Championship (1983), WKA World Muay Thai Heavyweight Championship (1994), and the WKC Light-Heavyweight World Championship (1983).
Furthermore, Maurice Smith also won the UFC heavyweight title. Smith faced and defeated MMA legend Mark Coleman via unanimous decision at UFC 14 on July 27th, 1997. Hailed by many as one of the best fights of the 1997 calendar year, this win signified a historic step forward for the African-American community in the sport of MMA as well as in combat sports as a whole.
The win etched Maurice Smith’s name in the history books as the first African-American to win a UFC championship and the coveted UFC heavyweight championship, the latter being regarded as one of the greatest prizes in the realm of combat sports.
Maurice Smith won the UFC heavyweight title, defended it, and left a lasting legacy for generations to come
The aftermath of his memorable win over Mark Coleman for the UFC heavyweight title witnessed Maurice Smith put the said title on the line against Tank Abbott. Their fight transpired at UFC 15 on October 17th, 1997. Smith defeated the always dangerous MMA legend Tank Abbott via submission through exhaustion.
Following this, Maurice Smith faced yet another MMA legend, Randy Couture, once again putting the UFC heavyweight title on the line. Smith fought Couture at UFC Japan on December 21st, 1997, and he lost the title to Couture via majority decision.
Maurice Smith was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2017. Smith is heralded among the true pioneers of MMA and is revered as a striking specialist who paved the way for other strikers into the sport of MMA.