Fighters who turned down the first UFC

Fighters who said no to the first UFC.

As booker and matchmaker for the first UFC, Art Davie went after everyone he thought the show could afford for the first UFC tournament. Searching for wrestlers, Art called on the great Olympic wrestler and coach, Dan Gable. For professional boxers, Davie called the Kronk Gym in Detroit and Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia (this is where he found cutman Leon Tabbs). He are just a few of the great combat athletes who turned Davie down for the first UFC:

Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez - Kick Boxing LegendThe legendary kickboxer, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez had a history with Rorion Gracie. When Davie called on him to join the tournament, he passed, saying, “these guys are amateurs. I’ve already proved myself.”

Dennis Alexio Champion Kick BoxerDennis Alexio played Jean-Claude Van Damme’s brother in Kickboxer. He was also arguably the world’s best heavyweight kickboxer in 1993. He blew Art off the phone in less than 5 minutes. No sale.

Bart Vale - Shootfighting pioneer



6’3″ 250lb. Bart Vale had made a reputation as a “shootfighter” in Japan. The Miami based athlete didn’t even break a sweat saying, ‘NO’ when Art Davie called him. Kathy Kidd, after leaving the UFC, was able to recruit big Bart into the World Combat Championship in October 1995 where he won one bout and retired with an injury.

Herb Perez  - Olympic Gold Medalist in Taekwondo - 1992 Olympics in BarcelonaDavie went after the Olympic gold medalist (1992) for taekwondo, Herb Perez. The young star was even offered  an “appearance fee”. He passed. You can read about why Art Davie thought he wasn’t able to fight in IS THIS LEGAL? the inside story of the first UFC from the man who created it.


Alberto Cerro Leon - the Murid of Penjak SilatAlberto Cerro Leon was the first European to win the World Penjak Silat Championship in Jakarta, attaining the title of “Murid.” He was built like Mike Tyson and looked like a rugged Antonio Banderas. No matter how Davie tried in the W.O.W. office to convince him he passed on the first UFC, but Art did get him into UFC2 where big judoka Remco Pardoel crushed him.

Many were called, but not everybody came to the party. But, as the UFC became a hit, Davie was even able to get Olympic gold medalists like Mark Schultz and Kevin Jackson into UFC events.