One runs across discussions online from time to time where people claim that they could have won the early UFCs if they were allowed to use what they know today. In the best cases, such people have a black belt in BJJ. Or maybe they've even had an MMA fight. Most people, however, don't even have that level of experience. I think some of this Walter Mittyism owes its existence to the Gracies' conjuring trick with Royce. The Gracies sold so effectively the idea of this gangly, dorky looking guy beating huge opponents that people overlook some important facts about his run. Additional distortions appear because of the reflexive "new beats old" / "evolution" stuff. So I might as well write this quick list of considerations for those who harbor ambitions of hopping into a Tardis and time warping back to beat up those primitive screwheads in 1993 to 1995, or thereabouts. For simplicity's sake, I'll stick to the first few UFCs -- the ones that had Royce. How's your grappling? Royce had a black belt in BJJ. He'd trained with other really, really good BJJ people in his family since he was a kid. Now, there are arguments back and forth in these kinds of fantasy debates about whether BJJ has improved technically over time ("Royce would be a modern blue belt!") or, conversely, whether BJJ has departed from its combative roots. But we will leave the details of that debate aside; the point is that Gracie was a very experienced submission grappler compared to almost every hobbyist on the internet today. And don't even try to tell me that you'd be striking rather than grappling. The old guys understood striking pretty darn well, and the early UFCs contained a good smattering of competent ones. Orlando Wiet was a MT and kickboxing champion at a reasonably high level. Gordeau was also pretty good. There were also at least 2 boxers at a highish-journeyman level who competed in the first four events. Melton Bowen, the second one, was close to outpunching his adversary from his back. You ain't outslugging the best strikers in this competition. Mind you, even a grappling background is no guarantee of success. Leininger was a recent US Judo Olympic team alternate who entered an early UFC. He just got ground down and eliminated by Shamrock in the first bracket round. Remco Pardoel also had legit credentials in judo and jiujitsu (of some sort) in Holland. Again, he was less than successful. Have a blackbelt, or close to it, in BJJ? Great. We aren't done yet. Read on. Do you have enough size and strength? Royce wasn't a small man. He was smaller and ganglier than most of the other competitors, but the guy was still well north of 170 pounds, and reasonably tall. Remember how BJJ didn't help Wallid Ismail get very far in the earlier UFCs? Again, in part because he was a small little guy. He beat Royce later in a grappling match, but he was no great shakes in old school MMA. You need to be able to grapple in sustained fights for a long time with huge guys who know how to fight reasonably well. Your opponents, incidentally, will not be tested for steroids. Even if you have a BJJ black belt, watch Royce's fight with Kimo and honestly ask yourself whether you could win that fight and match Kimo's strength and athleticism for long enough to submit him. And then remember that even though Royce won, he was too exhausted to continue. Which leads me to my next point. Can you fight multiple marathons in one night? So you're at least as big as Royce, and you have legit grappling credentials. How is your stamina and willingness to fight while injured? There are no time limits in some of the early UFCs. And you'll be expected to fight multiple times per night. And if, by some stroke of luck, one of your opponents has to bow out? Lucky you! Now you get to fight a fresh alternate instead. Again, Royce had to bow out of at least one competition due to exhaustion. There were others. Oh, and you'll probably be injured yourself, even if you're winning. By the end of UFC 1, Gerard Gordeau seems to have broken his hand, and also had sliced his foot on Teila Tuli's teeth (after smashing the latter's tooth out.) And Gordeau still fought in the finals against Royce. Every injury you get will stick with you. Do you mind being maimed to win? This is not an idle question. Pat Smith only stopped elbowing an unconscious Scott Morris because Smith CHOSE TO stop after noticing Morris was in bad shape. The ref technically had not been allowed to stop the fight. Smith could've kept going until Morris suffered brain damage or death, since Morris's corner wouldn't throw in the towel. Not to mention, you might get bitten or eye gouged. Gerard Gordeau, whom you would have faced if you'd competed in UFC 1, later eye gouged Yuki Nakai into half-blindness in a vale tudo match only a short time later. So. Are you willing to be permanently crippled to win? If so, let's keep going! How's your mental toughness and durability to strikes? Suffice it to say that you are going to end up getting punched hard, bareknuckled. Royce didn't manage to avoid it. Hackney and Gordeau had good enough primitive takedown defense that they can land on you when you're trying to take them down. And then there are guys whom you absolutely WILL NOT take down, period, who also would be happy to punch you standing. Ken Shamrock wasn't taken down by Leininger or Severn, and his preferred sport involved barehanded slaps, knees, and kicks with boots. Severn himself is also impossible to take down unless you're an elite wrestler yourself. He will also likely hit you if he chooses to keep it standing. And of course, everybody can try to punch you on the ground. So. You're going to get hit. Have you had striking bouts before, or is this your first exposure to getting punched/kicked? (If it's your first time, how do you know that you won't freeze up?) Take a look at the amount of grueling unpleasantness that Royce had to fight through in those early UFCs, and ask yourself whether you'd be willing to do that. But I'm well-rounded! Congrats. So were Macias, Minoki Ichihara, Roland Payne, Shamrock himself, and a few other guys who competed. Several of them were former HS wrestlers with training (and sometimes pro fights) in a striking combat sport like kickboxing. None of them won in the first four UFCs. How do you deal with fear and the unpredictable? Even knowing what happened back then, you're still going up against guys with styles you likely have never sparred against before. And the fighters' match brackets -- at least in UFC 1-- moved around in confusing ways. You're also going onto a huge stage, and getting locked into a cage with a roided up guy who's crazy enough to enter a competition like this. It would not be totally unexpected to choke in a situation like this if you haven't experienced it before. (Ettish certainly did.) How many quasi-streetfight NHB bouts with competent opponents have you had? Royce actually fought Gracie Challenge matches before UFC 1. Several other guys (Shamrock, Ichihara, and I believe others) fought proto MMA competitions. Many had had streetfights. And I do mean streetfights, because that's basically what the early UFCs were. At least in some of the early UFCs, they couldn't even DQ a guy for eye gouging you, or biting. They just fined the offender. Other nasty stuff (chin in eye, grabbing and crushing the testicles, widening an adversary's cuts during grappling by pulling them open, etc.) was arguably legal. Oh, and they could land striking combos to the testicles. See also the section on getting maimed. No problem! I'm a sociopathic, 200 pound BJJ blackbelt and ultramarathoner who could trick Shamrock and Severn into my guard. I've had numerous streetfights against other martial artists. I don't value my eyesight. Is there anything else I should consider before hopping into the time machine? Probably. But I'm getting kind of tired now, and nothing is immediately coming to mind. Give me time and I'll probably update this post. In the meantime, have a nice trip. And don't say I didn't warn you.