Here I will try to describe early days of MMA by using some numbers and rankings. Most of the rankings will be on a quarterly basis (quarter-end rankings).
First question is where should we start? What should be our first quarter?
Last quarter of 1993 (2013Q4 = from 1993-10-01 to 1993-12-31) is widely considered to be the beginning of organized, promotion based MMA. That is when UFC 1 happened and when Pancrase had 3 of their initial events (second to forth).
Let's first review the situation in MMA before that 1993 Q4 quarter.
In 1980's we had some isolated vale tudo events in Brazil, followed by the Japanese shoot-style wrestling shows.
The only MMA organization that had regular events, championship belts and even weight categories, was Shooto.
Shooto was originally formed in 1985, as an organization and as a fighting system derived from shoot wrestling.
On September 21, 1993, Pancrase promoted their first event in Tokyo. First UFC event was still in the planning phase.
Here is top 20 P4P ranking for 1993 Q3 quarter-end (ranking on Oct 1, 1993 - includes all fights prior to that date):
Since Shooto was the only promotion with multiple events (they had 24 events in period 1989 - 1993), most of the fighters on this list were in Shooto. And most of them are of course, from Japan.
Shooto had fighters from 135 lb to 205 lb. But, for our ranking purpose, we divided all fighters into lightweight (below 170) and heavyweight (above 170). This weight division was done for all fighters in open-weight era.
Here is the top 10 for heavyweight (above 170) and lightweight (below 170).
- Kenji Kawaguchi was undefeated MW Shooto champion.
- Noboru Asahi was Shooto FW champion.
- Erik Paulson and Ken Shamrock where only Americans on top 10. Both of them had just one official MMA fight.
- Rickson Gracie was not on the list because he had no recent fights (no official fights since 1984).
As I mentioned before, all fighters in open-weight era (1993 - 1996) were divided into two weight categories:
- heavyweight (above 170)
- lightweight (below 170)
In 1993/1994, each of those two divisions had less than 40 fighters that were ranked by ScoreCardMMA. Other Weight Categories were introduced gradually as more fighters were added.
Following graph shows when each division was introduced and how many ranked fighters we had for each division.
Now we will review 1993 Q4
Shooto is still the top MMA Promotion, but only because Pancrase and UFC just started. They no longer have top P4P fighter, but they dominate lightweight division.
This is MMA Promotion ranking based on PromoScore:
rnk. Promotion (PromoScore) - Event1Yr : Event1Qr
1. Shooto (383) - 5 : 1
2. Pancrase (351) - 4 : 3
3. UFC (314) - 1 : 1
In this quarter, Ken Shamrock was the only fighter that was fighting in both Pancrase (2 events) and UFC. Soon, he will be followed by Jason Delucia and Remco Pardoel. After that we will have many top fighters alternating between Pancrase and UFC.
This is P4P ranking on 1/1/1994 (1993 Q4 end ranking):
Top 3 fighters:
- Royce Gracie proved the supremacy of Gracie Jiu Jitsu by quickly submitting 3 opponents in one night.
- Kawaguchi still has the best record, but didn't fight in 1993.
- Ken Shamrock submitted everybody not named Royce Gracie (including Masakatsu Funaki).
Here is divisional ranking for 1993 Q4:
- Bas Rutten had 2 spectacular KO's. Yanagisawa was carried out of the ring and brought to the hospital where he spent 2 days recovering.
- Funaki was Pancrase co-founder and one of the best Japanese fighters ever.
- Maurice Smith KO'd other Pancrase co-founder.
- Noboru Asahi extended his winning streak, but it was a non-title bout.
- Oleg Taktarov won a 3-day, 8 man tournament. All of them were unknowns.
At this time there were only a few country with professional MMA fighters.
Here is the top 5 Country ranking:
- Japan had the most active fighters.
- Brazil had the #1 P4P fighter.
- USA had several fighters that just recently started fighting.
- Netherlands had Bas Rutten and Gerard Gordeau.