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UFC 1's Kevin Rosier passes away from apparent heart attack at 53

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One of the first men to set foot in a cage to participate in no holds barred combat has passed away in Florida.

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There are a number of stark reminders as to just how young the sport of MMA really is. One of those is the fact of just how many early MMA fighters are still alive and with us. Guys who stepped into the cage before anyone had a clear idea of what modern MMA would look like are still around to tell the tale of the origins of the sport. One of those early pioneers of the sport passed away this week, as MMA Fighting reports that Kevin Rosier died following a severe heart attack. Rosier was only 53 years old.

A military veteran, Rosier spent much of his early years living with aunts and uncles in upstate New York. He learned boxing and karate at the local Boys & Girls Club in East Aurora, earning his black belt from Sensei William James Gallant. Much of Rosier's career as a fighter was spent taking smokers in clubs and gambling houses around the world, and serving as a bodyguard to a number of celebrities and entertainers (apparently including Rick James and Billy Idol). Art Davie spoke to MMA Fighting about Rosier's time in the UFC:

"He was the hailest and happiest guy at the [UFC 1 after] party," Davie said. "He was so proud that he had won that first bout."
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"That's my memory of Kevin -- a big, lovable lug who had a heart as big as he was," Davie said.

Suffering from longtime health problems, and the complications of a lifetime spent in combat sports, Rosier spent the last several years of his life living at the Manor at Steeplechase retirement home, down in Florida. During his career in the ring, Rosier won several heavyweight kickboxing titles across the US, eventually he would claim a record of 66-8 in the sport, as well as less impressive MMA and pro-boxing stints.

Still the time he's best remembered for is his appearance in the first ever UFC tournament, UFC 1, back in Denver, Colorado in 1993. Rosier fought in the second televised bout on the card, stomping out Zane Frazier to move on to the second round, where he would lose to Gerard Gordeau. Still, it was a big personal win for Rosier, who came in way out of shape from his kickboxing prime and had hardly trained for the event at all.

Rosier got another shot, at UFC 4, a loss to Joe Charles. His last fight came in the boxing ring, in 2001. Rosier may not have left a large mark on the MMA landscape, but he was an undeniable part of the fascinating, strange, and violent landscape of early no holds barred fighting.