Power Ranking the Top 10 Pre-Zuffa UFC Fighters
Although the UFC has only been around since 1993, it has undergone some major changes since its early days.
Before Anderson Silva became the top fighter in the world, before Jon Jones became one of the most talked-about fighters in the world and before Dana White and Zuffa became the owners to the now powerhouse organization, the UFC was a tournament where fighters of different martial arts disciplines fought to see who was the best.
Although the UFC would soon move out of the tournament style, it was still a much different product than what we're used to seeing today.
As much as the UFC and MMA as a whole have changed, we should not forget its early fighters because they laid out the groundwork for what it has become today.
Here's a look at the top 10 fighters from the pre-Zuffa UFC.
No. 10: Vitor Belfort
Whenever Vitor Belfort is in a fight today, you often hear about the old Vitor.
The old Vitor was the 19-year-old kid who came to the UFC in 1997.
Then a heavyweight, Belfort won the UFC 12 tournament. Belfort's two fights ran a total of two minutes.
Belfort would go on to beat Tank Abbott and Wanderlei Silva, both in under a minute.
The old Vitor was 5-1 in the pre-Zuffa UFC.
Although Belfort still has some quick hands and is a pretty decent fighter, he does not have the same aura that he once had.
No. 9: Mark Kerr
Mark Kerr is a guy who doesn't get a lot of notice.
Kerr may have finished his career with a 15-11(1) record, but he was one of the best fighters in the pre-Zuffa UFC.
Kerr came to the UFC with a 3-0 record in 1997. By the time he left the organization, he was 7-0 and won two straight UFC tournaments.
Kerr went on to Pride where he started out well, but did not achieve the same success he had in the UFC.
Although Kerr didn't finish his career off strong, he had one of the best starts in MMA history.
No. 8: Don Frye
Don Frye was one bad dude.
Frye went 9-1 in his UFC career, won two UFC tournaments and had one of the most intimidating mustaches while doing it.
Frye won all of his UFC fights by knockout or submission.
His lone loss came to Mark Coleman.
Frye is one of those badass guys that you just don't want to mess with. It's an injustice that he's not in the UFC Hall of Fame.
No. 7: Dan Severn
Another fighter who is known for his mustache and being an absolute badass, Dan Severn was one of the top fighters in the UFC's early days.
Severn used his wrestling to smother opponents and get them into submissions.
Severn with 9-2 in his first 11 fights and won the UFC 5 and Ultimate Ultimate tournament in 1995.
In 1996, Severn beat Ken Shamrock to earn the UFC Superfight championship.
Although he's not fighting on a major level today, Severn is still fighting and winning MMA fights.
No. 6: Mark Coleman
What Royce Gracie was to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Mark Coleman was to ground-and-pound.
Coleman is not only credited as "The Godfather of Ground-and-Pound," he's also the first man to capture the UFC heavyweight championship.
1996 was the year of Mark Coleman as he won two straight UFC tournaments and had wins over Gary Goodridge and Don Frye.
Although Coleman didn't have the same success in the UFC after winning the title and left for Pride in 1999, his dominance should still be remembered.
No. 5: Ken Shamrock
Ken Shamrock wasn't always the best fighter in the early years of the UFC, but he was perhaps the early face of the company.
Although Shamrock came up short in the early UFC tournaments, he became the first UFC title-holder when he won the Superfight Championship.
Shamrock had high-profile showdowns with Royce Gracie, Dan Severn and Kimo Leopoldo.
Shamrock may not have had a great Zuffa UFC career, but he was without a doubt one of the most important figures in the sport during the early days.
No. 4 Pat Miletich
Before there were Georges St-Pierre and Matt Hughes, there was Pat Miletich.
Miletich entered the UFC in 1998, where he would go on to win the UFC 16 lightweight tournament.
Later that year Miletich would win the UFC welterweight championship.
Miletich held the title until 2001, when he lost it to Carlos Newton.
Miletich was one of the first long-reigning title-holders in the UFC. Although he had a few more MMA fights, his biggest accomplishment since losing the title is perhaps training other well-known fighters.
Among the fighters Miletich has helped train are Tim Sylvia, Jeremy Horn and Matt Hughes.
No. 3: Frank Shamrock
Frank Shamrock was the man in the early days of the UFC.
Shamrock won the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC Japan in December of 1997.
Shamrock defended the title four times including a matchup against a young Tito Ortiz.
After only five UFC fights, Shamrock retired from MMA, claiming there wasn't enough competition.
Although he would return to the sport, you have to wonder how long he would have held on to the title had he not retired.
No. 2: Randy Couture
Randy Couture was one of the most durable fighters in UFC history.
Couture made his UFC debut at UFC 13, where he won the heavyweight tournament.
Couture then met Vitor Belfort at UFC 15 in a title eliminator fight.
Although Couture went back and forth between light heavyweight and heavyweight during his Zuffa years,he was a clear-cut heavyweight before then.
Couture won the UFC heavyweight title twice and had a perfect 5-0 record in the pre-Zuffa UFC.
No. 1: Royce Gracie
There's no surprise who's No. 1 of the pre-Zuffa fighters.
Royce Gracie was the UFC in its beginning.
Gracie won three of the first four UFC tournaments and was a perfect 11-0 before facing Ken Shamrock in a 1995 Superfight.
Gracie changed the fight game thanks to Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
If Gracie had not been as dominant as he was in the early years of the UFC, there's no telling where jiu-jitsu, the UFC or MMA as a whole would be today.