Last weekend, former UFC heavyweight champion Maurice Smith was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame in the ‘Pioneers’ wing and was presented during the ceremony as the person responsible for “changing the game”. More precisely, the American is said to be the one who truly established the “Mixed” in Mixed Martial Arts by becoming a capable fighter both on the ground and on the feet. However, his induction into the Hall of Fame generated controversy with some.
Another pioneer known for putting it all together when no one else did is Marco Ruas. The Brazilian known as the “Father of MMA” is said to be the first fighter to apply multiple disciplines simultaneously in old-fashioned competitions back in the 80’s in Brazil. Such technical competence led to him beating three opponents on one night to win the UFC 7 tournament. That was almost two years before Smith stepped into the octagon for the first time.
“It’s just a fight [that made the difference]”, Smith told AG. Fight after his Hall of Fame induction. “I met Marco Ruas before he fought Paul Varelans and he’s a very nice guy. He used kicks to win. The difference is that my fight was for a belt. I think that if Paul had been a champion, [Ruas] would have been awarded just as I have been.”
The fight that he refers to took place at UFC 14 in September 1997 when Smith defeated the then-undefeated Mark Coleman to become the league’s heavyweight champion. With the victory, Smith also became an icon of the sport, gained visibility in the public and helped accelerate the process of turning Mixed Martial Arts into what it is today.
“In theory, [Ruas] has a better record than me in the UFC”, Smith, who beat Ruas twice, acknowledged. “He has four wins and two losses and I have four wins and three losses, but unfortunately – that’s just my opinion –, he hasn’t fought top guys like I have […]. I was a champion at Extreme Fighting and I fought [the UFC] champion. I think it was just that one fight [that made the difference].”