Memories of “Ultimate Fighting Champion”

1996 was the year Senator John McCain infamously called mixed martial arts “human cockfighting” when he tried to ban the sport in all 50 states before the U.S. really took off

UFC 1 took place three years ago on November 12, 1993, marking the birth of MMA, and from the very beginning people were curious about what this “ultimate fight” was. No weight classes, no gloves or uniforms, basically no rules. It’s not approved in every state. It’s not even called mixed martial arts yet.

Meanwhile, also in 1996, “Friends” successfully concluded its second season on NBC on the eve of the summer.The show, starring Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, has become the third prime-time viewer high drama (then a lot of people who watch regular TV) are only behind first place “ER” and second place “Seinfeld”.

Of course, being on a show like “Friends” would be huge exposure for the sport, especially the UFC. But why was that so? What does a sitcom about six young men living in New York City have in common with the brutal battle that takes place inside the Octagon?

Not the same thing.

However, the creative team behind Friends came up with an idea for Monica (Cox), who has a boyfriend, Pete (Jon Favreau), who dreams of being the ultimate warrior. They even named the UFC storyline the title of the penultimate season’s third episode, “With the Ultimate Fighting Champion,” which premiered 25 years ago this month on May 8, 1997.

Considering McCain’s crusade against MMA a year ago and his “human cockfighting” rhetoric, John McCarthy couldn’t believe the chance of a “friend”-UFC crossover in some way, when he was invited to appear on the show, Somehow it came up.

“Honestly, I was like, ‘You must be kidding,'” McCarthy told MMA Junkie recently. “‘They want to put us on ‘Friends’?”

Jon Favreau, Courney Cox and David Schwimmer in “Friends.”

In addition to McCarthy, famed announcer Bruce Buffer, former boxer Tank Abbott, and eventual UFC champion and Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz all made appearances in their own right.

The episode opens with Monica meeting all her friends at the Central Perk Cafe, sharing her disappointment that Pete didn’t propose to her as she had hoped. Instead, what happened?

“He wanted to tell me he was going to be in some Ultimate Fighting competition,” Monica said. Guys can’t believe it. The girls had never heard of it, so they asked Monica, who described MMA as “kind of like wrestling, but without the costumes.” She was clearly referring to professional wrestling.

Joey (LeBlanc) echoed “it’s not fake” and “totally cruel”. Chandler (Perry) noted that Ultimate Fighting is “two people in the ring and the rules are… [pauses for dramatic effect] …there are no rules. Ross (Schwimmer) added, “Anything but gouging and fishing. Hearing this worried Monica, so she visited Pete in training to express her concerns, but Pete assured her that he would be careful in the upcoming fight.

Monica and Rose were in Pitt’s game against Abbott, and the buffer zone announced their introduction, with “Big” John serving as the referee. When Pete and Abbott meet in the center, Abbott picks up Pete, runs him through the cage, and rams him against the fence. That’s what the fight scene is all about. Afterwards, Pete let Monica know that despite his butt kick, he wasn’t done trying to become the Ultimate Fighting Champion. So she broke up with him.

The fight scene lasted a full 2 ​​minutes, but filming took two days to complete. McCarthy and Buffer reminisce about an interesting shoot.

“They were trying to come up with different ideas where Jon Favreau would look feasible,” McCarthy said. “They wanted the tank to do certain things, and the tank was like, ‘I’m going to pick him up and put him through the damn cage. I’m going to slam him into the wall. Right? Jon Favreau would say, ‘I’m in my 200s (lbs). I don’t think you can pick me up. Tank picks him up and takes him around — so it’s been a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun.'”

Buffer added: “It’s really cool, we’re all tickled by the pink, and honored to be on the show.”

Read on to learn more about Buffer and McCarthy about other aspects of filming “Friends,” what that means to them and what it means to the UFC.

McCarthy did it his way

John McCarthy plays himself in Friends.

One thing McCarthy disagreed with was the original idea of ​​his clothing.

In the scene, “Big” John is wearing his original old-fashioned all-black referee uniform, but that wouldn’t be the case if he didn’t say it.

“They wanted to put me in the closet and wear a black and white WWE referee shirt,” recalls McCarthy. “I said, ‘I didn’t wear that. That’s not what we did. I had a shirt and brought it the next day, in what I usually wear.'”

A major breakthrough in the buffer zone

Bruce Buffer plays himself in Friends.

Before the “Friends” episode, Buffer was still trying to convince then-UFC boss Bob Meyrowitz to make him the permanent Octagon announcer after he completed UFC 8 and UFC 10. So when Meyrowitz called Buffer to ask if he wanted to be on the set this episode, the answer was obvious.

It was on set that Buffer went all out and used him to his advantage by representing the UFC at one of the biggest shows in America.

“I said, ‘Robert, I’m co-starring in this biggest comedy on TV. This is the biggest exposure you’ve ever gotten, and I’ve been following you for a year and a half as a permanent octagon announcer, with this The movement grows together while also helping you build your brand. Because I’m a brand builder and I have a direct connection, not following you. Everyone is afraid of the UFC. You need me in the Octagon. Now I’m on the show Come on, let’s make a deal.'”

Buffer called it “the best hand I’ve ever played in my life.”

“It gave me the fodder, it gave me the strength and the punch to ask that question one last time,” Buffer said. “This will be the last time I ask.”

Instead, the rest is history. Since UFC 13, Buffer has never looked back.

On the description of MMA in “Friends”

Ross and Monica at a UFC event in Friends.

buffer: “It’s well represented in the comedy. It’s not a documentary about the UFC. It’s a comedy. So in the comedy, they’ll go for the comedy sizzle and all the fun points. It’s not like you You can expect to get an education from ‘friends’ about what UFC is all about or what mixed martial arts are all about. We didn’t even call it mixed martial arts back then. It was just the ultimate fight, and it had its image.”

McCarthy: “I think it’s funny, that’s how it should be. … It was meant to be fun, it was meant to be fun, and he deserved (the beating). I think that’s what was portrayed. Overall, the pair It’s a good thing for the UFC. It’s just for more people to see, ‘Oh, what’s that?’”

On the Significance of Friends Choosing UFC Over Boxing

UFC fight scene from Friends.

buffer: “This is a very monumental moment in UFC history, no doubt about it. They could have chosen any other sport. They chose UFC. They could have brought in (Evander) Holyfield, (Mike) Tyson, and The rest of the boxing world. (UFC) was a big event at the time, so why not go see him trying to be the toughest guy in the toughest fighting sport. Not that boxing isn’t hard. I love boxing. But that’s the corner Fighter, and (Pete’s) whole attitude is — again, the name. He wants to be the ultimate fighting champion, not the boxing champion. “I want to be the ultimate fighting champion. “It added drama to the show and gave them that little extra edge they were looking for.”

McCarthy: “I thought, ‘Well, heck, at least that’s what people see. It’s good publicity.'”

To this day, Buffer and McCarthy still earn royalties

Jon Favreau slams the cage in ‘Friends’

McCarthy: “I got paid $750 a day. I got the SAG rate. I got $1,500 for it. Because of the popularity of “Friends” and “Friends” and how it was released everywhere, I got it from that stupid episode Made more money. I get checks to this day. Sometimes it’s 32 cents; sometimes they’re $320. But I still get checks for that episode to this day.”

buffer: “They’re either $54 or $104 and occasionally $200, but when you think about the fact that (25 years) checks are $50+ per month, it’s amazing. How that thing works , it’s amazing. … Every time I open one of the SAG residual checks, the experience comes back, so it’s all pretty cool.”

fun facts

  • Billy Crystal and Robin Williams cameo in “Ultimate Fighting Championship,” which was not in the original script and was purely coincidental. It’s in the opening scene, unrelated to the UFC storyline, but interesting.
  • “Courtney Cox hates my guts,” McCarthy told MMA Junkie, laughing. Why? He doesn’t exactly want to share details, even if he does, so you should ask him. 😉
  • At the time of filming in late 1996, Ortiz had not yet made his professional mixed martial arts debut. This is the first time Buffer has seen him. “I remember him being just a big, nice guy, jumping around with energy and telling me, ‘I’m going to be a champion someday, look.’ Go ahead,” Buffer said.
  • To open up the fight scene, we used a wide-angle shot of the UFC arena, which featured Pete’s fight with Abbott. The locations shown are not in New York City for the series. It was the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome of Minneapolis, then home to the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and MLB’s Minnesota Twins.
  • At the time of its premiere, the UFC held just 14 events, the most recent being “UFC 12: Judgment Day,” the first UFC event to feature a heavyweight division.
  • “The Man Who Owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship” is the final episode of Favreau as Pete.

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