MMA is finally legal in New York State, and all the major promotions are already looking for dates and locations for events later this year. The UFC plans on doing two shows in New York in 2016, marking their return to the state almost 21 years after their only trip to New York.
Inside the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium on Sept. 8, 1995, Marco Ruas won the UFC 7 one-night, eight-man tournament. Two decades later, "The Brawl in Buffalo" finally goes from last UFC in New York to first of many.
"I think the exposure will be huge because New York has people from all around the world. That’s the biggest exposure they can get," Ruas told MMA Fighting. "It was important for me to have fought in Buffalo. I believe I’m more famous because the tournament I won was there. They usually did events in places like Texas, so it was a big deal there. The UFC being as big as they are today, they will get their biggest gates, their biggest shows to New York. It’s going to be great for the sport.
"It will revolutionize the sport. The whole world is interested in MMA now. The UFC is the biggest promotion. There are other shows, but you can’t compare it to the UFC and its brand. The guy says ‘I’m a UFC champion’ and it’s different. The Bellator champion can’t get even close. They have been doing this for years, and keep getting stronger and stronger. Now with MMA legal in New York, promoters will make a lot of money, and fighters will also become more popular and make more money."
If John McCain had never started his war against mixed martial arts in the past, Ruas believes the sport would have gone in a complete different direction.
"There was this senator, John McCain, who was against MMA. He still is against MMA, thinks it’s too violent, despite the change in the rules," he said. "That was bad for the sport. It there was no McCain back then, maybe SEG wouldn’t even have sold the UFC to Zuffa. They lost a lot of money because of this guy. It was bad for them and for the fighters. It was horrible."
UFC 7 not only marked the promotion’s first trip to New York, but also the start of crosstraining as the future of mixed martial arts. Changing the concept of a battle of different martial arts, Ruas trained every single aspect of the game to be able to win anywhere.
"The new generation doesn’t know much about the history, how it was in the past," said "The Kings of the Streets", who stopped Larry Cureton, Remco Pardoel and Paul Varelans at UFC 7. "Back in those days, people didn’t believe in other martial arts. The jiu-jitsu guys took MMA from Brazil to the United States and created the UFC to prove jiu-jitsu was the best art and it could beat any other. They said jiu-jitsu guys didn’t need anything else but jiu-jitsu to win, and Royce proved that. But I didn’t agree. Jiu-jitsu guys didn’t have the best technique to punch and kick, so I didn’t agree with that opinion."
"After I won in Buffalo, I went to Denver to fight and a taekwondo guy thanked me. He said that people started to believe in other martial arts, in striking, because I proved it could win in the UFC," he continued. "This transition, I changed the history of the game. I showed that you needed to know the ground game, the striking, and wrestling. Wrestling would determine where I wanted to take the fight. If you kick and punch, I would take you down. If you want to grapple, I would defend your takedowns and punch and kick you. Everybody has to know everything today. I was the first to do it, and I was proud to know that."
Despite his contribution to the evolution of the sport and the fact that he won one of the iconic UFC tournaments, the Brazilian was never inducted to the UFC Hall of Fame. He doesn’t mind not being among the likes of Royce Gracie, Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock, and has a theory to why he was never inducted.
"I’m not in the Hall of Fame because it’s not elected by the fans," Ruas said. "(Hall of Fame) fighters are selected by Dana White and his crew. Many fighters in the Hall of Fame didn’t fight that much. Bas Rutten is my friend, but he only fought twice in the UFC and he’s in the Hall of Fame? I think he’s there because he’s popular. But I have no reasons to complain. The UFC and MMA gave me a lot."
"I was unlucky because of my manager," he continued. "He helped me in the beginning, but at the same time he wasn’t correct with me. He put me in the UFC, brought me to the United States, and I thank him for that, but at the same time, after I won the UFC tournament, I said ‘Frederico (Lapenda), I’ll be able to do the superfight now. Who am I going to fight? Shamrock? Don Frye?’ He said ‘Man, what they want to pay you is ridiculous, so I turned it down.'
"He came with a wrong idea, said that he was doing an event in Brazil and would put me to fight there. I didn’t speak English, so I didn’t know what was going on. He just wanted a popular name for his event. Years later, Art Davie went to my house and said that they didn’t put me in the superfight because Frederico wanted to sell the TV rights to Brazil. That prevented me from fighting more in the UFC."