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Forgotten figure in MMA history honored Thursday on Combate ESPN 3 debut show

Jason Cusson, who according to Campbell McLaren was the actual inventor of the Octagon design and fighting surface, is being honored at the company’s show on Thursday night.

UFC Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

A key player in the long-term history of MMA is being honored on Thursday night.

You've probably never heard of him. Almost nobody has.

In 1993, before the first UFC event, Jason Cusson came up with the design of the Octagon cage as well as the fighting surface.

And while different promotions have had different sizes and shapes of their cages, the fighting surface used almost universally in the sport was created by Cusson, according to Campbell McLaren, who was the man in charge of the early UFC shows.

McLaren, who now runs Combate Americas, an MMA promotion that is concentrating on Hispanic viewers and has a weekly Friday night time slot on powerhouse TV Azteca in Mexico, is honoring Cusson at its show at the Mana Wynwood in Miami, Fla. It will be the first MMA show ever carried by an ESPN property in the U.S.

The show will stream live on ESPN 3 in the U.S., as well as air live on ESPN Latin America, and is part of a major week of sports and entertainment events in South Florida. The week is highlighted by a Saturday night soccer game between Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. The game is part of the International Champions Cup, and the first time the famous teams have ever played in North America.

The main event of the 10-fight show that starts at 7 p.m. Eastern time two nights earlier, is, admittedly a gimmick fight, a 160-pound catchweight fight between Tommy "The Spaniard" Aaron (4-2) from Barcelona, and Javier Fuentes (9-4) from Madrid.

"I don't mind if you call it a gimmick, but it's a damn good gimmick," said McLaren.

The co-main event is a women's atomweight fight with Kyra "Mogwai" Bata (5-4) of Las Vegas facing Vanesa Rico (2-2) of Alicante, Spain.

McLaren said that John Milius, the famous director, originally suggested the shape of the Octagon, but it was Cusson who came up with the design, as well as the type of mats to be used, as they wanted it fast but not slippery.

"Jason didn't just invent the Octagon, but created the surface that everyone in the sport uses," said McLaren. "Whether it's a circle, or six-sided, he created the MMA fighting surface. He's like the guy who created the baseball field, the soccer pitch or the football field. And he did it on the first take. His first design created something that's now been used for 24 years."

McLaren noted that Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta's attempts to rewrite history have left a lot of key people out, like Cusson.

"A lot of people kind of got left aside," he said. "Not me, because I've got a big mouth, but people like Jason got left aside. I's a great way to honor him at the first MMA show ESPN has ever produced."

Since the soccer game is being promoted as El Clasico Miami, McLaren has billed his show Combate Clasico.

"It leads us be positioned as part of a world-class event and bring a new audience into MMA," said McLaren. "I'm not out to cannibalize anyone's audience. I'm out to build a new audience and we've done it spectacularly in Mexico and South America."

McLaren claims that they search for Mexican style fighters who fight an all-out aggressive style, and claims that 80 percent of their fights have conclusive finishes.

"The way we match make, we put on the most action aggressive fights," he said. "We want a slugfest. That's what we love. If you want to see strategy and a Joe Silva style fight, you can get it in UFC. We like to see guys and girls go at it."

Among the plans for 2017 are to return to Mexico in November, and to bring back the tournament format, which the original UFC shows in the mid-90s were based around, on that show. An idea he's looking at is a World Cup tournament idea, using fighters that represent different countries in North, South and Central America.

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