In February of 1997, legendary American Grappler ‘Judo’ Gene LeBell was involved with the creation and production of an event called the World Fighting Federation. The event was available on PPV on a limited basis throughout the USA, and since the promotion never ran another show, it stands alone as a window into the early history of MMA. It is an interesting show to watch, because so little was known about fighting on a world level. Here just listen to the introduction of main event fighter Gokor Chivichyan – this guy is number one at everything! While your at it watch the whole fight, the sport was very different back then.
The WFF organization though, deserves credit for mining talent – for the time, the card was stacked. There were rumors at the time that the event was created to feature certain guys, and there were plans for future events that never came to fruition. But the card was important at the time.
The WFF show featured American wrestler Tom Erickson, fresh off his tournament appearance on PPV in MARS (where he fought a historical 40 minute fight with Murillo Bustamante we have talked about on this blog), as well as UFC veterans Oleg Taktarov and Joe Charles.
The card also sees wrestlers Dan Bobish and Matt Lindland fighting early in their careers. Below is Matt Lindland’s fight (it is his debut), which was one of the few competitive matches on the card. The match is packed with things we dont see anymore, from shoes to headbutts to confused officiating, to LOOSE ring ropes! Enjoy…
Another interesting name on the card is Hugo Duarte. The Brazilian had a massive reputation. He is the man that fought the fight on the beach on the legendary Gracie Jiu Jitsu tapes. A representative of a group called Luta Livre, they billed themselves as a rival of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Duarte was having an easy time against weak MMA competition and this fight was no different. In his very next fight, Duarte would be crushed by David ‘Tank’ Abbott in the UFC, effectively ending his legend.
And Gokor, the main event, never fought again. All the hype around this fight (listen to the announcers again) left a lot of expectations. Gokor is the trainer of Manny Gamabryan, Karo Parisyan and several other young fighters who have made an impact on the MMA scene.
The card had a total of 6 or 7 fights, and most ended in under a minute, and other obvious production problems will jump out at the viewer. In 1997, the talent migrating to this new sport was far ahead of the organizations that produced the shows.