This is the first of a 50 part series documenting the history and current state of MMA for each of the 50 states in the United States of America. Each part will chronicle the history of MMA as well as several notable fighters and camps in each state. States will be completed in alphabetical order. Alabama MMA is the first part of the series.
History of MMA in Alabama
Alabama, the 22nd state to join the United States, has long been a supporter of MMA. From the UFC 12: Judgement Day incident to their most recent weight-cutting reforms of June 2018, Alabama was an early safe haven for the UFC and to this day is working to improve the sport of MMA.
Many states would not sanction the UFC as many looked at it as, “human cockfighting,” as Senator John McCain once stated. Less than three years after the creation of the UFC, the state of Alabama would host their first UFC event, UFC 10: The Tournament.
UFC 10: The Tournament
Birmingham would be the host of the first event held in the state of Alabama. The event took place on July 12, 1996. The event was originally slated to take place in Providence, Rhode Island. When events were canceled in the Northeast, it seemed the South was a saving grace. This would mark the return of the tournament format after UFC 9 experimented with the currently used single-bout system.
UFC 10 was monumental to the company’s history. This event would mark the debut of Bruce Buffer, ring announcer and voice of the UFC even to this day. Mark Coleman also made his debut at the event and would actually when the tournament slated for the night.
The event would completely consist of tournament bouts. Two alternate bouts would be conducted but none of the winning fighters pulled out of the tournament. Such stars at Coleman, Gary Goodridge, and Don Frye competed and advanced to the semi-finals along with Brian Johnston. Coleman would advance to the finals where he would defeat Frye by TKO 11:34 into the matchup. Apparently, the event was a success as starting from this event on, Alabama would host three of six events including the high-profile UFC 12: Judgement Day event.
UFC 12: Judgement Day Debacle
UFC 12 consisted of several highlights for the company’s future. The event occurred on February 7, 1997, at the Dothan Civic Center in Dothan, Alabama. Buffalo, New York was originally slated to be the home for UFC 12. New York banned MMA the night before and the UFC scrambled literally for a last-second replacement. Alabama came through for the UFC and the event was able to continue. Many consider this event the first of the “enlightened” era.
Weight classes would be introduced for the first time in the UFC. Though not the sophisticated weight class system of today, two weight classes were defined. “Heavyweights” would be considered 200 pounds and over while “lightweights” would be 199 pounds and less. A tournament would be held for each weight class and the first ever UFC heavyweight champion would be crowned.
Mark Coleman and Dan Severn, who had previously competed in Alabama at UFC 10, would battle for the first-ever heavyweight title. Coleman would again be victorious winning by submission less than three minutes into the contest. Jerry Bohlander won the lightweight tournament while UFC debutant and UFC long stay, Vitor Belfort, would win the heavyweight tournament.
Another staple still in the UFC to this day would make his debut in Alabama. As Buffer made his debut at UFC 10, analyst Joe Rogan would make his debut as a backstage interviewer.
Current State of Alabama MMA
The Alabama Athletic Commission, renamed from Alabama Boxing Commission in 2009, oversees all MMA bouts in the state of Alabama. “Sonny” Cauthen Jr. currently serves as the Pro Tempore chairman of the six-person board. In 2010 it was illegal to host MMA events while the commission restructured. Alabama also has a clause in its law that prohibits an MMA fighter from competing if suspended by another jurisdiction. If suspended by a state it is possible for a fighter to apply elsewhere but Alabama has made it clear in their laws that you will automatically be denied in their state [Section 41-9:1027(2).]
With all of the recent issues arising with fighter weight cut, Alabama recently passed reform rules which will go into effect on August 05, 2018. The AAC has adopted several of the 10-point plan used by the California State Athletic Commission. Fighters who miss weight more than once will be asked to move up in weight class. The missed weight will also be documented with the Association of Boxing Commissions. Alabama will also adopt the early morning weigh-in policy and same-day weigh in. If a fighter weighs more than 10 percent of the fight weight on fight day, the fight could be asked to move up in weight for future bouts. Dehydration tests will also be administered.
Fighters and Camps in the State of Alabama
Alabama is not the hot spot it once was, especially for the UFC, as it used to be in the early days. Though not born in the state, UFC middleweight Eryk Anders is arguably the fighting face of Alabama. Anders, a former standout football player for Alabama University, still remains in the state. He trains out of Spartan Fitness MMA located in Birmingham, AL. Anders is currently 10-1 with his only loss as a very close split decision. The loss was to Lyoto Machida in February 2018.
Other MMA combatants from the state include Eric Esch, better known by this nickname, “Butterbean.” Butterbean earned an incredible record of 77-10-4 in boxing and 17-10-1 in MMA. He competed in such organizations as Pride FC and KSW. Butterbean would also win the Elite-1 super heavyweight title in May 2011. A young up and comer out of Alabama to watch is “Swift” Marcel Stamps. Stamps is 2-0 in his pro career, both TKO victories. His last victory was at the Bellator MMA Fight Series. Stamps knocked out DJ Wilson in the third round at the Talladega Speedway in October 2017.
Part two of the 50 states series will be the state of Alaska. Check back with MMASucka to keep up with the series.
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