2 times Atlantic City was the setting for major UFC history

Atlantic City might be one of the UFC's most underrated Fight Night locations.
UFC / Victor Decolongon/GettyImages

This article is part of a new series by FanSided MMA honoring milestones and memories from the past. Watch for a new flashback feature every Thursday.

When the UFC returns to Atlantic City for the ninth time on March 30, it will be the first time in almost six years. An unofficial second home to the UFC during its early years, Atlantic City has seen some of the more important moments in the history of the promotion.

The first time the Octagon came to Atlantic City was on Nov. 17, 2000, for UFC 28: High Stakes and it was the beginning of a new era in the sport of mixed martial arts. This would be the first UFC event sanctioned by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board and was the first to use a newly created ruleset that would be the standard for North American-based mixed martial arts competition moving forward. These rules would later be named the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.

Under these new rules, fighters were required to wear trunks and gloves with no other attire. Additionally, strict weight classes were put in place. This resulted in the UFC's only super heavyweight bout as Gan McGee weighed in at 296 pounds for his bout with Josh Barnett, who was making his UFC debut. Also making his UFC debut that night and winning via armbar was future UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, who is still fighting in the UFC more than 23 years later.

Headlining the card that night was a heavyweight championship matchup between Randy Couture and the late Kevin Randleman. Couture had previously won the belt with a majority decision victory over Maurice Smith in 1997 before being stripped of the belt by the UFC due to a contract dispute. Couture would go on to knock out Randleman in the third round, reclaiming the belt he had never lost in the Octagon and becoming the promotion's first two time champion.

In addition to the new rule set and newly crowned champion, this event was a changing of the guard in yet another way. UFC 28: High Stakes would be the last stateside event under the original owners, Semaphore Entertainment Group. Just two months later, the UFC would be sold to Zuffa. This would be the start of an era that propelled the UFC and mixed martial arts as a whole to new heights.

The second UFC event under Zuffa was one for the ages

The first two UFC cards held under the new ownership both took place in Atlantic City. Building off of the success of UFC 30: Battle on the Boardwalk, UFC 31: Locked and Loaded was a historic card.

The card was headlined by an all time great heavyweight championship bout with Couture successfully defending his belt against the legendary Pedro Rizzo. In the co-main event, you had Carlos Newton defeating Pat Miletich to capture the UFC welterweight championship, becoming the first Canadian UFC champion in the process.

The card also featured one of the sport's most memorable finishes as Shonie Carter's spinning back fist knockout of UFC newcomer Matt Serra has been on just about every greatest knockouts of all time highlight made. Later in his career, Serra would win the UFC welterweight title in one of the biggest upsets in mixed martial arts history.

On the undercard, BJ Penn made his professional mixed martial arts debut, stopping Joey Gilbert 4:57 in to the first round. Penn would later join Couture as a two division champion and both men would be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. Of the 16 fighters to compete at UFC 31: Locked and Loaded, seven are in the Hall of Fame.

In addition to the history being made inside of the cage, this was the first UFC card since the official ratification of the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. It would be the first time the UFC used the weight class system that we know today.

From major rule changes, to the debuts of mixed martial arts legends, to iconic moments in the UFC, Atlantic City has been host to some of the most monumental moments in the UFC's history. Will UFC Atlantic City add to this legacy?


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