JUDGEMENT DAY: In 1997, UFC 12 was to take place in Buffalo, but a day prior, New York state changed their laws to effectively ban MMA, and the Octagon found a new home in Dothan, Alabama. #UFC25Years In Short | 'Judgement Day' | https://t.co/ONhFQRGBql pic.twitter.com/sIINrMunb4
— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) October 10, 2018
Today there are injuries, weight misses and visa issues that can derail UFC fights. But back in 1997, UFC 12: Judgement Day was less than a day from starting in Niagara Falls when the New York District State Court banned “no-holds-barred” fighting from New York.
“I’m not interested in running them out of business, I’m interested in running them out of New York,” said New York Governor George Pataki. “They have no place in this state.”
With time running out the UFC was forced to move the event to Dothan, Alabama. That means fighters, equipment, UFC staff and the Octagon all had to make its way to the south in less than a day.
Among the fighters that experienced the upheaval from Buffalo and relocation to Alabama was a 19 year-old Vitor Belfort, who would go on to show why his nickname “The Phenom” was so accurate.
For the UFC, moving the event at the last second from New York to Alabama was an act of desperation, but for the citizens of Dothan and the rest of the south, it was more than they could have ever asked for.