Taking a look at MMA heavyweight title fights that have taken place in Southern California.
On Saturday night, California Xtreme Fighting will crown a new Heavyweight Champion in Hollywood. And on January 26th, 2019, Bellator MMA will crown a new Heavyweight Champion at The Forum in Inglewood when Fedor Emelianenko faces Ryan Bader.
In this article, I’ll take a look at the major MMA title fights that have taken place in SoCal. Then I’ll take a brief look at King of the Cage‘s history of title fights in the Heavyweight, Super Heavyweight, and Openweight divisions.
UFC 59: Reality Check
UFC Heavyweight Championship: Andrei Arlovski (c) vs. Tim Sylvia
On April 15th, 2006, the UFC held UFC 59 at the Arrowhead Pond (now Honda Center) in Anaheim, CA. The event was the first UFC card held in the state of California after the state began to regulate the sport. UFC 59 drew an attendance of 13,814 (13,060 paid) for a gate of $2,191,450 and 425,000 buys on pay-per-view. The event also featured Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin and Nick Diaz vs. Sean Sherk on the undercard.
In the main event, UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski faced former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia n a rematch of their UFC 51 bout on February 5th, 2005 in Las Vegas. Arlovski emerged victorious in the first bout, defeating Sylvia with an Achilles Lock at 0:47 in the first round.
The rematch between the two saw Arlovski looking to close distance on Sylvia with his boxing. Arlovski controlled the pace, moving in and out Sylvia’s range looking to create opportunities to land a huge strike. At 2:24 into the first round, Arlovski dropped Sylvia with a huge jab-cross combo. It looked as if Arlovski was about to finish off Sylvia and retain the title before Sylvia made his way back to his feet.
After Arlovski went for an overhand right, Sylvia caught Arlovski with an uppercut as Arlovski’s head entered Sylvia’s range. Sylvia followed up with several more strikes to Arlovski on the ground before referee Herb Dean stopped the fight at 2:43 of Round 1.
— Injury?Bug (@UFCInjuryBug) July 20, 2018
The two bitter rivals fought again on July 8, 2006 at UFC 61 in Las Vegas. Sylvia successfully defended his title after he defeated Arlovski again, this time by Unanimous Decision. On August 31, 2012, the two faced off one last time at a ONE Fighting Championship event in the Philippines. The bout ended in a No Contest after Arlovski landed illegal soccer kicks on Sylvia in the second round.
WAMMA Heavyweight Championship: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Tim Sylvia
Affliction Clothing, famous for making tacky and shiny overpriced shirts geared toward MMA fans, entered into the world promoting. In 2008, they created a separate company called Affliction Entertainment. For the venture, the company teamed with famous real estate developer and current President of the United States Donald Trump, and M-1 Global. The company also partnered with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Shortly after the formation of Affliction Entertainment, Affliction Clothing was banned from sponsoring fighters on UFC events.
The promotion’s first event, called Affliction: Banned, was held on July 19, 2008 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Undercard bouts were aired on Fox Sports Net affiliates, while the main card was shown on pay-per-view. Affliction’s debut event featured several heavyweight bouts including Paul Buentello vs. Gary Goodridge, Josh Barnett vs. Pedro Rizzo, and Andrei Arlovski vs. Ben Rothwell. The event also featured world-famous ring announcer Michael Buffer and a live performance by Megadeth.
Affliction: Banned drew an attendance of 14,832 (11,242 paid) for a gate of $2,085,510, and 100,000 buys on PPV. The overall disclosed fighter payroll for the show was $3,321,000.
In the main event, former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko faced former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia for the newly established WAMMA Heavyweight Championship. Click here to read more about WAMMA. The bout took place over two years and three months after Sylvia defeated Andrei Arlovski to become a two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion in Anaheim at 2:43 of the first round.
The fight itself didn’t last as long as Sylvia’s UFC 59 fight though. Nor did it end with him winning either. Shortly after the fight began, Fedor unleashed a flurry of strikes that dropped Sylvia less than 20 seconds into the fight. Fedor continued to deliver punches on Sylvia before taking his back. Fedor finished Sylvia in 36 seconds with a rear naked choke to become the inaugural WAMMA Heavyweight Champion.
After the fight, reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture (who beat Tim Sylvia at UFC 68 to win the title) entered the ring to congratulate Fedor. John McCarthy, who was part of the broadcast team for the event, asked Couture if he’d like to fight Fedor. Couture said absolutely but also mentioned he had issues to settle with the UFC and that he would fight Fedor that year if he was lucky.
On October 11th, 2007, Couture announced he had severed ties with the UFC. At the time of his resignation, Couture had two fights remaining on his contract. He was also contracted as an on-air analyst. Along with issues regarding pay and the direction of his career, Couture was upset at the UFC’s inability to secure a fight between him and Fedor. Despite Couture claiming to have left the promotion, UFC president Dana White stated that Couture was still the UFC Heavyweight Champion.
On September 2nd, 2008, the UFC announced it had reached an agreement with Couture, who signed a new three-fight contract with the promotion. On November 15 at UFC 91 in Las Vegas, Couture lost the title to Brock Lesnar. Fedor vs. Couture never happened as a result. In 2015, the Japanese promotion RIZIN FF looked to book the two legends in a bout due to the reaction to Jaideep Singh being announced as Fedor’s opponent, but the bout never took place
Affliction: Day of Reckoning
WAMMA Heavyweight Championship: Fedor Emelianenko (c) vs. Andrei Arlovski
Coming off his victory against Tim Sylvia, Fedor Emelianenko was set to face the other half of the UFC 59 main event, Andrei Arlovski. Arlovski was coming off a victory over Ben Rothwell at the previous Affliction event. The fight was originally slated for October 11th, 2008 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. Due to a hand injury, Fedor was pulled from the fight. He was later replaced by Josh Barnett. The winner of Arlovski vs. Barnett would go on to face Fedor at Affliction’s next event.
Due to low ticket sales, the event was pushed back to January 24th, 2009. The event was also moved to Anaheim at the Honda Center. A WAMMA Heavyweight Championship fight between Fedor and Arlovski was booked as the main event for the show. Affliction: Day of Reckoning drew an attendance of 13,255 for a gate of $1,512,750. The PPV buyrate for the event was around 170,000. The total disclosed payout for the show was $3,318,660. The undercard of the event saw several heavyweight contests take place including Josh Barnett vs. Gilbert Yvel and Paul Buentello vs. Kirill Sidelnikov.
In the opening moments of the fight, Arlovski was getting the better of Fedor with his striking. Arlovski was able to land several shots and controlled the action for a bit. After the two were broken up from a clinch midway into the first round by referee John McCarthy, it looked as if Arlovski was in control of things. Arlovski was able to use a series of jab-cross combos to back Fedor into a corner. Arlovski would then look to land a flying knee strike on Fedor as he bounced off the ring ropes. Instead, he ended up getting caught by a huge overhand right from Fedor that ended the fight. The bout lasted 3:14.
Affliction’s third scheduled event, Affliction: Trilogy, was slated for August 1st, 2009 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The card was scheduled to be headlined by a WAMMA Heavyweight Championship bout between Fedor and Josh Barnett. On July 21st, 2009, the fight was called off after the CSAC wouldn’t license Barnett due to Barnett testing positive for anabolic steroids. On July 23rd, Sports Illustrated’s Josh Gross reported that Affliction: Trilogy had been canceled.
Fedor went on to defend the WAMMA Heavyweight Championship one more time. On November 7th, 2009 in Hoffman Estates, Il, he defeated Brett Rogers in the main event of Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers to retain the title. It was the last time Fedor defended his WAMMA title. Shortly after the fight, the sanctioning body quietly folded without any formal announcements.
After the cancelation of Trilogy, Affliction Entertainment ceased operations. The Orange County-based clothing company went back to sponsoring UFC fighters for several years until the UFC signed a deal with Reebok to be the promotion’s exclusive outfitter and apparel provider
UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Velasquez
UFC Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Cain Velasquez
The UFC’s fourth visit to Anaheim on October 23rd, 2010 would feature a bout between one of the biggest stars in UFC history, Brock Lesnar, and rising undefeated heavyweight star Cain Velasquez. UFC 121 drew a reported attendance of 14,856 for a gate of $2,237,000 and 1,050,000 buys on pay-per-view. The undercard for UFC 121 included the UFC debut of Jake Shields, Diego Sanchez vs. Paulo Thiago, and Tito Ortiz vs. Matt Hamill.
Lesnar, who was 5-1 heading into the fight, was making his third defense of the UFC Heavyweight title. Despite being submitted by Frank Mir in his UFC debut at UFC 81 on February 2nd, 2008, Lesnar quickly bounced with a win over Heath Herring on August 9th, 2008 at UFC 87. After having gone 2-1 overall in the sport of MMA, Lesnar defeated Randy Couture to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship at UFC 91 on November 15th, 2008. Lesnar went on to successfully defend the title twice. Once against Frank Mir at UFC 100 to avenge his loss and to unify his title with Mir’s interim title, and against the undefeated Shane Carwin at UFC 116.
Lesnar’s third title defense saw him go up against the undefeated Mexican-American sensation Cain Velasquez at UFC 121 at the Honda Center. Despite suffering a loss in his UFC debut, Brock Lesnar was always viewed as an unstoppable wrecking machine. At UFC 121 however, Cain Velasquez did what Brock Lesnar’s past opponents couldn’t: make Brock Lesnar look human.
The fight began with Lesnar charging at Velasquez attempting to hit a blast double leg takedown, only to have it stuffed by Velasquez. Brock continued to try to pressure Velasquez and scored a quick takedown. Velasquez quickly got back to his feet though and neutralized Lesnar’s gapping game. Halfway into the round, Velasquez scored a single leg takedown on Lesnar and used it to dominate the rest of the fight. Velasquez finished Lesnar at 4:12 of Round 1 after referee Herb Dean stopped the bout when Lesnar failed to defend himself after a barrage of strikes.
Immediately after the fight, MMA journalist Ariel Helwani conducted an interview with The Undertaker of WWE at cageside. During the interview, the Undertaker paused and was heard asking Lesnar “want to do it?” as Lesnar walked away.
Brock Lesnar went on to fight two more times after his UFC 121 loss. Following a layoff due to a battle with diverticulitis, Lesnar returned to the UFC on December 30th, 2011 at UFC 141 where he was defeated by Alistair Overeem. Following the loss, Lesnar returned to professional wrestling in 2012 on a part-time basis. On July 8th, 2016, Lesnar returned to MMA competition at UFC 200 to face Mark Hunt in Las Vegas. Lesnar won the bout by decision. However, the victory was later overturned after Lesnar tested positive for Clomiphene.
UFC on Fox 1: Velasquez vs. dos Santos
UFC Heavyweight Championship: Cain Velasquez (c) vs. Junior dos Santos
After finding success on cable television and pay-per-view, the UFC looked to break into the mainstream when they signed a seven-year broadcast deal with Fox Sports in 2011. The deal saw UFC events broadcast live on various Fox-owned channels. The first broadcast took place on November 12th, 2011 in Anaheim, CA at the Honda Center on the Fox Network. In the main event, UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez faced Junior dos Santos.
UFC on Fox 1 was scheduled to be a one-hour special, showcasing only the main event title fight. Fights from the event’s undercard were streamed on Facebook. Some bouts aired on Fox’s Spanish-language sports network, Fox Deportes. The nine-fight undercard featured bouts such as Clay Guida vs. Benson Henderson, Dustin Poirier vs. Pablo Garza, and Ricardo Lamas vs. Cub Swanson. The event drew an attendance of 11,607 and a gate of $1,072,187.
The actual main event lasted only 64 seconds, resulting in 58:56 of no live action on the UFC’s inaugural hour-long Fox broadcast. The bout ended after dos Santos landed an overhand right to the back of Velasquez’s head. Junior dos Santos followed with some ground and pound before referee John McCarthy put a stop to the action. In hindsight, the decision to make the UFC’s inaugural broadcast a one-fight show probably wasn’t the best move. Benson Henderson vs. Clay Guida was awarded “Fight of the Night’ honors by the UFC and could’ve boosted the broadcast and its chances of drawing a higher audience.
In the end, UFC on Fox 1 set a record for the most watched MMA bout in America. The overall broadcast averaged 5.7 million viewers. while the main event attracted 8.8 million viewers. Locally, UFC on Fox 1 drew a 4.3 rating in Los Angeles and a 4.8 in San Diego. The previous record was set by EliteXC: Primetime on May 31, 2008 for EliteXC’s CBS broadcast debut. The event was headlined by a bout between internet street fighting sensation Kimbo Slice and James Thompson. The overall show averaged 4.85 million viewers and peaked at 6.51 million viewers for the main event.
UFC on Fox 1’s record still stands today.
King of the Cage
Founded in 1998 by Terry Trebilcock, King of the Cage has promoted over 500 events throughout the United States and abroad. The promotion’s debut event was held on October 30th, 1999 at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA. Since its debut, around 100 KOTC events have taken place in Southern California. Prior to the legalization of MMA by the California State Athletic Commission in 2006, KOTC held its events on tribal land.
Throughout its history, KOTC has had a reputation for showcasing future MMA stars. Notable fighters who have fought in KOTC include Daniel Cormier, TJ Dillashaw, Rory MacDonald, Urijah Faber, Quinton Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Ronda Rousey, Demetrious Johnson, Rashad Evans, Diego Sanchez, and more.
King of the Cage has an interesting history when it comes to their Heavyweight Championship lineages. At KOTC’s debut event, Brian Foster and Frank Rodriguez took part in what was announced as a “Heavyweight Championship” fight. The winner of the bout went on to defend the title against Romie Aram at the second KOTC event on February 5th, 2000. However, there was no mention of weight class associated with the title during that fight. Today, the title is recognized as the KOTC Heavyweight Superfight title. It has no connection to the lineages of the current KOTC Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight titles.
Right now, I’m going to take a look at each Heavyweight/Super Heavyweight/Openweight championship recognized by King of the Cage.
At KOTC 4: Gladiators on June 24th, 2000 in San Jacinto, CA, Marvin Eastman was crowned the first KOTC Heavyweight Champion. On February 24th, 2001, Ricco Rodriguez defended what was referred to as the “King of the Cage Heavyweight Champion.” The retired title is currently referred to as the KOTC Openweight Superfight Championship.
In 2002, the original KOTC Heavyweight Championship was reclassified as the KOTC Super Heavyweight Championship for fighters who weighed over 265 pounds. A new KOTC Heavyweight Championship was created with a weight limit of 265 pounds.
Below is a list of KOTC Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight Champions who won their titles or defended their titles in SoCal.
Heavyweight Championship (2nd Generation)
Bobby Hoffman (1st Champion)
- February 21st, 2003 at KOTC 21: Invasion in Albuquerque, NM: Defeated Jason Godsey to become the first KOTC Heavyweight Champion.
Defenses in SoCal:
- August 10th, 2003 at KOTC 27: Aftermath in San Jacinto, CA: Defeated Paul Buentello via decision to retain the title.
Paul Buentello (2nd Champion)
- November 2nd, 2003 at KOTC 30: The Pinnacle in Pala, CA: Defeated Bobby Hoffman via submission in Round 2 to become the 2nd champion.
Defenses in SoCal:
- November 14th, 2004 at KOTC 44: Revenge in San Jacinto, CA: Defeated Bo Cantrell via T.K.O. at 0:45 of Round 1 to retain the title.
Buentello would later vacate the title to compete in the UFC.
Tony Lopez (4th Champion, 1st Reign)
- July 19th, 2008 at KOTC: Rock Solid in Lac Du Flambeau, WI: Defeated Wes Combs via submission at 2:59 of Round 2 to win the vacant title and become the 4th champion.
Defenses in SoCal:
- October 1st, 2009 at KOTC: Distorted in Highland, CA: Defeated Joey Beltran via decision to retain the title.
- December 17th, 2009 at KOTC: Fight 4 Hope in Highland, CA: Defeated Tyler East via decision to retain the title.
Lopez went on to successfully defend the title outside of California once. Lopez would lose the title to Tony Johnson on March 26th, 2010 at KOTC: Legacy in Reno, NV.
Tony Lopez (8th Champion, 2nd Reign)
- December 15th, 2011 at KOTC: Magnaflow in San Bernardino, CA: Defeated Esteves Jones via T.K.O. at 4:04 of Round 4 to win the vacant title for a second time and become the 8th champion.
Defenses in SoCal:
- April 26th, 2012 at KOTC: Hardcore in Highland, CA: Defeated Jason Walraven via T.K.O. at 2:48 of Round 1 to retain the title.
- October 25th, 2012 at KOTC: Gun Show in Highland, CA: Defeated Nick Rossborough via submission at 0:28 of Round 1 to retain the title.
Lopez also successfully defended the title against Cody East at KOTC: Bad Intentions on April 14th, 2012 in Thackerville, OK.
Nick Rossborough (9th Champion)
- April 11th, 2013 at KOTC: Devastation in Highland, CA: Defeated Tony Lopez via decision to become the new champion.
Rossborough ended up losing the title to Cody East on June 22nd, 2013 at KOTC: East vs. West in Albuquerque, NM. East was eventually stripped of the title after signing with Legacy FC. The title is currently held by Tony Lopez. Lopez won the title on September 5th, 2015 at KOTC: Rogue Wave in Lincoln City, OR after defeating Anthony McDonald to win the vacant championship. Lopez, who is currently the 11th KOTC Heavyweight Champion, has successfully defended the title five times outside of Southern California so far during his third reign at KOTC Heavyweight Champion.
Super Heavyweight Championship (Heavyweight Championship 1st Generation)
Marvin Eastman (1st Champion)
- June 24th, 2000 at KOTC 4: Gladiators in San Jacinto, CA: Defeated Quinton Jackson to become the first champion via unanimous decision.
Defenses in SoCal:
- September 16th, 2000 at KOTC 5: Cage Wars in San Jacinto, CA: Defeated Ioka Tianuu via submission at 3:32 of Round 1 to retain the title.
Eastman went on to vacate the title to compete at Light Heavyweight.
Bobby Hoffman (2nd Champion)
- June 23rd, 2001 at KOTC 9: Showtime in San Jacinto, CA: Defeated Kauai Kupihea via submission at 4:00 of Round 1 to win the vacant title.
Hoffman was stripped of the title after leaving the promotion, leaving the title vacated once again.
Dan Bobish (3rd Champion)
- February 9th, 2002 at KOTC 12: Cold Blood in San Jacinto, CA: Defeated Eric Pele via corner stoppage at 1:10 of Round 2 to win the vacant title.
Bobish went on to successfully defend the title once outside of Southern California during his reign.
Jimmy Ambriz (4th Champion)
- August 2nd, 2002 at KOTC 16: Double Cross in San Jacinto, CA: Defeated Dan Bobish via submission at 0:46 of Round 1 to become the new champion.
Defenses in SoCal:
- December 7th, 2002 at KOTC 19: Street Fighter in San Jacinto, CA: Defeated Vince Lucero via submission at 4:33 of Round 1 to retain the title.
During Ambriz’s reign, the KOTC Heavyweight Championship held by Ambriz was reclassified as the KOTC Super Heavyweight Championship for fighters over 265 pounds. A new KOTC Heavyweight Championship was established with a weight limit of 265 pounds. Ambriz went on to successfully defend the title once more after his first dense. He was later stripped of the title after leaving the promotion.
Lloyd Marshbanks (6th Champion)
- November 14th, 2004 at KOTC 44: Revenge in San Jacinto, CA: Defeated Jerry Vrbanovic via decision to win the vacant title, which was previously held by Eric Pele who was stripped of the title after leaving the promotion.
Marshbanks would end up being stripped of the title after leaving the promotion.
Brian Sesma (8th Champion)
- December 2nd, 2007 at KOTC: Final Chapter in San Jacinto, CA: Defeated Alan Zunner via T.K.O. at 1:18 of Round 1 to win the title, which was previously held by Eric Pele. Pele was stripped of the title due to inactivity.
Sesma ended up being stripped of the title for never accepting a title defense.
Chance Williams (9th Champion)
- December 11th, 2008 at KOTC: Prowler in Highland, CA: Awarded title.
On May 15, 2008 at KOTC: Opposing Forces, Chance Williams fought Mike Bourke. The fight was stopped in the first round because of illegal strikes to the back the head of Bourke by Williams. As a result, the fight was ruled a No Contest. On December 11th, Williams was awarded the title as a result of Bourke refusing to face him in a rematch.
Neil Cooke (10th Champion)
- February 27th, 2009 at KOTC: Immortal in Highland, CA: Defeated Chance Williams via T.K.O. at 2:21 of Round 1 to win the title.
Defenses in SoCal:
- August 13th, 2009 at KOTC: Super Stars in Highland, CA: Defeated Sal Farnetti via submission at 1:57 of Round 1 to retain the title.
- July 10th, 2010 at KOTC: Tropical Storm in Lake Elsinore, CA: Defeated Mike Guidry via submission at 3:42 of Round 1 to retain the title.
Esteves Jones (11th Champion)
- February 3rd, 2011 at KOTC: Empire in San Bernardino, CA: Defeated Neil Cooke via TKO at 0:15 of Round 1 to become the new champion.
Tony Lopez (12th Champion)
- September 17th, 2011 at KOTC: Apocalypse in Thackerville, OK: Defeated Esteves Jones via submission at 3:30 of Round 4 to become the new champion.
Defenses in SoCal:
- February 2nd, 2012 at KOTC: Reckless Abandon in Highland, CA: Defeated Rob Jackson via KO at 0:30 of Round 2 to retain the title.
Lopez went on to lose the title to current champion Ronny Markes on February 4th, 2017 at KOTC: Heavy Trauma in Lincoln City, OR.
King of the Cage Heavyweight Superfight Championship
At KOTC 1: Bas Rutten’s King of the Cage on October 30th, 1999 in San Jacinto, CA, a fighter by the name of Brian Foster took on Frank Rodriguez. The bout was announced as being for the “Heavyweight Championship” by cage announcer Bruce Buffer. Foster dominated the fight using his freestyle high school wrestling background to out grapple Rodriguez. The fight came to an end at 4:48 after Rodriguez tapped to strikes.
On February 5th, 2000 in San Jacinto, CA, Foster defended his championship against the debuting Romie Aram. During the ring introduction for the fight by Bruce Buffer, Foster was billed as the KOTC Champion with no weight class associated with it. Foster was unsuccessful in his title defense against Aram. Aram spent most of the fight in top position, smothering Foster on the ground throughout the fight. The dominant performance from Aram earned him the judge’s decision. After the bout, Bruce Buffer would simply announce Aram as a new champion without any mention of a weight class.
Romie Aram’s next bout took place on September 16th, 2000 in San Jacinto, CA against Scott Goddard. There was no mention of Aram’s championship by Bruce Buffer. During his post-fight interview though, Aram was shown holding a championship belt.
King of the Cage Openweight Championship
Unlike the Super Heavyweight and Heavyweight titles, Openweight title bouts were contested with no weight limits. This meant anyone of any size could’ve fought for it. The first champion was crowned at KOTC’s inaugural event, Bas Rutten’s King of the Cage on October 30th, 1999 at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA. Steve Treadwell and Mike Bourke took part in the bout.
Steve Treadwell went into the fight weighing 273 pounds. His opponent, Mike Bourke, went into the fight weighing 268 pounds. The contest itself lasted just 11 seconds. The end came when Treadwell dropped Bourke with a punch after Bourke thew a leg kick. Bourke went down instantly and was swarmed with strikes from Treadwell before referee Larry Landless stopped the bout. With the victory, Treadwell became the first KOTC Openweight Champion.
Treadwell’s reign as the KOTC Openweight Champion wouldn’t last long. At KOTC 2: Desert Storm on February 5th, 2000 in San Jacinto, CA, Treadwell defended his title against John Matua. Matua supposedly went into the bout weighing 400 pounds. The fight lasted longer than the first Openweight title fight, lasting 2:38. Matua would end after Treadwell submitted to strikes.
Much like Steve Treadwell, Matua’s reign only lasted one fight. At KOTC 5: Cage Wars on September 16th, 2000 in San Jacinto, CA, Matua defended the title against Mike Bourke. After failing to capture it on his first attempt, Bourke won the title on his second attempt. Bourke’s victory came after the first round when Matua was unable to continue due to a cut under his eye. The bout would be the last KOTC Openweight Championship bout.
Ricco Rodriguez: King of the Cage Openweight Superfight/Heavyweight Champion
On February 5, 2000, decorated jiu-jitsu competitor Ricco Rodriguez made his King of the Cage debut at KOTC 2: Desert Storm in San Jacinto, CA. Rodriquez went into the bout with an MMA record of 4-1. His opponent, Travis Fulton, had an MMA/NHB record of 71–22–6 going into the fight. The bout lasted 4:49. Rodriquez defeated the more experienced veteran after getting an armbar from a knee-on-belly position.
Following his KOTC debut, Rodriguez fought three times in Pride FC before returning to KOTC on February 24, 2001 at KOTC 7 in San Jacinto, CA. At the event, Rodriguez defended what was billed as the KOTC Heavyweight Championship against Paul Buentello.
King of the Cage 7, also known as KOTC: Wet and Wild, was one of the most infamous fight cards in the history of MMA. The event was held during a rainstorm at an outdoor venue located at Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA. The cage ended up being soaked in water. As a result, fighters had to deal with a slippery canvas throughout the night.
The weather elements wouldn’t bother Rodriguez though. Despite being taken down by Buentello in the first round, Rodriguez was able to utilize his jiu-jitsu skills to gain top position after attempting various submissions. Rodriguez came close to ending the fight in the first round after applying a fully locked in armbar before the round came to an end. In the second round, Rodriquez scored a takedown and spent most of the round in top position. Rodriguez eventually finished the fight with a kneebar at 4:21 of Round 2.
Following the bout, cage announcer Bruce Buffer announced Rodriguez as the King of the Cage “Heavyweight World Champion.” It would be the last time Rodriguez would compete in King of the Cage after he went on to compete in the UFC later that year.
While Rodriguez was announced as the KOTC Heavyweight Champion, his title is currently recognized as the KOTC Openweight Superfight Championship by some outlets with no connection to the Heavyweight or Super Heavyweight titles.