‘Gladiator Man’ Retired, New Pay-Per-View Intro Debuts at UFC 143

Dana White (Matt Erickson/HeavyMMA)

Digital Domain, Hans Zimmer work on UFC’s new pay-per-view opening

LAS VEGAS – The UFC’s famed Gladiator, who for years has opened broadcasts by rubbing sand on his hands and brandishing swords in between clips of the fighters on the card talking about their bouts, has retired.

Well, to put it more accurately, the UFC has retired him. And in his place will be a new intro montage that will debut before Saturday’s UFC 143 card.

HeavyMMA was on hand Thursday in Las Vegas for a special media-only screening of the new show open with UFC president Dana White, who detailed some of the back stories behind the new montage, which White said is called “Evolution.”

“We went all out on this thing,” White said. “We really didn’t screw around with this thing. We did it, and we did it right.”

The new opening is 60 seconds long and will lead into the same-style fighter interview clips currently seen before pay-per-view events. And from there, the “Face the Pain” song by the band Stemm will remain – leading to overhead crowd shots and eventually to pay-per-view broadcasters Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

The new opening was put together by Digital Domain, a visual effects studio that has worked on countless films, including current Oscar nominees “Real Steel” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” The 19-year-old company was founded by Oscar-winning writer, producer and director James Cameron, the visionary behind such films as “Titanic,” “Avatar,” Aliens” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

The sequence also got an original score from Hans Zimmer, an Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer who has scored such films as “The Lion King,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight,” and, ironically, “Gladiator.”

The montage starts in a dojo with original fight footage of Royce Gracie tapping out Ken Shamrock at UFC 1. And as Shamrock taps, the floor begins to break down and gradually the backgrounds as other fight footage is shown changes and becomes bigger, an Octagon starts to push through the floor, light risers start to go up, and as the footage closes, a modern-day UFC scene is shown at UFC 129, the record-setting crowd in Toronto.

The ending will be customized for each event, featuring the two fighters in the main event. For its debut at UFC 143, welterweights Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit are shown on screens after the camera pans down an aisle of flags that are unfurled, representing many of the countries of UFC athletes.

The opening, which took six months to complete, from concept to finished product, features footage from 18 different fights, and all seven current champions and six UFC Hall of Famers are included.

“Probably the most important thing about this new piece is it pays tribute to to all the guys who have helped build this company and build this sport over the last 10 years during the Zuffa era,” White said.

For the first time, below is the list of historic UFC fight moments that are featured in the new opening:

* Royce Gracie taps out Ken Shamrock, UFC 1
* Tito Ortiz slams Evan Tanner, UFC 30
* Matt Hughes slams Frank Trigg, UFC 52
* Chuck Liddell knocks out Tito Ortz, UFC 47
* BJ Penn lands a flying knee on Sean Sherk, UFC 84
* Georges St-Pierre head kicks Matt Hughes, UFC 65
* Randy Couture drops Tim Sylvia, UFC 68
* Quinton “Rampage” Jackson knocks out Wanderlei Silva, UFC 92
* Mark Coleman “hero shot” on Jumbotron
* Brock Lesnar drops Heath Herring, UFC 87
* Rich Franklin knocks out Nate Quarry, UFC 56
* Junior dos Santos knocks out Gilbert Yvel, UFC 108
* Dominick Cruz suplexes Demetrious Johnson, UFC on Versus 5
* Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, TUF 1 Finale
* Cain Velasquez knees and punches Brock Lesnar, UFC 121
* Chuck Liddell “hero shot” in Jumbotron
* Frankie Edgar slams Gray Maynard, UFC 125
* Jose Aldo knocks down Mark Hominick, UFC 129
* Jon Jones elbows Stephan Bonnar, UFC 94
* Anderson Silva head kicks Vitor Belfort, UFC 126