UFC PPV opening Gladiator sequence out, ‘Evolution’ in

The UFC is dumping its iconic “Gladiator” opening to its pay-per-view broadcasts and live shows and replacing it with an homage to the fighters who helped build the company.

The open, which UFC president Dana White has named “Evolution,” was scored by Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer and produced by Digital Domain, a company founded by Academy Award-winning director James Cameron.

The open, which White showed to reporters Thursday following the UFC 143 pre-fight news conference at Mandalay Bay, has highlight footage from 18 fights featuring all seven reigning UFC champions and six Hall of Fame members.
It includes moves that represent all of the disciplines that make up mixed martial arts, and concludes by sweeping down a hall of flags from the countries where the UFC has held events, coming to a finish with the faces of the night’s main event fighters on a scoreboard.

White would not disclose how much the company paid to have the new opening produced, but he said it was “an obscene amount” and “way, way more” than his new Ferrari.

Producers culled through nearly 25 hours of highlights to come up with the finished product, which took six months to make. And even when White thought he was finished – and had spent enough – he learned there was more work to do and more money to spend.

As he watched what he thought would be the final product, he noticed that UFC officials had not included video of former middleweight champion Rich Franklin in the reel. White felt Franklin was one of the men instrumental in the company’s rise after he and partners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta purchased it in 2001 and felt he needed to include Franklin.

“It cost us a [expletive] of money and a bunch of time to fix it and get Rich in there,” White said. “There was no way I was going to air this thing without Franklin being in there, too. It’s really a tribute to the fighters who helped us to get to where we are today.”

The scene begins with Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, who met at UFC 1 in 1993, grappling in a dojo. All of the footage from the old UFC fights, which were recorded in standard definition, were digitally remastered to include minute details.

White said it was a painstaking process, but he wanted it to be as perfect as possible.

“These guys had to cut every one of those images out, frame by frame and do little things like the shadowing under the feet,” White said. “The detail in this thing is phenomenal. For most people, this thing is going to air on Saturday, they’re going to be like, ‘Ah, that sucked. It’s all hype.’ You know how the fans are. ‘That’s it?’ Some people will think it’s great, but you cannot imagine the amount of detail and the amount of work that went into this thing.”

As Gracie submits Shamrock and Shamrock is tapping, the digitally created floor cracks and the scene shifts to a slam of Evan Tanner by Tito Ortiz.

As the highlights advance, the Octagon begins to be built around them and the lighting grid goes up. The last highlight shows current middleweight champion Anderson Silva kicking Vitor Belfort in the face to win by knockout at UFC 126. After Silva’s foot connects, it morphs into a wide shot of the massive crowd of more than 55,000 who attended UFC 129 in Toronto.

The UFC interviewed four companies before deciding on Digital Domain, but it also hired the company that produces its UFC Primetime show to make an open that will be used differently, perhaps on its television broadcasts.

The funny post-script is that when White decided to change the popular gladiator opening, he searched for the actor who played the gladiator with the intent of creating a viral video.

He was unable to find him, however. But he said the gladiator played a key role in bringing the UFC to where it is now.

“[When we first bought the company], we went through so much [expletive] to try to figure out what the identity for this thing was going to be,” White said. “Then, when we got the gladiator, I was like, ‘This is it! This is perfect.’ At the time when the gladiator was there, it was awesome, and look what it built into. When we go live, and that show opens, no matter where you are in the arena, that [expletive] place goes crazy.

“He was some actor. We tried to find him. We’ve been looking for him for a week-and-a-half. We were going to do this viral piece with him, but we couldn’t find him. He’s probably fat now, and out of shape.”

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