UFC 37 (And 37.5, too)
The UFC held UFC 37.5 only a little more than a month after promoting UFC 37 on May 10, 2002, in Bossier City, La., to take advantage of the opportunity to get a fight onto Fox Sports Net.
UFC management had already announced plans for both UFC 37 and UFC 38 when Fox agreed to broadcast one fight in June 2002 during its “All-Star Summer” in June. In an attempt to take advantage, the UFC created another card and held an event on June 22 in a ballroom at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas that it dubbed UFC 37.5.
UFC 37 will be mostly remembered for a controversy that hasn’t subsided to this day. Matt Lindland challenged Murilo Bustamante for the middleweight title. A submission specialist, Bustmante put an arm bar on Lindland in the first round and it seemed that Lindland tapped out.
Referee John McCarthy jumped in and stopped the fight, but Lindland complained that he had not tapped. McCarthy decided not to stop the fight. It created a debate that rages to this day, and there are people who are solidly in both camps.
It turned out, though, not to matter much when Bustamante guillotined Lindland in the third round. This time, Lindland did tap and Bustamante kept the belt.
In June, UFC 37.5 was held in the swanky Bellagio hotel. Only six bouts were on the Saturday afternoon card and Chuck Liddell defeated Vitor Belfort in the main event. But Robbie Lawler knocked out Steve Berger early in the second round and Fox chose that fight to show on the air. It thus became the first mixed martial arts fight on cable television.
Phil Baroni is known as “The New York Bad Ass” and showed why after knocking out Amar Suloev at UFC 37. Baroni, upset at an illegal knee to the head earlier in the fight, flicked sweat from his forehead onto Suloev as he was still unconscious after being knocked out.
Bustamante signed with PRIDE not long after this fighting and the UFC stripped him of its middleweight belt. At the time, that left three of the five belts vacant.
Robbie Lawler def. Aaron Riley, unanimous decision
Benji Radach vs. Steve Berger, no contest
Ivan Salaverry def. Andrei Semenov, TKO, 2:27 R3
Caol Uno def. Yves Edwards, unanimous decision
Phil Baroni def. Amar Suloev, KO, 2:55 R1
B.J. Penn def. Paul Creighton, 3:32 R2
Ricco Rodrigues def. Tsuyoshi Kosaka, TKO, 3:25 R2
Yves Edwards def. Joao Marcos Pierini, TKO, 1:19 R1
Tony Fryklund def. Rodrigo Ruas, TKO, 3:34 R2
Robbie Lawler def. Steve Berger, TKO, 0:27 R2
Pete Spratt def. Zach Light, submission (armbar), 2:25 R1
Benji Radach def. Nick Serra, unanimous decision
Chuck Liddell def. Vitor Belfort, unanimous decision