Tony Reid – You competed in UFC 1. What were your thoughts and feelings entering the competition at the time and what are your thoughts and feelings looking back now?
Art Jimmerson – “I had never heard of mixed martial arts. I was on a 15 fight winning streak in boxing. I had not lost in five years. I was ranked in the top ten in the world and in line for a title shot against Thomas ‘Hitman’ Hearns. I was told they were looking for a legitimate boxer so I entered the competition.”
Tony Reid – Of course we have to touch on it so I will do it early and get it out of the way. Why only one glove?
Art Jimmerson – “At the time my manager and I knew we had a few big fights coming up (in boxing) and I didn’t want to break my hand. That would have cost me a lot of money. People don’t realize I made a name for myself outside the cage, in the boxing ring. I wouldn’t say the UFC fight hurt me but it didn’t help me either. People still ask me what I was thinking, what was I doing, (wearing one glove). Well I didn’t know! We didn’t know what we were getting into. I just didn’t want to hurt my hand and my career in boxing.
“I should write a book. There was a lot of stuff that happened in the background that people don’t know about. They put the red carpet out for us. They wined and dined me with lobster, steak and things like that. The sport was brand new and no one would license it. Without Denver (The Colorado Athletic Commission) this would have not been licensed anywhere. There was a point in time where I wanted to back out before the fight. I was thinking that I have a wife, kids, a family. The UFC executives actually came to me and said ‘Hey, we know we are brand new. We don’t know how this is going to work out. If you want we can offer you a small percentage of the company.’ So I could have had a small percentage of the UFC. At the time I wasn’t thinking like that, so I didn’t take it.”
Tony Reid – So where is the glove now?
Art Jimmerson – (Laughs) “It’s at my mom’s house. It’s funny because we never knew how big this thing would get. It’s somewhere in her house now. I get offers for the glove all the time. One wealthy friend of mine offered me a good bit of money for it. Another guy offered me $5,000 on Facebook for it. I have tons of memorabilia at home, gloves, trunks, programs that I will have to go back and go through it all at some point.”
Tony Reid – You were telling me earlier that you got an interesting message on Facebook. Can you elaborate on that by telling us what that person told you to do with the glove?
Art Jimmerson – (Laughs) “Its funny, being hired by the UFC I get the chance to meet a lot of the pioneers and the young guys coming up. I know Royce Gracie has a gym in Torrance and I happened to be down there and I walked in and lo and behold I see Rorion (Gracie) and I said ‘Hey Rorion, how are you doing?’ He says hello and he goes into his office. He came back out and I asked if he knew who I was. He said ‘Should I know you?’ and I said “’l’ll give you three guesses” and he looked and looked and ‘Oh, my Art Jimmerson!’ But back to the advice, I befriended Royce Gracie on Facebook and his advice was to keep it for myself because it’s that personal of an item.”
Tony Reid – You told me earlier that the glove isn’t your most prized or cherished possession from that fight, that your trunks are. Why is that the case?
Art Jimmerson – “Whatever the Lord tells me to do, I do. I have been a Christian all my life. A part of my life changed when I started fighting. I was able to put ‘Jesus is Lord’ on one side and a religious verse on the other side. Those trunks outweigh everything as far as value to me. People ask how I can be a man of God and still fight. It’s just my job. It gives me a chance to tell everybody who I am. I speak at churches and gatherings and talk about the fight game and my religion. But life itself is a fight. Fights are good and with the bible I use it in a positive way. I can use my words and the word of God instead of using my fists.”
Tony Reid – Most MMA fans will remember you as you were two decades ago. Now you are the head boxing instructor at the UFC Gym. What has that experience been like and what were you doing for a living between UFC 1 and your current job with the UFC?
Art Jimmerson – “I worked for Pepsi for about 20 years. After I retired from boxing I was still out there teaching boxing in my three gyms, totally busy. Once the UFC Gym opened it was like peanut butter and jelly. To be one of the first strikers to compete in the UFC and then to be the striking coach is great.”
Tony Reid – So who is the biggest MMA fighter that you have worked with at the gym?
Art Jimmerson – “First of all, the UFC Gym is top of the line. Everything there is amazing. The atmosphere is great, the trainers are top notch, it’s just great. I had a chance to meet Cain (Velasquez) and I also got a chance to meet Chuck Liddell. With the UFC they generally bring guys in and do commercials and demonstrations and things like that. So there are a number of guys that come through that we get a chance to be around.”
Tony Reid – I am rewatching every UFC event starting with UFC 1, which you are very familiar with. What would you want me or any fan to take away from the early days of the sport?
Art Jimmerson – “Nothing good happened for me that night. Sometimes I hate to even look at it but it comes up so much. Before every UFC show they show the clip of Royce taking me down. I wish I could go back, hit rewind and work on the ground game. If I could have got Royce to stand with me, even for a few seconds I would have had him. The whole plan was to sprawl to keep him from taking me down, the same way it was made famous by Chuck Liddell. Royce was by the book. He came in, took me down and started head butting me. I was asking the referee to come in and break it up (Laughs)! The ref said to keep fighting. I remember hearing Jim Brown and the other announcers talking about it. I just had no knowledge on the ground. I had nothing.”
Tony Reid – Looking back now, the one glove somewhat defined you in many ways in a negative fashion but in a sense it was a reason for people to remember you whether you won or lost. Now you still have the job at the UFC gym, people are still contacting you, wanting to know about you and things like that. It could be seen as a positive. There are plenty of guys who just came and went that most fans forgot about but in a certain way the one glove was a good thing for you. Do you see it that way?
Art Jimmerson – “I try to take every negative and turn it into a positive, so I do see it that way. A looked back at thought the UFC fight hurt my name in the boxing world but it really gave me something. Even though at the time it didn’t look good it really worked out great for me.”
Tony Reid – I know you spoke about meeting up with Rorion and reconnecting with Royce, is there anyone else we would be surprised you keep in touch with from back in the day?
Art Jimmerson – “For a long time I didn’t want anything to do with the UFC. I felt like they used me. They really didn’t use me but that was how I felt for a long time. So I didn’t really keep in touch with anybody. Recently I have been getting more respect for my other fights.”
Tony Reid – I think any true fan of the sport would respect you just for the simple fact that you got in there. You were one of the originals. You had no idea what was going to happen, just a gladiator going into battle. I think anyone with any real respect for the sport appreciates what you did. I think you might be underestimating yourself a bit.
Art Jimmerson – “I always joke that I walked into a gunfight with one gun and Royce walked in with a gun, a bow and arrow and a whole arsenal! I’m like the boxer in the game Streetfighter and Royce is one of the other higher level guys in the game but once Royce was on me I realized I wasn’t in a video game anymore.”
Tony Reid – Your time there was brief but do you have a fond memory of your time spent in the UFC?
Art Jimmerson – “After UFC 1 I was so disappointed. I was crying in the locker room. I mean, I hadn’t lost in five years, over 15 fights. Afterward, we all went to a Masquerade Ball, where we all dressed up and had masks on. I was still disappointed. Royce was there having a good time. Everybody was dancing around. Guys came in with missing teeth, busted up faces, black eyes and stuff. It was brutal. It was a crazy night.”