"There Are No Rules!" was an early catchphrase of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. At the core a misguided attempt to hook into the "Faces of Death" crowd, the founders of the UFC could never have envisioned the media juggernaut that the sport would eventually become. Originally a real-life Bloodsport, the first few events featured an 8-man single elimination tournament, pitting practitioners of many different styles against each other to see which martial arts was the "best of the best!" This was also before weight classes were introduced, best illustrated by a UFC 3 matchup between 600-lb Emmanuel Yarborough and 200-lb Keith Hackney. The similarities to Jean-Claude Van Damme's "underground death fight" genre flicks (Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, etc.) were particularly "striking". But let's put the joking aside. We're here to talk about Jon Hess.
Hess first became interested in the budding world of mixed martial arts after witnessing UFC 4, which he "thought was a joke". He took aim specifically at legendary Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Royce Gracie, whom he said he "could defeat very easily."
Mr Hess came to UFC 5 billed as a practitioner AND co-founder of a martial art called S.A.F.T.A., a wonderful acronym for "Scientific Aggressive Fighting Technologies of America." Now anyone who has seen either of Jon Hess's two professional fights can attest that there is nothing Scientific about S.A.F.T.A., nor does Technology play any part in said style. Take a look-see at Lew Hicks, co-founder, in action:
Hess's first fight was a true battle of the titans, as he took on Andy "The Hammer" Anderson, who, in addition to owning a string of totally nude steak houses in Texas, is also remembered as wearing the most memorable outfit in UFC history, complete with spaghetti straps and vertical striped pants. He was billed as being 86-0 in "bare knuckle challenges", with ALL 86 WINS BY KNOCKOUT! What a fearsome competitor!
In the end, though, Andy Anderson and his moustache were no match for the 6'7" 295 pound Hess and his inimitable fighting style, which included head stomping, eye gouging, and various other Aggressive techniques that resulted in many fines for our hero. After this fight, Big Jon withdrew from the tournament due to a fractured hand, which, combined with his unspeakable savagery, landed him on the UFC's blacklist. Sadly, this would be the last time we would see S.A.F.T.A. in action. Or would it?
Fourteen months later, Hess received a challenge to fight in the Superbrawl 2 event from someone calling himself simply Victor, who claimed to be the brother of Royce Gracie. Despite being overweight and undertrained, Hess bravely accepted this challenge and was summarily destroyed in 12 seconds by one Vitor Belfort who, at the time, was one of the best fighters in the sport:
Hess suffered a concussion in the bout, and has not fought since. This has not stopped him from calling out superior fighters, though, as illustrated in this 2005 interview with Sherdog.com.
Thousands of people (including myself) are still awaiting Jon Hess's return to the fight world. Yet as each day goes by, the chances of seeing Mr. Hess and S.A.F.T.A. again grow slimmer as Hess the man grows fatter and more obscure. A true American Hero, let's do our part to put Jon Hess in the spotlight once again!
There is news that Big Jon has been surreptitiously slinking his way back into the world of professional fighting! It seems that the first posting of this article in 2007 stirred Hess into a comeback attempt, but he has been derailed multiple times by injuries. He has, however, become a successful cornerman for various Team Quest fighters (Randy Couture's camp), so there is further hope that S.A.F.T.A. will soon come roaring back with the same ferocity as the merciless pummeling of Andy Anderson!