Every fighter in the UFC, whether champion, legend or debutant, has to start somewhere. That somewhere usually isn’t the big show. Occasionally, multiple future stars end up gathered on a single regional card. At the time, this card may not seem significant, but years down the road, we can look back in hindsight and marvel at how stacked that event turned out to be. That’s exactly what we’ll do in this series, called History Lessons.

So, let’s jump in the time machine and travel back. The date was Dec. 15, 2001, and the location was the Hawaiian Convention Center in Honolulu. It was time for Shogun 1, an event put on by the International Fighting Championships promotion.

Not every early fight for a future star can end in success. Sometimes, it’s a loss—we saw it last week, when we visited the early part of Benson Henderson’s career—and sometimes it’s a bout that ends on a sour note, such as a no-contest. That was the case in the most important fight in the early days of UFC lightweight Josh Thomson’s career.

The scenario wasn’t ideal for the young Thomson, as he pointed out in a 2010 interview with Bloody Elbow. The high school and NCAA Division III wrestler had rolled through his amateur opponents and defeated Jason Abajian in his pro debut in 2001. He added a submission win over Victor Estrada less than two months later, but that seemed to be a wrap on Thomson’s year. Then, training partner Phil Perez was unable to compete in a scheduled December bout against Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. As Thomson put it in the Bloody Elbow interview, he heard that the fight was in Hawaii and accepted. On short notice, the future Strikeforce champion and UFC contender had agreed to fight one of the best Japanese fighters of the era for just a $1,000 purse.

Not only was Thomson fighting on short notice, but he was entering the lightweight contest with little knowledge of his opponent. That turned out to be a problem, as Yamamoto was able to score takedowns and get the better of Thomson. Had the bout not ended when Yamamoto absorbed a kick to the groin in the second round, the Japanese star likely would have edged his American counterpart on the scorecards.

The bigger significance of the fight, however, was the presence of UFC President Dana White in the audience. White didn’t sign Thomson, then 23 years old, immediately after the event, but it only took three more fights for “The Punk” to punch his ticket to the Octagon. Thomson rebounded from the no-contest to score submission wins over Doug Evans and current The Ultimate Fighter: Nations competitor Kajan Johnson and edge future WEC champion Rob McCullough via unanimous decision.

Less than two years after his last-minute fight in Hawaii, Thomson made his UFC debut against Gerald Strebendt, a fighter who would eventually become more known for his testimony in the murder trial of the infamous Rafiel Torre than he ever would for his fight career. Thomson won that fight by knockout and topped Hermes Franca in his next bout before suffering the first official loss of his career against Yves Edwards.

With the UFC cooling on the lightweight division, Thomson made a one-fight trip to Pride and then landed in Strikeforce, where he twice captured gold and challenged for it on two more occasions. Overall, Thomson tallied a 10-3 mark in the Strikeforce cage, peppering in an additional win at Pride and Fury 5—coincidentally against Rocky Johnson, the same fighter that handed Henderson his first pro loss—and an additional loss at a K-1 Dynamite!! event. It wasn’t until the UFC bought and absorbed Strikeforce’s roster that Thomson finally returned to the UFC ranks. After nearly nine years away from the promotion, Thomson returned in April 2013 with a TKO victory over Nate Diaz. The win has propelled Thomson into the UFC lightweight title picture, and a victory at UFC on Fox 10 over Henderson this weekend could put him near the front of the line for a title bid.

As for Yamamoto? The “Kid” suffered a quick TKO loss, due to a cut, in his next outing, but became a favorite of hardcore MMA fans over the next six years. He enjoyed a healthy run under the K-1 Hero’s banner, winning the promotion’s 2005 lightweight grand prix and recording an astounding two-second knockout of Kazuyuki Miyata. His good fortune declined in 2009, however, when he lost to Joe Warren under the Dream banner and went 1-1 in his next two fights. Still, the legendary stretch of his career had afforded him the ability to sign a contract with the UFC, and a little more than nine years after his fight with Thomson, Yamamoto made his UFC debut. He continued his recent struggles, though, en route to losing three fights in the eight-sided cage.

Thomson may have benefited from Dana White’s presence at Shogun 1, but he wasn’t the only one to catch the eye of the UFC’s new head.

There was a 19-year-old Pat Miletich protégé by the name of Robbie Lawler who was also competing that night in Honolulu. Lawler was just 3-0 as a pro since making his debut earlier that year. All three of those victories came by some form of knockout, and the longest had required just over two minutes from start to finish. White was going to see a bit more of Lawler than just two minutes of action, but not by much.

Lawler’s opponent that night was Shooto veteran Saburo Kawakatsu, who held a record of 5-3-1. Kawakatsu wanted to take the fight to the ground, but Lawler, an All-State wrestler in high school, had little trouble stuffing the Japanese fighter’s takedowns and refused to follow “Shogun” to the mat. Lawler punished Kawakatsu with a knee to stop one takedown attempt, and eventually the American surged forward with a flurry that finished the fight.

With four fights and four finishes under his belt, Lawler had punched his ticket to the UFC. His next fight, which came five months after his win over Kawakatsu, was his Octagon debut against Aaron Riley. Lawler won his first three UFC bouts to move his record to 7-0, but then he dropped a fight to Pete Spratt. The loss was the first in a 1-3 stretch that led to his departure from the UFC. He then captured Superbrawl, Icon Sport and EliteXC gold before landing in Strikeforce, where he went an unimpressive 3-5. Upon his return to the UFC in 2013, Lawler moved back to welterweight and experienced an amazing career resurgence. He has won three fights inside the Octagon and is set to fight Johny Hendricks in March for the welterweight championship recently vacated by Georges St-Pierre. Kawakatsu, meanwhile, returned to Shooto, but never won another fight and only made three more appearances over the next five years.

Thomson, Lawler and Yamamoto may stand as the three most significant fighters from Shogun 1, but the list of future UFC competitors produced by the event does not end there.

Current Team Alpha Male head coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig was a 7-2 prospect when he locked horns with Thomas Denny at the event. Denny had experienced a rough start to his career and was just 6-7 at the time. Ludwig was able to connect with knees in the first round to hand Denny another loss.

Ludwig wouldn’t return to MMA action until 2003, but when he did, it came against Jens Pulver at UCC 12. Ludwig scored a knockout win and moved on to make his Octagon debut at UFC 42 against Genki Sudo. Ludwig defeated Sudo, but bounced from promotion to promotion after that. His second UFC fight, also a win, came nearly three years after his first Octagon victory. It wasn’t until 2010 that Bang finally settled in for a stretch of multiple fights with the UFC, but he managed just a 2-5 mark in those outings before turning to coaching. Denny, now 42, has not been able to reach the UFC, but he has put up a winning record as a veteran journeyman.

Yves Edwards was also there at Shogun 1. The lightweight was coming off his UFC debut and would head back to the Octagon for his next appearance. Edwards was 18-6-1 at the time and had lost his UFC debut to Matt Serra. Across the cage from him stood a 3-0 prospect named Kultar Gill. Edwards was able to get a heel hook in the second round for the submission win. He returned to the UFC the next year with a loss to Caol Uno and has gone 10-9 over multiple stints inside the Octagon. Edwards has also fought under the Pride, Bellator and Strikeforce banners during his 64-fight career. Gill, meanwhile, bounced back from the loss to pick up four straight wins and move to 7-1, but the Canadian has gone just 5-7 over his last 12 outings.

The Shogun 1 lineup included several more future or past UFC fighters.

There was Dennis Hallman, who was already 1-1 inside the Octagon and 22-5 overall with two wins over Matt Hughes when he squared off with future Bitetti Combat promoter Amaury Bitetti in the evening’s headlining bout. Bitetti, who was also 1-1 under the UFC banner with a loss to Don Frye at UFC 9, was 4-2 at the time. He managed to eke out a split decision verdict over Hallman, but Bitetti never competed again. Hallman, who still remains active, has amassed a 4-5 mark inside the UFC over multiple stints with the promotion.

There was Wesley “Cabbage” Correira, who started his career with three straight losses. He had bounced back with two wins and added a third at Shogun 1 when he scored a 68-second TKO of UFC veteran Aaron Brink. It was part of a seven-fight winning streak for Cabbage that led to a UFC contest against Tim Sylvia less than a year after Shogun 1. Correira lost to Sylvia and went 2-2 overall inside the Octagon. Brink, who had lost to Andrei Arlovski at UFC 28, has failed to ever return to MMA’s biggest stage.

Tony Fryklund was just a four-fight veteran when he stepped into the Shogun cage, but he had already fought twice in the UFC at UFC 14. He emerged with a second-round guillotine choke submission win over Marty Armendarez. Fryklund would need two more wins before returning to the UFC in 2002. “The Freak” has gone just 2-2 inside the Octagon. He suffered a knockout loss to Cung Le in 2007 at a Strikeforce and EliteXC co-promoted show and tried to make a comeback in 2013 under the Bellator banner. His lone Bellator appearance ended in a split draw versus Patrick Cenoble.

Shogun 1 marked the pro debut for another future UFC fighter. Heavyweight Christian Wellisch stormed out of the gates in one of the evening’s earliest bouts by scoring an 83-second TKO of Dennis Taddio. The TKO ended Taddio’s run as a mixed martial artist with no wins through four fights. Wellisch used the win as the initial spark to a 6-2 run that landed him in the Octagon. His UFC debut came nearly five years after his pro debut at Shogun 1. He lost to Cheick Kongo at UFC 62 and went just 2-3 over a two and a half year tenure with the promotion. Wellisch hasn’t fought since a split decision loss to Jake O’Brien in 2009.

With names like Yves Edwards, Dennis Hallman, Christian Wellisch and Tony Fryklund in the lineup, Shogun 1 could already claim an impressive roster of talent for the event. However, add two future UFC contenders, a future top Brazilian event promoter and one of the best coaches in the business today all fighting that night in Honolulu, and the event becomes a truly significant moment in MMA history.