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The Evolution of the UFC

How The UFC Came To Dominate The MMA Industry 

The UFC – Ultimate Fighting Championship – is a Mixed Martial Arts fighting company based in Los Angeles, United States. 

The company was formed 29 years ago in 1993 and has been run by Dana White since 2001. They have held over 500 events in the last 30 years, although over the COVID-19 pandemic they have put together fewer events. 

Today, we are going to look at how the UFC went from a small event held in a college gym to the biggest MMA company in the world. 

The 90s 

The UFC was founded by businessman Art Davie and Brazilian martial artist Rorion Gracie. The initial idea behind the competition was to discover which form of martial arts was the most effective. 

The competition was designed to pit fighters using different martial arts styles against each other – this would show a clear winner. The idea was inspired by a similar event that Gracie’s family had held in Brazil. It would be an 8 man competition featuring a kung fu expert, karate expert, kickboxing expert, and more. 

The UFC’s signature Octagon ring (an 8 sided chain link ring) was used in its very first fight – but Davie mentioned at one point they had considered using a crocodile-filled moat instead. 

The first event was held in the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. The event was sponsored by WOWproductions and was advertised as being like a real-life Street Fighter game. 

At this event, fighters were only allowed to use one style of fighting, but as more events happened these rules became less strict and it became a more mixed martial arts style competition. 

Eventually, more firm rules above what moves were and weren’t allowed were put into place after a series of injuries. 

The 00s 

At the end of the 90s, American politicians became horrified by the type of fighting that was taking place at the UFC. This resulted in 36 states banning it, including New York. 

This led to a huge slump in profits for the company and they were on the verge of bankruptcy before they were bought out by  Station Casinos executives Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and their business partner Dana White in 2000. 

Dana White was named CEO of the company and had held the role since. 

The 00s were a difficult time for the company, they had $2 million of debt to pay off and they were losing fighters due to the law change. 

The company started by securing a spot for their fights on cable TV and selling videos of their fights afterward. They put a lot of money into advertising and started to take corporate sponsorships. They started to hold their fights in the same kind of locations as big boxing events and started selling pay-per-view events. 

Many of these techniques were inspired by the world of boxing. 

Another huge factor in the growth of the UFC was its reality TV program Ultimate Fighter. Which gave its audience an insight into the lives of the fighters. This was done very much in the style of the WWE. They started showing the fighters as people, who could have fans, not just “human cockfighters” as Senator John McCain had called them. 

The company completely transformed during the 00s and by the end of the decade, it was more popular than it had ever been. 

The 10s 

The 2010s saw two big changes for the UFC – they started to buy up their competition and they started to allow women to fight in their competition. 

During the 00s, there were a few other, smaller MMA competitions that were starting to gain traction. Both in the US and Japan. However, the UFC had become so successful that it was rich enough to buy up and dissolve its competitors. It did this to over 5 MMA companies in the 2010s. 

Three notable companies that the UFC bought out were Invicta Fighting Championships, Pride Fighting Championships, and Strikeforce. 

In 2012, the UFC hired a group of female fighters from the Strikeforce and Invicta Rosters. The first woman to sign for the UFC was Ronda Roussey – she took part in and won the first female fight for the company. 

During this decade, the UFC consistently set and broke PPV sales records. Irish fighter Connor McGregor took part in 9 of 10 of the biggest PPV MMA fights ever.  

The Future? 

The UFC is currently believed to be worth around $4 billion. The Endeavour Group has recently brought out Zuffa on the stock market, which means they now have the majority say of what happens in the UFC. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the number of fights the UFC has put on over the last 2 years. 

However, we are about to see UFC 271 which will feature Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 as the main card event joint with Lewis vs Tuivasa. It will have 6 preliminary fights, 5 male matches, and 1 female. 

You can find the best UFC odds here. UFC 271 will be taking place in the Toyota Centre in Houston, Texas, United States. 

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