UFC ups and downs: the history of the ultimate MMA promotion from the beginning to the present day

Alisa Barladyan
30 Apr 2022
16:28

UFC is the biggest MMA promotion in the world, that brings together the best fighters of the planet. In this MMA.Metaratings.ru article, we will tell you how it all began, who nearly "choked" the organization, and thanks to whom it has survived and still thrives.

Bet on UFC with 1xBet
The UFC championship belt

UFC creators

The founding fathers of UFC were Rorion Gracie, a senior instructor at the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy in Los Angeles, and his students: movie director and screenwriter John Milius and businessman Art Davie. Rorion's younger brother, Royce, then participated in fights and won tournaments three times. Milius became the creative director, and Davie became the creative mastermind. It was Art who suggested establishing an all-in wrestling tournament in 1992. Davey got busy looking for investors and advertising. He was sure that there would be some good money to be made.

Rorion Gracie
Rorion Gracie
Bet on UFC with 1xBet

They attracted more than twenty investors and created a company called WOW Promotions, which provided the legal framework for the tournament. Only one company agreed to run it on TV - the cable provider SEG. Back in the day it broadcasted an unusual tennis match between a man and a woman, so they weren't used to a certain amount of risk and sports experimentation. After all, no one knew how MMA fighting would be received by the American audience.

John Milius
John Milius

SEG creative specialists came up with their own idea for the arena of the upcoming competition - the Оctagon. They called the match Ultimate Fighting Championship - UFC for short.

Art Davie
Art Davie
Bet on UFC with 1xBet

The first UFC tournament

On November 12, 1993, at the McNichols Arena in Denver, USA, the first all-in wrestling tournament (MMA in the future) UFC 1 took place. The attention-grabbing slogan was: "Can a boxer beat a fighter?" Eight fighters, representing various styles and disciplines of martial arts, from boxing to sumo, took part in the bouts. Only biting and eye gouging were forbidden. There was no time limit. The fight lasted until the knockout, until the opponent gave up or the seconds threw in the towel.

UFC 1 poster
UFC 1 poster

The tournament was a raging success. Nearly 3,000 seats were sold at the arena, and nearly 87,000 more people bought views on the SEG television channel. The founders and their partners had initially viewed the project as a one-time event but decided to keep expanding the business.

In 1995, SEG bought out Gracie, Davie and Milius and became the sole owner of the promotion. Business went well until 1996.

Bet on UFC with 1xBet

Ban on shows and broadcasts

In 1996, Senator John McCain recommended a ban on UFC tournaments and shows in the United States. It happened after he watched a recording of one of those tournaments. The senator found them too brutal and compared them to cockfights. His recommendations were accepted by the majority of states and TV channels. And the next years became a real struggle for survival for UFC.

To save the championship, SEG decided to move away from the entertainment value and focus on the sports side. By 2000 a set of rules for mixed martial arts fights was finally drawn up and it's still in use today. It was developed in conjunction with the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. These rules became the "de facto" rules for all similar tournaments. McCain then graciously recognized mixed martial arts as a sport.

In 2000, UFC organized the first tournament under the United Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, officially recognized in the United States. The championship was saved, but SEG overestimated its power.

John McCain
John McCain

The new UFC host who led the promotion to fame and big money

At the end of 2000, SEG's expenses for organizing fights far exceeded the income from them, and despite the growing popularity of MMA, the company wanted to get rid of the unprofitable project. At that time, a well-known boxing promoter Dana White showed his interest in it. He convinced the Las Vegas casino chain owners, brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, to buy it. They created Zuffa company and purchased UFC with it for $2 million in 2001. And Dana White became president of the organization.

Dana White and the Fertitta brothers
Dana White and the Fertitta brothers
Bet on UFC with 1xBet

He promoted tournaments for several years, and they were gaining more and more views on pay channels, but still - the rate of growth and revenues were not enough to justify the purchase. In 2004, Zuffa's losses totaled $34 million since purchase of UFC. Then White made an ingenious move that gave a major boost to the development and popularization of MMA - he came up with a television show.

The Ultimate Fighter

The new reality show was called The Ultimate Fighter. It was first shown in 2005. Two teams of not yet well-known fighters trained under the guidance of current and former UFC champions and faced each other in fights. The organization signed a six-figure contract with the winner of the final fight. The show became popular and caused an explosion of interest in mixed martial arts. The result was not long in coming.

The Ultimate Fighter
The Ultimate Fighter

At the end of 2006, UFC had a net profit of more than $200,000,000. In terms of revenue, the organization surpassed boxing and wrestling promotions, which previously had appeared unattainable.

Moreover, in 2007, the famous Internet betting site Bodog claimed that the number of bets on MMA fights exceeded those of the boxing matches. And there was a record of more than 1 million purchased views on cable television showed that interest in mixed martial arts had increased significantly. That same year, Zuffa bought Japan's Pride, a major UFC rival. As a result, UFC became the largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world.

The championship's peak of popularity happened in 2009 - the previous record was broken and 1.7 million pay-per-views were purchased. In 2010 UFC tournaments were broadcasted in 130 countries in 20 different languages.

Bet on UFC with 1xBet
UFC
UFC

A profitable deal and a change in ownership

In 2016, Dana White and the Fertitta brothers decided to sell a controlling stake in UFC. The Hollywood company Endeavour offered $4 billion, and the deal went through. After another five years, in 2021, it bought the remaining shares from Zuffa and became the sole owner of UFC. At the same time, White had a contract signed, so he remained in his position as president and continued to run the championship. Endeavour was able to hold tournaments even during the coronavirus pandemic. During the strict lockdown, the bouts were held at a facility that was purpose-built for the UFC in Abu Dhabi and called Fight Island.

Fight Island
Fight Island

Fighters' salaries and bonuses

Salaries in UFC can range from $10,000 per fight to a million or more - it all depends on how financially profitable the events involving a particular fighter are. The great fighter isn't likely to earn much if he is not interested in public. But the hyped-up ones, such as, say, Conor McGregor, can get seven figures for the fight. Apart from that, the promotion champions also get a lot of money.

Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor
Bet on UFC with 1xBet

In addition to awards, there are some sponsorship contributions and a separate line of income - bonuses. Until 2022, there were two types of bonuses in UFC: one for the best fight and the other for the best performance, which were awarded on every event. The award amount was $50,000.

In 2022, another prize appeared - a fan bonus to the three best fighters. It will be given in cryptocurrency (bitcoin), and awarded by a vote of mixed martial arts fans from around the world. One of the largest crypto-platforms Crypto.com serves as a site for counting votes and determining the winners. The total payout is $60,000. For the first place the athlete receives $30,000, the second is $20,000, and the third is $10,000. There will be prizes drawn between the participants of the voting: access to the UFC NFT drop, UFC gift cards and a free subscription to watch the fights.

UFC
UFC

UFC is a true leader in the world of MMA. It feels like there are no real competitors to it. The company strictly follows the principle of "keeping politics out of sports." This helps UFC remain the most respected organization in mixed martial arts and promote Russian fighters, despite their negative environment that has been created by the current geopolitical situation. Every fighter strives to get into the UFC roster to become the strongest athlete in the world.

Bet on UFC with 1xBet
10 Pro Athletes Paid in Bitcoin & Crypto
10 Pro Athletes Paid in Bitcoin & Crypto
The most promising UFC fighters in 2022
The most promising UFC fighters in 2022
Jessica-Rose Clark, the hottest Harley Quinn of the UFC universe
Jessica-Rose Clark, the hottest Harley Quinn of the UFC universe
Comments
No Comments Yet! Be the first to share what you think!