|Industry||Mixed martial arts|
|Headquarters||Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.|
|Dana White (President)
(VP, Regulatory Affairs)
(VP, Talent Relations/Matchmaker)
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is an American mixed martial arts organization based in Las Vegas, Nevada, that is owned and operated by parent company WME–IMG. It is the largest MMA promotion in the world and features the top-ranked fighters of the sport. Based in the United States, the UFC produces events worldwide that showcase eleven weight divisions and abide by the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. As of 2017, the UFC has held over 400 events. Dana White serves as the president of the UFC. He has held that position since 2001; while under the leadership of Dana White the UFC has grown into a globally popular multibillion-dollar enterprise.
The first event was held in 1993 at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. The purpose of the early Ultimate Fighting Championship competitions was to identify the most effective martial art in a contest with minimal rules between competitors of different fighting disciplines like boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Sambo, wrestling, Muay Thai, karate, judo, and other styles. In subsequent competitions, fighters began adopting effective techniques from more than one discipline, which indirectly helped create an entirely separate style of fighting known as present-day mixed martial arts. In 2016, UFC's parent company Zuffa was sold to William Morris Endeavor (WME-IMG) for $4 billion.
With a TV deal and expansion in Europe, Australia, the West Asia, East Asia, and new markets within the United States, the UFC as of 2017[update] has gained in popularity, along with greater mainstream media coverage. As of 2017, viewers can access live UFC fights and fight replays on their subscription network UFC Fight Pass at a cost of $7.99–$9.99 USD per month via devices like Apple TV, iPhone, Android, Xbox, Roku, and Google Chromecast as well as on pay-per-view in the U.S., Brazil, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Italy. On network TV, UFC content is available on Fox, Fox Sports 1, and Fox Sports 2 in the U.S., on ESPN in the Caribbean, on BT Sport in the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as in 150 countries and 22 different languages worldwide.
Art Davie proposed to John Milius and Rorion Gracie an eight-man single-elimination tournament called "War of the Worlds". The tournament was inspired by the Gracies in Action video-series produced by the Gracie family of Brazil which featured Gracie Jiu-Jitsu students defeating martial-arts masters of various disciplines such as karate, kung fu, and kickboxing. The tournament would also feature martial artists from different disciplines facing each other in no-holds-barred combat to determine the best martial art and would aim to replicate the excitement of the matches Davie saw on the videos. Milius, a noted film director and screenwriter, as well as a Gracie student, agreed to act as the event's creative director. Davie drafted the business plan and twenty-eight investors contributed the initial capital to start WOW Promotions with the intent to develop the tournament into a television franchise.
In 1993, WOW Promotions sought a television partner and approached pay-per-view producers TVKO (HBO), SET (Showtime), and Campbell McLaren at the Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG). Both TVKO and SET declined, but SEG – a pioneer in pay-per-view television which had produced such offbeat events as a gender versus gender tennis match between Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova – became WOW's partner in May 1993. SEG contacted video and film art director Jason Cusson to design the trademarked "Octagon", a signature piece for the event. Cusson remained the Production Designer through UFC 27. SEG devised the name for the show as The Ultimate Fighting Championship.
WOW Promotions and SEG produced the first event, later called UFC 1, at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado on November 12, 1993. Art Davie functioned as the show's booker and matchmaker. The show proposed to find an answer for sports fans' questions such as: "Can a wrestler beat a boxer?" As with most martial arts at the time, fighters typically had skills in just one discipline and had little experience against opponents with different skills. The television broadcast featured kickboxers Patrick Smith and Kevin Rosier, savate fighter Gerard Gordeau, karate expert Zane Frazier, shootfighter Ken Shamrock, sumo wrestler Teila Tuli, boxer Art Jimmerson, and 175 lb (79 kg) Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Royce Gracie—younger brother of UFC co-founder Rorion, whom Rorion handpicked to represent his family in the competition. Royce Gracie's submission skills proved the most effective in the inaugural tournament, earning him the first ever UFC tournament championship after submitting Jimmerson, Shamrock, and Gordeau in succession. The show proved extremely successful with 86,592 television subscribers on pay-per-view.
It's disputed whether the promoters intended for the event to become a precursor to a series of future events. "That show was only supposed to be a one-off", eventual UFC president Dana White said. "It did so well on pay-per-view they decided to do another, and another. Never in a million years did these guys think they were creating a sport." Art Davie, in his 2014 book Is This Legal?, an account of the creation of the first UFC event, disputes the perception that the UFC was seen by WOW Promotions and SEG as a one-off, since SEG offered a five-year joint development deal to WOW. He says, "Clearly, both Campbell and Meyrowitz shared my unwavering belief that War of the Worlds[note 1] would be a continuing series of fighting tournaments—a franchise, rather than a one-night stand." With no weight classes, fighters often faced significantly larger or taller opponents. Keith "The Giant Killer" Hackney faced Emmanuel Yarbrough at UFC 3 with a 9 in (23 cm) height and 400 pounds (180 kg) weight disadvantage. Many martial artists believed that technique could overcome these size disadvantages, and that a skilled fighter could use an opponent's size and strength against him. With the 175 lb (79 kg) Royce Gracie winning three of the first four events, the UFC quickly proved that size does not always determine the outcome of the fight.
During this early part of the organization, the UFC would showcase a bevy of different styles and fighters. Aside from the aforementioned Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, and Patrick Smith, the competitions also featured competitors such as Hall of Famer Dan Severn, Marco Ruas, Gary Goodridge, Don Frye, Kimo Leopoldo, Oleg Taktarov, and Tank Abbott. Although the first events were dominated by jiu-jitsu, other fighting styles became successful: first wrestling, then ground and pound, kickboxing, boxing, and dirty boxing, which eventually melded into modern mixed martial arts.
In April 1995, following UFC 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Davie and Gracie sold their interest in the franchise to SEG and disbanded WOW Promotions. Davie continued with SEG as the show's booker and matchmaker, as well as the commissioner of Ultimate Fighting, until December 1997.
Although UFC used the tagline "There are no rules!" in the early 1990s, the UFC did in fact operate with limited rules. It banned biting and eye-gouging, and frowned on (but allowed) techniques such as hair pulling, headbutting, groin strikes, and fish-hooking.
In fact, in a UFC 4 qualifying match, competitors Jason Fairn and Guy Mezger agreed not to pull hair—as they both wore pony tails tied back for the match. Additionally, that same event saw a matchup between Keith Hackney and Joe Son in which Hackney unleashed a series of groin shots against Son while on the ground.
The UFC had a reputation, especially in the early days, as an extremely violent event, as evidenced by a disclaimer in the beginning of the UFC 5 broadcast which warned audiences of the violent nature of the sport.
UFC 5 also introduced the first singles match, a rematch from the inaugural UFC featuring three-time champion Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, called "The Superfight". This proved an important development, because singles matches would feature fighters who suffered no prior damage from a previous fight in the same event, unlike tournament matches. Singles matches would become a staple in the UFC for years to come.
"The Superfight" began as a non-tournament match that would determine the first reigning UFC Champion for tournament winners to face; it later evolved into a match that could feature either title matches or non-title matches. The "Superfight" would eventually completely phase out tournament matches; by UFC Brazil, the UFC abandoned the tournament format for an entire card of singles matches (aside from a one-time UFC Japan tournament featuring Japanese fighters). UFC 6 was the first event to feature the crowning of the first non-tournament UFC Champion, Ken Shamrock.
The violent nature of the burgeoning sport quickly drew the attention of the U.S. authorities.
In 1996, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) saw a tape of the first UFC events and immediately found it abhorrent. McCain himself led a campaign to ban UFC, calling it "human cockfighting", and sending letters to the governors of all fifty US states asking them to ban the event.
Thirty-six states enacted laws that banned "no-hold-barred" fighting, including New York, which enacted the ban on the eve of UFC 12, forcing a relocation of the event to Dothan, Alabama. The UFC continued to air on DirecTV PPV, though its audience remained minuscule compared to the larger cable pay-per-view platforms of the era.
In response to the criticism, the UFC increased cooperation with state athletic commissions and redesigned its rules to remove the less palatable elements of fights while retaining the core elements of striking and grappling. UFC 12 saw the introduction of weight classes and the banning of fish-hooking. For UFC 14, gloves became mandatory, while kicks to the head of a downed opponent were banned. UFC 15 saw limitations on hair pulling, and the banning of strikes to the back of the neck and head, headbutting, small-joint manipulations, and groin strikes. With five-minute rounds introduced at UFC 21, the UFC gradually re-branded itself as a sport rather than a spectacle.
Led by UFC commissioner Jeff Blatnick and referee John McCarthy, the UFC continued to work with state athletic commissions. Blatnick, McCarthy, and matchmaker Joe Silva created a manual of policies, procedures, codes of conduct, and rules to help in getting the UFC sanctioned by the athletic commissions, many of which exist to this day. Blatnick and McCarthy traveled around the country, educating regulators and changing perceptions about a sport that was thought to be bloodthirsty and inhumane. By April 2000, their movement had clearly made an impact. California was set to become the first state in the U.S. to sign off on a set of codified rules that governed MMA. Soon after, New Jersey adopted the language.
As the UFC continued to work with the athletic commissions, events took place in smaller U.S. markets, and venues, such as the Lake Charles Civic Center. The markets included states that are largely rural and less known for holding professional sporting events, such as Iowa, Mississippi, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Alabama. SEG could not secure home-video releases for UFC 23 through UFC 29. With other mixed martial arts promotions working towards U.S. sanctioning, the International Fighting Championships (IFC) secured the first U.S. sanctioned mixed-martial-arts event, which occurred in New Jersey on September 30, 2000. Just two months later, the UFC held its first sanctioned event, UFC 28, under the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board's "Unified Rules".
As the UFC's rules started to evolve, so too did its field of competitors. Notable UFC fighters to emerge in this era include Hall of Famers Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Pat Miletich, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, and Tito Ortiz, as well as notables Vitor Belfort, Mark Kerr, Pedro Rizzo, Murilo Bustamante, Frank Shamrock, Mikey Burnett, Jeremy Horn, Pete Williams, Jens Pulver, Evan Tanner, Andrei Arlovski, and Wanderlei Silva, among others.
After the long battle to secure sanctioning, SEG stood on the brink of bankruptcy when Station Casinos executives Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and their business partner Dana White approached them in 2000, with an offer to purchase the UFC. A month later, in January 2001, the Fertittas bought the UFC for $2 million and created Zuffa, LLC as the parent entity controlling the UFC.
"I had my attorneys tell me that I was crazy because I wasn't buying anything. I was paying $2 million and they were saying 'What are you getting?'" Lorenzo Fertitta revealed to Fighter's Only magazine, recalling the lack of assets he acquired in the purchase. "And I said 'What you don't understand is I'm getting the most valuable thing that I could possibly have, which is those three letters: UFC. That is what's going to make this thing work. Everybody knows that brand, whether they like it or they don't like it, they react to it.'"
With ties to the Nevada State Athletic Commission (Lorenzo Fertitta was a former member of the NSAC), Zuffa secured sanctioning in Nevada in 2001. Shortly thereafter, the UFC returned to pay-per-view cable television with UFC 33 featuring three championship bouts.
The UFC slowly, but steadily, rose in popularity after the Zuffa purchase, due partly to greater advertising, corporate sponsorship, the return to cable pay-per-view and subsequent home video and DVD releases.
With larger live gates at casino venues like the Trump Taj Mahal and the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the UFC secured its first television deal with Fox Sports Net. The Best Damn Sports Show Period aired the first mixed martial arts match on American cable television in June 2002, as well as the main event showcasing Chuck Liddell vs. Vitor Belfort at UFC 37.5. Later, FSN would air highlight shows from the UFC, featuring one-hour blocks of the UFC's greatest bouts.
UFC 40 proved to be the most critical event to date in the Zuffa era. The event was a near sellout of 13,022 at the MGM Grand Arena and sold 150,000 pay per view buys, a rate roughly double that of the previous Zuffa events. The event featured a card headlined by a highly anticipated championship grudge match between then-current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz and former UFC Superfight Champion Ken Shamrock, who had previously left to professional wrestling in the WWE before returning to MMA. It was the first time the UFC hit such a high mark since being forced "underground" in 1997. UFC 40 also garnered mainstream attention from massive media outlets such as ESPN and USA Today, something that was unfathomable for mixed martial arts at that point in time. Many have suggested that the success of UFC 40 and the anticipation for Ortiz vs. Shamrock saved the UFC from bankruptcy; the buyrates of the previous Zuffa shows averaged a mere 45,000 buys per event and the company was suffering deep monetary losses. The success of UFC 40 provided a glimmer of hope for the UFC and kept alive the hope that mixed martial arts could become big. Beyond the rivalry itself, the success of UFC 40 was due in part to the marketing and outreach power of crossover athletes - from Pro Wrestling to MMA and MMA to Pro Wrestling - a practice with roots in Japan's Pride Fighting Championships. Long time UFC referee "Big" John McCarthy said that he felt UFC 40 was the turning point in whether or not the sport of MMA would survive in America.
|“||"When that show (UFC 40) happened, I honestly felt like it was going to make it. Throughout the years, things were happening, and everything always looked bleak. It always looked like, this is it, this is going to be the last time. This is going to be the last year. But, when I was standing in the Octagon at UFC 40, I remember standing there before the Ortiz/Shamrock fight and looking around. The energy of that fight, it was phenomenal, and it was the first time I honestly said, it's going to make it." –"Big" John McCarthy||”|
Despite the success of UFC 40, the UFC was still experiencing financial deficits. By 2004, Zuffa had $34 million of losses since they purchased the UFC. Fighters who came into prominence after Zuffa's takeover include Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Rich Franklin, B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, Matt Serra, Ricco Rodriguez, Robbie Lawler, Frank Mir, Karo Parisyan, and Nick Diaz.
Faced with the prospect of folding, the UFC stepped outside the bounds of pay-per-view and made a foray into television. After being featured in a reality television series, American Casino, and seeing how well the series worked as a promotion vehicle, the Fertitta brothers developed the idea of the UFC having its own reality series.
Their idea, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF)–a reality television show featuring up-and-coming MMA fighters in competition for a six-figure UFC contract, with fighters eliminated from competition via exhibition mixed martial arts matches–was pitched to several networks, each one rejecting the idea outright. Not until they approached Spike TV, with an offer to pay the $10 million production costs themselves, did they find an outlet.
In January 2005, Spike TV launched TUF in the timeslot following WWE Raw. The show became an instant success, culminating with a notable season finale brawl featuring finalists Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar going toe-to-toe for the right to earn the six-figure contract, an event that Dana White credits for saving the UFC.
On the heels of the Griffin/Bonnar finale, a second season of The Ultimate Fighter launched in August 2005, and two more seasons appeared in 2006. Spike and the UFC continued to create and air new seasons until the show moved to FX in 2012.
Following the success of The Ultimate Fighter, Spike also picked up UFC Unleashed, an hour-long weekly show featuring select fights from previous events. Spike also signed on to broadcast live UFC Fight Night, a series of fight events debuting in August 2005, and Countdown specials to promote upcoming UFC pay-per-view cards.
After a very successful run on Spike and with the upcoming announcement of the UFC's new relationship with Fox, Spike officials made a statement regarding the end of their partnership with the UFC, "The Ultimate Fighter season 14 in September will be our last... Our 6-year partnership with the UFC has been incredibly beneficial in building both our brands, and we wish them all the best in the future."
With the announcement of UFC's partnership with Fox in August 2011, The Ultimate Fighter, which entered its 14th season in that September, moved to the FX network to air on Friday nights starting with season 15 in the Spring of 2012. Along with the network change, episodes are now edited and broadcast within a week of recording instead of a several-month delay, and elimination fights are aired live.
With increased visibility, the UFC's pay-per-view buy numbers exploded. UFC 52, the first event after the first season of The Ultimate Fighter featuring eventual-UFC Hall of Famer Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell avenging his defeat to fellow eventual-Hall of Famer Randy Couture, drew a pay-per-view audience of 300,000, doubling its previous benchmark of 150,000 set at UFC 40. Following the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC's much-hyped match between Liddell and Couture drew an estimated 410,000 pay-per-view buys at UFC 57.
For the rest of 2006, pay-per-view buy rates continued to skyrocket, with 620,000 buys for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie—featuring Royce Gracie's first UFC fight in 11 years—and 775,000 buys for UFC 61 featuring the highly anticipated rematch between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz, the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter 3. The organization hit a milestone with UFC 66, pitting Ortiz in a rematch against Liddell with over 1 million buys.
The surge in popularity prompted the UFC to beef up its executive team. In March 2006, the UFC announced that it had hired Marc Ratner, former Executive Director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, as Vice President of Regulatory Affairs. Ratner, once an ally of Senator McCain's campaign against no holds barred fighting, became a catalyst for the emergence of sanctioned mixed martial arts in the United States. Ratner continues to lobby numerous athletic commissions to help raise the UFC's media profile in an attempt to legalize mixed martial arts in jurisdictions inside and outside the United States that have yet to sanction the sport.
In December 2006, Zuffa acquired the northern California-based promotion World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) in order to stop the International Fight League (IFL) from making a deal with Versus (now NBC Sports Network). At the time, the UFC had an exclusive deal with Spike, so the purchase of the WEC allowed Zuffa to block the IFL from Versus without violating their contract. The WEC showcased lighter weight classes in MMA, whereas the UFC featured heavier weight classes. Notable WEC fighters included Urijah Faber, Jamie Varner, Carlos Condit, Benson Henderson, Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Eddie Wineland, Miguel Angel Torres, Mike Thomas Brown, Leonard Garcia, Brian Bowles, Dominick Cruz, and José Aldo.
In December 2006, Zuffa also acquired their cross-town, Las Vegas rival World Fighting Alliance (WFA). In acquiring the WFA, they acquired the contracts of notable fighters including Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, and Martin Kampmann.
The sport's popularity was also noticed by the sports betting community as BodogLife.com, an online gambling site, stated in July 2007 that in 2007 UFC would surpass boxing for the first time in terms of betting revenues. In fact, the UFC had already broken the pay-per-view industry's all-time records for a single year of business, generating over $222,766,000 in revenue in 2006, surpassing both WWE and boxing.
On March 27, 2007, the UFC and their Japan-based rival the Pride Fighting Championships announced an agreement in which the majority owners of the UFC, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, would purchase the Pride brand.
Initial intentions were for both organizations to be run separately but aligned together with plans to co-promote cards featuring the champions and top contenders from both organizations. However, after purchasing Pride, Dana White felt that the Pride model was not sustainable and the organization would likely fold with many former Pride fighters such as Antônio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira, Maurício "Shogun" Rua, Dan Henderson, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović, Wanderlei Silva, and others already being realigned under the UFC brand. On October 4, 2007, Pride Worldwide closed its Japanese office, laying off 20 people who were working there since the closing of its parent company Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE).
On June 18, 2008, Lorenzo Fertitta accommodated the UFC's growth by announcing his resignation from Station Casinos in order to devote his energies to the international business development of Zuffa, particularly the UFC. The move proved to be pivotal, as Fertitta helped strike TV deals in China, France, Mexico, and Germany as well as open alternative revenue streams with a new UFC video game and UFC action figures, among other projects.
Popularity took another major surge in 2009 with UFC 100 and the 10 events preceding it including UFC 90, 91, 92, 94, and 98. UFC 100 was a massive success garnering 1.7 million buys under the drawing power of former NCAA wrestling champion Brock Lesnar and his rematch with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir, Canadian Georges St-Pierre going head-to-head with Brazilian  Thiago Alves, and Dan Henderson opposing British Michael Bisping at middleweight after the two were rival coaches on The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom.
UFC 100 was unique in that it drew significant interest from ESPN, which provided extensive coverage of the event in the days preceding and following it. In fact, ESPN would eventually devote additional coverage of the UFC and other MMA news with the television debut of MMA Live on ESPN2 in May 2010.
The buzz from UFC 100 was hampered significantly in the second half of 2009 after a rash of injuries and other health-related issues—including Brock Lesnar's life-threatening bout with diverticulitis—forcing the organization to continuously scramble and reshuffle its lineup for several events.
However, the momentum gradually began to pick up in the first quarter of 2010 after victories from defending champions Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva, as well as Lyoto Machida's first career defeat to "Shogun" Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight title. These fights segued into a very popular clash between former UFC Champions and rivals Rashad Evans and Quinton Jackson—rival coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 10: Heavyweights—at UFC 114, featuring the UFC's first main event headlined by African-American fighters. The event scored over 1 million pay per view buys as Evans secured a unanimous decision victory.
This momentum carried into the summer of 2010 at UFC 116, which featured the return of Brock Lesnar defending his UFC Heavyweight title against the undefeated interim-champion Shane Carwin before 1.25 million PPV viewers. Lesnar survived an early barrage of Carwin's punches in a contest that was nearly stopped by referee Josh Rosenthal. However, Lesnar recovered in the second round to submit Carwin via arm triangle choke to retain the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Championship. The event as a whole was critically acclaimed in the media for living up to the hype with a number of exciting fights that were featured on the televised card.
After a dramatic fifth round, last minute victory by UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva over Chael Sonnen at UFC 117, Lesnar finally surrendered his belt to the undefeated Cain Velasquez via 1st-round TKO at UFC 121. The fight produced Velasquez's eighth knockout or technical knockout in his first nine MMA fights.
UFC 129 featured Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is currently the largest UFC event in North American history, which coincided with a two-day UFC Fan Expo at the Direct Energy Centre. The event sold out 55,000 tickets for gate revenues exceeding $11 million, shattering previous MMA attendance and gate records in North America.
On November 5, 2016 the UFC had their first exhibition in New York City after years of being delayed by government officials and red tape with a dramatic first match, Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez.
Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, purchased World Extreme Cagefighting in late 2006 and held the first WEC event under new ownership on January 20, 2007. Soon thereafter the WEC made its home on the Versus Network with its first event debuting on that network in June 2007.
On October 28, 2010, Zuffa announced that WEC would merge with the UFC. The WEC held its final card on December 16, 2010. As a result of the merger, the UFC absorbed WEC's bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight weight divisions and their respective fighters. The UFC also made the last WEC Featherweight and Bantamweight Champions, José Aldo and Dominick Cruz respectively, the inaugural UFC Champions of their new weight divisions.
Reed Harris, who started World Extreme Cagefighting with Scott Adams, had mixed emotions on the merger. "It's kind of like when your kid goes off to college: at first you're not happy, but after you think about it for a while, you're really happy," Harris told MMAWeekly.com in an exclusive interview immediately following the announcement. "At the end of the day, I never imagined this thing would be where we're at today. I'm extremely proud and happy that I was involved with something that will now be part of what may be, some day, the largest sports organization in the world."
On March 12, 2011, Dana White revealed that Zuffa had purchased Strikeforce. White went on to explain that Strikeforce will operate as an independent promotion, and that Scott Coker will continue to run the promotion. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced the return of Fedor Emelianenko on an unspecified July or August event and said that Zuffa-owned company would continue to co-promote with M-1 Global. Following the purchase, the UFC signed many of Strikeforce's top stars and champions, such as Jason Miller, Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem, and Cung Le. Under Zuffa's ownership, Strikeforce made minor changes, including adopting the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts in full, closing the promotion's men's weight classes below lightweight, and ceasing promotion of amateur undercard bouts. After an extension was reached to continue Strikeforce through 2012, the promotion's heavyweight division (sans Heavyweight Grand Prix finalists) was merged into the UFC, and the promotion's Challengers series was ended.
The final Strikeforce show was Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine on January 12, 2013, after which the promotion was dissolved and all fighter contracts were either ended or absorbed into the UFC.
|Velasquez vs. dos Santos||November 12, 2011||3.1||5||5.7 million|||
|Evans vs. Davis||January 28, 2012||2.6||5||4.7 million|||
|Diaz vs. Miller||May 5, 2012||1.5||3||2.4 million|||
|Shogun vs. Vera||August 4, 2012||1.4||3||2.4 million|||
|Henderson vs. Diaz||December 8, 2012||2.5||5||4.4 million|||
|Johnson vs. Dodson||January 26, 2013||2.4||5||4.2 million|||
|Henderson vs. Melendez||April 20, 2013||2.2||4||3.7 million|||
|Johnson vs. Moraga||July 27, 2013||1.5||3||2.4 million|||
|Johnson vs. Benavidez 2||December 14, 2013||1.8||3||2.8 million|||
|Henderson vs. Thomson||January 25, 2014||1.9||3||3.2 million|||
|Werdum vs. Browne||April 19, 2014||1.6||3||2.5 million|||
|Lawler vs. Brown||July 26, 2014||1.5||3||2.5 million|||
|dos Santos vs. Miocic||December 13, 2014||1.6||3||2.8 million|||
|Gustafsson vs. Johnson||January 24, 2015||1.8||4||3.0 million|||
On August 18, 2011, The Ultimate Fighting Championship and Fox announced a seven-year broadcast deal through the Fox Sports subsidiary, effectively ending the UFC's Spike TV and Versus (now NBC Sports Network) partnership. The deal includes four events on the main Fox network, 32 live Friday night fights per year on their cable network FX, 24 events following The Ultimate Fighter reality show and six separate Fight Night events.
The promotion's first broadcast television event – UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. dos Santos – broke form by showcasing only one fight to television viewers. In the main event, Junior dos Santos abruptly dethroned then-undefeated UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez by knock-out at 1:04 in the first round. The telecast peaked with 8.8 million viewers tuning into the fight with an average audience of 5.7 million, making it by far the most watched MMA event of all-time and the most watched combat sports event since 2003's HBO bout between Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko.
One of the other programming opportunities that is already in motion is a weekly UFC magazine-style show. When asked about the potential for a weekly magazine-style series, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta responded, "Not only weekly, but, potentially, multiple times per week you'll have a UFC magazine (show)." The UFC will maintain production control of its product, including the use of its broadcast team of Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. Fox Sports will produce the pre- and post-shows.
On November 16, 2012, the eve of UFC 154: St. Pierre vs. Condit, Dana White confirmed with Jim Rome the UFC would feature women's MMA with the signing of its first female fighter, Strikeforce bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. She subsequently became the first female UFC champion, the first Olympic medalist with a UFC title, and the first woman to defend a UFC title. She would successfully defend her title six times over a grand total of 1,074 days, before she was defeated by Holly Holm on November 15, 2015, at UFC 193.
On December 11, 2013, the UFC purchased the contracts of 11 female fighters from Invicta Fighting Championships to launch their 115-pound Strawweight division. Eight of the Invicta fighters took part in the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter, The Ultimate Fighter: Team Pettis vs. Team Melendez, along with eight additional fighters signed up for the tournament via open tryouts. Season winner, Invicta FC's Strawweight Champion, Carla Esparza became the first UFC women's strawweight champion, defeating Rose Namajunas in the finale. Other fighters on the show included Felice Herrig, Tecia Torres, Bec Hyatt, Randa Markos, Jessica Penne, and Joanne Calderwood.
The first UFC event to be held outside the United States was UFC 8 in Puerto Rico, a US territory, in 1996. Subsequently, the UFC has visited 15 countries in Asia, Europe, Oceania, South America, and North America.
Canada has hosted events 18 times, starting with UFC 83 in 2008 and most recently in 2015 with UFC 186. UFC's biggest event to date was also in Canada, as UFC 129 held at Rogers Centre featured a record-breaking attendance of 55,724.
The United Kingdom has been home to 16 events. The first was UFC 38 held in London in 2002. UFC returned to the United Kingdom in 2007 with UFC 70, and visited Northern Ireland for UFC 72. The UK's most recent event was at England with UFC 204 in 2016. Ireland has held UFC 93 in 2009 and UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao 5 years later. In continental Europe, Germany has hosted 5 times, the first being UFC 99 in 2009, UFC 122 in 2010, UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs. Mousasi in 2014, UFC Fight Night: Jędrzejczyk vs. Penne in 2015 and the latest was UFC Fight Night: Arlovski vs. Barnett in 2016. Sweden has hosted 3 times, starting with UFC on Fuel TV: Gustafsson vs. Silva in 2012, and recently with UFC on Fox: Gustafsson vs. Johnson in 2015. Poland had its first event with UFC Fight Night: Gonzaga vs. Cro Cop 2 in 2015. There are also Fight Night events due to take place in 2016, in Rotterdam, Netherlands and Zagreb, Croatia.
The first Brazilian event was UFC Brazil: Ultimate Brazil, held in São Paulo in 1998. The promotion did not return to Brazil until 2011 for UFC 134, but since then, the country has hosted a further 20 events. Their most recent visit was UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Alves. In 2014, Mexico became the second country in Latin America to host an event with UFC 180, followed by a second event, UFC 188, in 2015.
Seven UFC events have been held in Australia, beginning with UFC 110 in 2010 and most recently in 2015 with UFC 193. New Zealand held its first event in 2014, UFC Fight Night: Te Huna vs. Marquardt.
In Asia, the UFC has visited 5 countries. Japan had its first visit in 1997 for UFC Japan: Ultimate Japan. The UFC only returned to the country in 2012, with UFC 144. Their last visit was in 2014 for UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs. Nelson, the seventh event there. The promotion has also featured 2 visits to the United Arab Emirates. The first was in 2010 for UFC 112 and the second in 2014 for UFC Fight Night: Nogueira vs. Nelson. The promotion has also visited Macau in 3 occasions: China's special administrative region was first visited in 2012 with UFC on Fuel TV: Franklin vs. Le and last visited in 2014 for UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Le. The promotion has also visited Singapore with UFC Fight Night: Saffiedine vs. Lim in 2014. The Philippines was the most recent Asian country that the UFC has visited, with UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Faber in 2015.
The Ultimate Fighter has had international editions as well: Brazil (since 2012), Australia (vs. United Kingdom - 2012), China (2013), Canada (vs. Australia - 2014), and Latin America (2014).
On February 27, 2014, the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned the use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). The UFC followed suit and banned the use of TRT for any of their events, including international markets where the UFC oversees regulatory efforts.
Throughout 2015, debate over venues and possible case dismissals ensued. Ultimately, the case moved to Nevada federal courts, where Zuffa was denied its motion to stay discovery for 15 years of its financial records.
This has caused an ongoing debate and struggle over how UFC sensitive information should be handled, and who may view it. Especially concerning MMAFA founder, Rob Maysey who has taken the lead in representing the former athletes and has stated he hopes to achieve reforms similar to the Ali Act (2000).
Later that year, a 12–16 month investigation began that is expected to last until sometime between September 2016 to January 2017. Thus far, both sides have provided well over 100,000 documents.
In May 2016, ESPN originally reported that the UFC's parent company Zuffa, LLC was in talks to sell the company for $3.5 billion to $4 billion. (In 2015, the UFC had a reported EBITDA of $200–250 million.) Because it was a privately owned company, no official comment was made from the UFC or Dana White regarding the sale. Companies initially interested in the sale were Dalian Wanda Group, China Media Capital, and WME–IMG.
On July 9, 2016, it was officially announced that the UFC would be sold to a group led by WME–IMG, its owner Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and MSD Capital, for $4.2 billion. At the time, it marked the largest-ever acquisition in sport. Lorenzo Fertitta stated that the new ownership, "with whom we've built a strong relationship over the last several years, is committed to accelerating UFC's global growth", and that they "share the same vision and passion for this organization and its athletes." Flash Entertainment (owned by the government of Abu Dhabi) will retain its 10% minority stake in the company. White, who owned 9% of the UFC, stayed, having been given a stake in the new business. Shortly after the sale, it was announced that White would remain president. As a result of the sale, Fertitta stepped down as chairman and CEO.
The current rules for the Ultimate Fighting Championship were originally established by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board. The set of "Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts" that New Jersey established has been adopted in other states that regulate mixed martial arts, including Nevada, Louisiana, and California. These rules are also used by many other promotions within the United States, becoming mandatory for those states that have adopted the rules, and so have become the standard de facto set of rules for professional mixed martial arts across the country.
UFC matches vary in maximum length, depending on whether the match is for a Championship title, or is a fight card's "main event" fight. In all fights, each round can be no longer than five minutes. Championship fights last for a maximum of five rounds. Beginning with UFC 138 on November 5, 2011, non-championship "main event" fights (i.e. the final fight on the card) will also last for a maximum of five rounds. Non-main event bouts last for a maximum of three rounds. UFC on FX: Alves vs. Kampmann featured the organization's first two flyweight fights as part of its first flyweight tournament, which consists of bouts that, in the event of a draw, go to a fourth "sudden victory" round held to determine the winner, who advances. There is a one-minute rest period between rounds.
The UFC stages bouts in an eight-sided enclosure officially named "The Octagon". Originally, SEG trademarked the concept as well as the term and prevented other mixed martial arts promotions from using the same type of cage, but in 2001 Zuffa gave permission for other promotions to use octagonal cages, reasoning that the young sport needed uniformity to continue to win official sanctioning. Today Zuffa reserves exclusive use of the name "The Octagon".
The UFC cage is an octagonal structure with walls of metal chain-link fence coated with black vinyl. The standard octagon has a diameter of 30 ft (9.1 m) with a 6 ft (1.8 m) high fence. The cage sits atop a platform, raising it 4 ft (1.2 m) from the ground. It has foam padding around the top of the fence and between each of the eight sections. It also has two entry-exit gates opposite each other. The mat, painted with sponsorship logos and art, is replaced for each event.
All competitors fight in approved shorts, without shoes. Tops are only approved for female competitors. Required safety equipment include padded gloves, mouthguard, and protective cups held in place with a jockstrap for males. The open-fingered gloves have at least 1" of padding around the knuckles, (110 to 170 g / 4 to 6 ounces) that allow fingers to grab. To ensure compliance, fighters are checked by a State Athletic Committee official before being allowed to enter the cage/ring.
Originally the attire for UFC was very open. Many fighters still chose to wear tight-fitting shorts or boxing-type trunks, while others wore long pants or singlets. Several wore wrestling shoes. Multi-time tournament Champion Royce Gracie wore a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi in all of his early appearances in UFC (Gracie wore shorts against Matt Hughes at UFC 60), while Art Jimmerson appeared in UFC 1 wearing one standard boxing glove. As of UFC 133 there has been a ban on speedo style shorts after Dennis Hallman wore one in his fight against Brian Ebersole. UFC president Dana White was so furious about the fighter's choice of attire that he awarded an honorary "getting those horrifying shorts off TV as soon as possible" bonus to Ebersole for finishing the fight in the first round, and in following post-fight interviews made it clear that speedo style shorts will no longer be tolerated.
On December 2, 2014, the UFC and Reebok held a press conference to announce an exclusive deal for Reebok to become the worldwide outfitter for the UFC, beginning in July 2015. Financial terms of the six-year partnership were not released, but UFC officials said that though the agreement represents the most valuable non-broadcast contract the company has ever signed, the UFC will not directly profit from the new deal. Instead, company execs said the deal is structured so that the "vast majority of the revenue" from the deal – taking out only the costs associated with administering the new program – will be paid directly to UFC fighters.
Payment on the new deal was originally expected to be based on the fighter's spot in the official UFC rankings, with the exception of the UFC champions. Fighters ranked No. 1 to 5 would be paid at one level, No. 6 to 10 at a lower level, No. 11 to 15 below that, and unranked fighters at a base rate. The payments will remain consistent regardless of where the athletes' bouts air. In addition to the per-fight rate, fighters will also receive royalty payments representing 20 percent of any UFC merchandise sold that bears their likeness. The royalty program will also include retired fighters and continue in perpetuity. The deal itself is reported to be worth 70 million dollars which is what the fighters will be paid over the next six years which is roughly 260 thousand dollars per UFC fight card. In April 2015, the UFC announced that they scrapped the rankings idea and that payment will be based on the fighter's number of bouts in the octagon, with different tiers (1-5 fights, 6-10 fights, 11-15 fights, and 16-20 fights). Exceptions are made in the event of title fights, with champions and title challengers receiving greater compensation. The kits were revealed on June 30, 2015. All kits will feature the fighter's name on the back of the jersey and fighters will have the option to choose between a universal kit or a country kit, related to his nationality. There is also a champion kit, designed to be used only by title holders.
The new deal means that beginning with fight week for UFC 189 in Las Vegas, existing sponsors will no longer appear on fighter clothing – not only on fight night, but also at all pre-fight media appearances – and in-cage sponsor banners also will be eliminated. Fighter camps also will be outfitted with approved clothing to create a uniform look in athletes' corners. Existing sponsors are still welcome to support UFC fighters. However, the companies will be tasked with finding a new activation process since third-party logos will no longer be allowed on UFC broadcasts, other than title-sponsor slots – similar to those seen with European soccer clubs – that the UFC may eventually sell to "a major, global brand" down the road.
Matches may end via:
In the event of a draw, it is not necessary that the fighters' total points be equal (see, e.g., UFC 41 Penn vs. Uno, or UFC 43 Freeman vs. White). However, in a unanimous or split draw, each fighter does score an equal number of win judgments from the three judges (0 or 1, respectively).
The ten-point must system is in effect for all UFC fights; three judges score each round and the winner of each receives ten points while the loser receives nine points or fewer (although 10–10 rounds are given in the rare event that a judge feels the rounds was too close to warrant giving one fighter 10 and the other 9.) Scores of 10–8 are typically awarded for dominant rounds and anything more dominant is scored less. 10–7 rounds are very rare.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission currently lists the following as fouls:
When a foul is charged, the referee in their discretion may deduct one or more points as a penalty. If a foul incapacitates a fighter, then the match may end in a disqualification if the foul was intentional, or a no contest if unintentional. If a foul causes a fighter to be unable to continue later in the bout, it ends with a technical decision win to the injured fighter if the injured fighter is ahead on points, otherwise it is a technical draw.
Fights that occur on The Ultimate Fighter are classified as exhibition matches under NSAC sanctioning, and thus do not count toward the professional record of a fighter. Match outcomes also do not need to be immediately posted publicly, which allows for fight results to be unveiled as the series progresses.
For two-round matches, if there is a draw after two rounds, an extra five-minute round ("sudden victory") is contested. If the extra round concludes without a stoppage, the judges' decision will be based on that final round.
These exhibition matches variably have two or three rounds, depending on the rules used for each season. In most seasons, preliminary matches (before the semi-final bouts) were two rounds; in season two, all matches had three rounds. All matches past the first round use three rounds as per standard UFC bouts. During the finales for each series, the division finals have the standard three rounds, plus a fourth round if the judges score a tie.
The UFC currently uses nine different weight classes:
|Weight class name||Minimum Weight (lb)||Upper limit||Gender||Current champion||Date won||Defenses||Next Fight|
|in pounds (lb)||in kilograms (kg)||in stone (st)|
|Strawweight||None||115||52.2||8 st 3 lb||Women||Joanna Jędrzejczyk||March 14, 2015||5||November 4, 2017 (UFC 217)|
|Flyweight||115||125||56.7||8 st 13 lb||Men||Demetrious Johnson||September 22, 2012||10||October 7, 2017 (UFC 216)|
|Women||TBD||TBD||0||December 1, 2017 (The Ultimate Fighter: A New World Champion#The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale)|
|Bantamweight||125||135||61.2||9 st 9 lb||Men||Cody Garbrandt||December 30, 2016||0||November 4, 2017 (UFC 217)|
|Women||Amanda Nunes||July 9, 2016||2||(TBD)|
|Featherweight||135||145||65.8||10 st 5 lb||Men||Max Holloway||June 2, 2017||0||(TBD)|
|Women||Cristiane Justino||July 29, 2017||0||(TBD)|
|Lightweight||145||155||70.3||11 st 1 lb||Men||Conor McGregor||November 12, 2016||0||(TBD)|
|Welterweight||155||170||77.1||12 st 2 lb||Men||Tyron Woodley||July 31, 2016||3||(TBD)|
|Middleweight||170||185||83.9||13 st 3 lb||Men||Michael Bisping||June 4, 2016||1||November 4, 2017 (UFC 217)|
|Light Heavyweight||185||205||93.0||14 st 9 lb||Men||Daniel Cormier||May 23, 2015||2||(TBD)|
|Heavyweight||205||265||120.2||18 st 13 lb||Men||Stipe Miocic||May 14, 2016||2||(TBD)|
Non-title fights have a one-pound leniency. In title fights, the participants must weight no more than that permitted for the relevant weight division. The Commission may also approve catch weight bouts, subject to their review and discretion. For example, the Commission may still decide to allow the contest the maximum weight allowed is 177 pounds if it feels that the contest would still be fair, safe, and competitive. In addition, there is one weight class specified in the Unified Rules which the UFC does not currently use, super heavyweight, which is for fighters over 265 pounds.
MMA journalists and fans have criticized the UFC for putting on too many shows and thus diluting the quality of their product.
Comedian, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Taekwondo black belt Joe Rogan teams up with play-by-play announcer Jon Anik to provide commentary during broadcasts of most UFC events in the US. For 20 years Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg provided commentary at live events. The "Veteran Voice of the Octagon" is announcer Bruce Buffer. Arianny Celeste and Brittney Palmer are Octagon girls. Each fighter is assigned a cutman by the promotion who cares for the fighter before the fight and in between rounds. Jacob "Stitch" Duran was one of the best known cutmen working for the organization. Matches are made by matchmakers, and VP of Talent Relations, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby.
A UFC fighter generally does not have a salary. They are paid per fight, with amounts depending on how well-known the fighters are and how well sponsored a fighter and an event is. Fighters will typically get paid money to fight with an additional bonus if they win. Cash bonuses are also awarded for "Fight of the Night" and "Performance of the Night" (formerly awarded separately as "Knockout of the Night"). The size of these bonuses can sometimes be $80,000 USD (but are normally $50,000 USD). For less well-known fighters, they can be several times larger than the contracted amount for the fight. Contracted amounts generally have to be declared to the state athletic commission; however, the UFC also pays undisclosed locker-room bonuses to fighters. In recent years, UFC fighters' contracts and merchandising rights have been the subject of dispute between fighters (represented by growing the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association) and UFC, which has attempted to defend existing regulations.
|Youngest Champion||Jon Jones||23 years, 242 days|
|Oldest Champion||Randy Couture||45 years, 146 days|
|Longest reign as a Champion||Anderson Silva||2,457d (6y 8m 22d)|
|Most championship reigns||Randy Couture||6|
|Most Bouts||Michael Bisping||27|
|Most Wins||Michael Bisping||20|
|Most Finishes||Anderson Silva
|Most Knockouts||Vitor Belfort||12|
|Most Submissions||Royce Gracie||12|
|Most Decision Wins||Georges St-Pierre||12|
|Most wins in title bouts||Georges St-Pierre||12|
|Most title bouts||Randy Couture||15|
|Most consecutive title defenses||Anderson Silva
|Longest winning streak||Anderson Silva||16|
|Most Post Fight Awards||Nate Diaz
|Most Performance of the Night Awards||Conor McGregor||5|
|Most Knockout of the Night Awards||Anderson Silva||7|
|Most Submission of the Night Awards||Joe Lauzon||6|
|Most Fight of the Night Awards||Nate Diaz||8|
|Most total fight time||Frankie Edgar||6:02:51|
|Most takedowns in a single bout||Khabib Nurmagomedov||21 of 27 attempts|
|Fastest knockout||Duane Ludwig||0:06|
|Fastest submission||Oleg Taktarov||0:09|
|Fastest Title Fight Knockout||Conor McGregor||0:13|
|Fastest Title Fight Submission||Ronda Rousey||0:14|
The first fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two weight divisions simultaneously is Conor McGregor.
UFC maintains the UFC Hall of Fame which honors mixed martial artists and MMA personalities who have made an everlasting impact on the sport.
In January 2007, Zuffa and video game developer/publisher THQ announced a license agreement giving THQ worldwide rights to develop titles under the UFC brand. The agreement gives THQ exclusive rights to current and next-generation consoles as well as to PC and handheld titles. Also included are "certain wireless rights" which were not detailed. The licensing agreement was set to expire in 2011, although it appeared to have been extended to 2017. On June 6, 2012, during the E3 Exhibition, THQ had announced that they will be giving the license of UFC Undisputed to EA.
The first UFC action figure collectibles were released by Round 5 Corporation in May 2008. Series one of their figures includes Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Matt Hughes, Tito Ortiz, and Randy Couture. Series two (released on November 10, 2008) includes Wanderlei Silva, Sean Sherk, Rich Franklin, and Anderson Silva.
In July 2009, Round 5 acquired the UFC license through Jakks Pacific and subsequently released 5 more series under the UFC and Pride brands. 2 packs were released in August 2010 and includes a UFC Octagon cage and Pride ring display stand. Limited edition versions include fabric walk out tees or paint variations and are limited in number with foil and holographic packaging variances. Special edition and exclusive versions have been released at various UFC Fan Expo events.
On June 10, 2008, it was announced that UFC had signed an exclusive four-year contract with Jakks Pacific to create action figures for UFC. As of 2009[update] the schedule envisages the release of these figures in November 2009. They have currently been 8 series released and they feature special Legends, PRIDE, and WEC style figures as well. Three 2 packs series have also been released, as well as several expo and internet exclusives. There are also several different octagon cage playsets that have been released, including the "Octagon Playset", "Official Scale Octagon Playset", and "Electronic Reaction Octagon Playset". A PRIDE style ring playset was also originally planned; however, no news have been given on its status or release date since then.
Every pay-per-view UFC event has been released onto DVD. UFC 23 through UFC 29 were not released in the US on home video or DVD by SEG. They have since been released onto boxsets which feature around 10 events each set, in chronological order.
UFC on-demand content launched for Xbox 360 on December 20, 2011. Subscribers are able to view pay-per-view events in high definition, connect with friends to predict fight results, and have the ability to compare fighter statistics and records. The UFC Fight Pass application was also planned for PlayStation 4 in early 2015.
The UFC's PPV events are broadcast live vía Spike TV (sister channel of MTV). In Latin America, events are broadcast live on Fighting Sports Network in Pay TV (Cable and Satellite) of SKY Satellite. Free TV Channels in Mexico, Fox Sports 2 and Fox Premium in Pay TV (Cable and Satellite) South America and Central America are broadcast with tape-delay. In Brazil, events are broadcast live on Combate Channel from Globosat. Rede Globo's are broadcast tape-delayed from 12:00 am. In India, events are broadcast on Sony Six. In the Philippines, UFC was also aired on Balls (now ABS-CBN Sports + Action HD) from 2009 until 2015, since moved to Sports5 (including TV5, AksyonTV and Hyper on Channel 91 (SD) and 261 (HD) via Cignal) starting January 3, 2016.
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