Mixed martial arts or MMA is a hybrid combat sporting that incorporates techniques from different disciplines, such as boxing, wrestling, judo, jujitsu, karate, and others.
Many people didn’t believe that MMA can become a popular sport, and critics called this discipline a brutal blood sport with no rules. However, the results show differently. This is one of the fastest-growing spectator sports that evolved in the early 21st century and gathered a fan base of millions.
History of MMA
Even though we talk about a relatively new sport, MMA still has some history behind its name. Historians believe that mixed martial arts date back to the ancient Olympic Games in 648 BCE, and it was part of the training process of Greek armies.
In such events, warriors entered a brutal contest combines with boxing, street fighting, kicking, and wrestling. Also, kicking a downed opponent was also allowed, so it was very similar to the MMA we know today.
A fight would end when either of the fighters signifies defeat or was unconscious. Many people died in this event, and even back then, it became popular even in the ancient Olympics.
So, you might wonder why this sport isn’t shown in recent history.
Well, in 393 CE, Roman emperor Theodosius I banned this sport from the Olympic Games, which was the end of this popular sport at the time.
This style of fighting came resurfaced in the 20th century in Brazil known as vale tudo (“anything goes”), which quickly gathered the attention of millions of fans. They even organized matches on large football stadiums capable of accommodating the crowds.
MMA first came to North America after the Gracie family decided to showcase its Brazilian jujitsu in the 1990s. They organized their first tournament in Denver, Colorado, back in 1993, which was called UFC 1 or Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which later became an organization promoting MMA events.
UFC wanted to pit fighters with different styles of fighting, for example, a wrestler against a boxer. The fight ended when one of the fighters is knocked down, or one of the corners threw in the towel.
The sport grew from there, achieving more popularity than expected. The first years of UFC were rough. They couldn’t make enough money to support the matches, but after 3-4 years, the organization became highly profitable.Nowadays, this is the third most popular sport behind soccer and basketball with a fan base estimation of 451 million people. This was a huge leap for the sport, and many people didn’t expect it to grow that much.
Who is behind the UFC brand?
Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, UFC is a Mixed Martial Arts promotion company, currently owned by Endeavor Group Holdings, Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Zuffa, LLC.
However, the face of the company and the usual spokesperson for UFC is Dana White. White used to do boxing when he was 17, becoming a coach after and he is passionate for martial arts ever since.
White is the company president since 2001, when he convinced his friend Lorenzo Fertita and his older brother Frank to buy the company for $2 million. The company grew steadily overtime, having a gross revenue of $600 million in 2015 and estimated $800 million in 2019.
According to Wealthy Gorilla, Dana White’s net worth by August 2019 was $500 million.
By 2022, the top 10 highest paid fighters in UFC had overall earnings that topped $500k. On the top 3 there is Alistair Overeem ($1.1million), Israel Adesanya ($1.33 million) and Connor McGregor (who despite having taken a gap year from the sport, has earned over $3 million). McGregor’s net worth is estimated at $120 million.
UFC has been addressing equality in sport and, despite Dana White once saying that women would never compete in his organization, nowadays there are women’s titles and they are highly paid.
Still, only one woman fighter makes the top 10 of highest paid athletes in UFC and it’s Brazilian athlete Amanda Nunes. The 32 year old shows up on the 10th place with total earnings of $540k.
Rules and Regulations
In order to standardize the sport globally, they needed to make clear rules that everyone would follow if they want to compete. There were many adaptations and changes later on until all countries have unified rules for mixed martial arts.
MMA participants compete In a ring or in a fenced area, and they fight using padded fingerless gloves without wearing shoes or headgear. As the name suggests, the fighting style provides flexibility for fighters. In other words, they can throw, kick, or grapple an opponent is allowed.
However, just because it is a flexible sport, it doesn’t mean that you can do anything you want. You cannot bite, pull hair, groin attacks, finger in the eye, or head butting is prohibited. Downward elbow strikes, strikes to the spine, or throat strikes are also illegal.
If a fighter violates any rule, the referee may issue a warning, deduct points, or disqualify the opponent.
The fight consists of three five-minute rounds and a one-minute break between each round. The fighter that knocks out or forces the opponent to submit by tapping his hand is declared the winner.
MMA has revolutionized the fighting sports and climbed to the top in just two decades. Now fighters compete between five weight classes, and the prize pool for each match is incredible. MMA betting is also very popular among fans.
Nonetheless, regardless of the fighter’s history, there is still a chance to get knocked out by the underdog, which makes it very exciting. And, as you can witness by the previous mention of Dana White’s presidency and the growth of the UFC brand, there is lots of money involved into this sport.
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Despite being definitely less staged than other brands like WWE – who is purely for entertainment purposes – UFC definitely puts lots of work into marketing and making the sport into a crowd-pleasing show. Their most recent creation of the ‘UFC Fight Island’ is the perfect proof of such model.
To sum up, it is a great contact sport that might be too graphic for some people, but it certainly brings a crowd.