MMA/UFC: How UFC Became A Worldwide Hit – A Short History

The UFC was not the first Mixed Martial Arts fighting company, but it is certainly the biggest. Since it was formed in the early 1990s, the UFC has changed the reputation of MMA and the industry surrounding it. The sport is incredibly popular and the UFC makes millions of dollars every year by streaming their fights.

In this article, we will be looking at the history of the UFC and how it came to be such a worldwide success.

1993 –

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting can be dated all the way back to the Pankration (the Ancient Greek Olympic games). In the mid-1920s, a group of Brazilian fighters developed a form of MMA called Vale Tudo – ‘anything goes’. It was this type of fighting that captured the imagination of the UFC founders.

The UFC was originally designed to be a yearly event that would feature fighters from around the world. They would be allowed to use any fighting technique from the MMA repertoire. The fighters would be pitted against each other and at the end of the night, the Ultimate Fighting Champion would be crowned.

2002 –

The UFC was fairly successful at first. It became popular amongst hard-core fighting fans. In 2002, Frank Fertitta III, Lorenzo Fertitta, and Dana White bought the company from its original owners. White was a manager of a few UFC fighters at the time and believed that the company had much more potential.

The new owners completely overhauled the company. They put together a new, more structured set of fighting guidelines that gave the sport a certain legitimacy it didn’t have before. They also changed the structure of the competition to mirror other combat sports – most notably Boxing and Wrestling.

The trio introduced different fighting weights and championship belts. They also decided that the UFC would include multiple fight nights throughout the year, compared to the single night of fighting that was originally held.

The new owners of the UFC heavily invested in the company. They set up a headquarters in Las Vegas and started to employ people around the world to look for fighters and set up events.

2003 and beyond –

These changes did have a huge impact on the popularity of the UFC. However, most importantly, it had an effect on the type of fighters who wanted to join the competition. Within a few years, signing a contract with the UFC was seen as the height of a fighter’s career and was often compared to wrestlers joining Vince Mcmahon and the WWE.

Winning a match became more than an opportunity for glory in the UFC, it had started to become a substantial payday. Fighters were able to comfortably earn a living from the sport and fully commit themselves to it.

In 2005, Fox Sports filmed a reality TV show based around the lives and training regimes of UFC’s biggest fighters. Many people believe that this series was directly responsible for the rise in popularity of the UFC in America. Viewing figures sharply rose after the show was aired. 

Pay-Per-View success

It was during this time period that the UFC established itself as one of the leaders in the Pay-Per-View industry. As the UFC got bigger, it started to host fight nights outside of the US. This helped to boost the global popularity of the sport.

However, what really did this was their clever use of the Pay-Per-View (PPV) model.

In 2016, it was reported that over 42% of the UFC’s profits came from Pay-Per-View sales that year. Despite them selling out over 40 fights in person in the same financial year.

The UFC employs a similar PPV model to the WWE and major boxing tournaments. They work with over 60 broadcasting companies around the world and stream in over 40 languages.

PPV sale numbers are a great way for the UFC to track the fighters that people are most interested in. An example of this is that Connor McGregor has featured in 5 out of 6 of the highest-selling UFC PPV events and he is their highest-paid fighter.

Connor McGregor vs Jose Aldo

The UFC #194 event featured one of the company’s biggest ever fights – Connor McGregor vs Jose Aldo. This fight was between two of the most successful UFC fighters ever and both were undefeated at the time.

Before this fight, they ramped up their pre-match advertising. The promo for the fight included a world tour, interviews on every major TV network, and one of the biggest prize purses the UFC had ever put together.

1.2 million PPV sales were made for that match, which broke the UFC record at the time. McGregor knocked Aldo out in less than 13 seconds and the fight became one of the most talked-about sporting events for the next year.

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