What is the History of the UFC?

History of key moments in the creation and development of the UFC

What is the History of the UFC?

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport that combines various techniques and styles from different disciplines, including boxing, wrestling, karate, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, among others. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the most famous and influential organization that promotes and regulates MMA events worldwide. The UFC was established in 1993 and has since grown to become a multi-billion-dollar industry. We will provide a detailed history of the UFC, including its founders, the first events, and significant milestones that have contributed to its success.


The UFC was founded by Art Davie, Rorion Gracie, and Bob Meyrowitz in 1993. Art Davie was a marketing and advertising executive who had a passion for martial arts. He wanted to create an event that would determine which martial art was the most effective in a real-life situation. Rorion Gracie was a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master who wanted to showcase the effectiveness of his family’s martial art. Bob Meyrowitz was the CEO of Semaphore Entertainment Group, a company that produced and distributed pay-per-view events.

First PPV Events:

The first UFC event, UFC 1, was held on November 12, 1993, at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. The event featured eight fighters from various martial arts disciplines, including boxing, wrestling, karate, kickboxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The fighters were not required to wear gloves or any protective gear, and there were no weight classes. The rules were minimal, and the only way to win was by knockout, submission, or throwing in the towel.

The first UFC event was a financial success, with over 86,000 pay-per-view buys. However, the event also faced criticism from various groups, including politicians, boxing promoters, and martial arts practitioners. Many believed that the UFC was too violent and lacked sportsmanship. Additionally, some of the fighters were not adequately prepared for the event, which led to several injuries.

The success of the first UFC event led to the creation of more events. UFC 2 was held on March 11, 1994, at the Mammoth Gardens in Denver, Colorado. The event featured a 16-man tournament, and the rules were slightly modified. The fighters were required to wear gloves and protective gear, and headbutting was no longer allowed. The event was a success, and it was the first time that Royce Gracie, Rorion’s younger brother, won the tournament.

UFC 3 was held on September 9, 1994, at the Grady Cole Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event featured a 16-man tournament, and the rules were further modified. The fighters were now required to fight in weight classes, and time limits were introduced for each fight. Additionally, the referees were given more authority to stop fights if they believed that a fighter was unable to defend themselves.

Significant Milestones in the Development of the UFC:

The UFC faced numerous challenges in its early years, including legal battles, financial struggles, and public criticism. However, the organization continued to grow and evolve, and it eventually became one of the most successful combat sports promotions in the world. Here are some significant milestones in the history of the UFC:

  1. Acquisition by Zuffa:

In 2001, the UFC was acquired by Zuffa, LLC, a company owned by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta. The Fertitta brothers were successful businessmen who had a passion for MMA. They believed that the UFC had tremendous potential, and they wanted to take it to the next level. Under their leadership, the UFC underwent significant changes, including the introduction of weight classes, the adoption of the Unified Rules of MMA, and more.

  1. The Ultimate Fighter:

In 2005, the UFC launched a reality television show called The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). The show featured up-and-coming MMA fighters competing for a contract with the UFC. The show was a massive success, and it helped to popularize the sport and the UFC brand. Notable fighters who got their start on TUF include Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, and Nate Diaz.

  1. International Expansion:

The UFC began to expand internationally in the late 2000s, holding events in Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries. In 2012, the UFC held its first event in Brazil, which was the birthplace of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a significant market for MMA. Today, the UFC holds events in countries all over the world, including China, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates.

  1. The Conor McGregor Factor:

Irish fighter Conor McGregor became one of the biggest stars in the UFC in the mid-2010s. McGregor was known for his brash personality, his trash talk, and his knockout power. He won the UFC featherweight and lightweight championships and became the first fighter to hold two UFC titles simultaneously. McGregor’s fights drew massive pay-per-view buys and helped to increase the UFC’s popularity.

  1. ESPN Deal:

In 2018, the UFC signed a deal with ESPN that gave the network exclusive rights to broadcast UFC events in the United States. The deal was worth $1.5 billion over five years and was a significant milestone for the UFC. The partnership with ESPN has helped to increase the UFC’s visibility and attract new fans to the sport.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has come a long way since its inception in 1993. What started as a small-scale tournament featuring fighters from different martial arts disciplines has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry that attracts millions of fans worldwide. The UFC has faced numerous challenges over the years, including legal battles, financial struggles, and public criticism. However, the organization has continued to evolve and adapt to changes in the sport and the marketplace. The UFC’s success is a testament to the hard work and dedication of its founders, fighters, and staff, and it has helped to establish MMA as one of the most exciting and popular combat sports in the world.

Merging UFC with WWE

April 2023 – Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) (formerly WWF) has agreed to merge with UFC to form a new publicly traded company controlled by parent company Endeavor Group, the companies.

OWNERSHIP: Endeavor will own a 51% stake in the new combat sports and entertainment company. The WWE shareholders will have the remaining 49%, according to the terms of the agreement. The deal values WWE at $9.3 billion and UFC, which is owned by Endeavor, at $12.1 billion.

What does all this mean to you?  As a Certified MMA Conditioning Coach, you have more opportunity than ever before to work with athletes of all levels in a wide range of combat sports. The popularity of the UFC and MMA in general continues to grow.  Learn how to get started.

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