The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a popular league of mixed martial arts (MMA), producing events all over the world and showcasing some of the best fighters across 12 different weight divisions. It’s made up of eight men’s divisions and four women’s divisions.

The UFC has become so synonymous with MMA fighting that it’s often mistaken to be one and the same by fans and jokingly referred to by fighters who proclaim to “train UFC”. Would you train “NBA” as a basketball player or train “NFL” as a football player?

Despite its world-renowned popularity, there’s much more to the history of UFC than most fans care to learn about. This doesn’t include you, obviously, as you’re here, reading this article about the history of UFC. So, we’re here to teach you all of the most important bits! 

How it All Began 

The early days of the UFC are actually really interesting, especially if you’re into the more action-packed fights, as there were fewer rules back in 1993 when the first event was put on. Initially, the aim was to see which martial arts style would win in an ultimate fight. 

Karate, Boxing, Sumo, and Kickboxing were all pitted against each other, and moves that are now considered illegal in the sport resulting in disqualification, such as headbutting, hair-pulling, groin-striking, and fish-hooking, were all par for the course and seen regularly. 

While this did a lot to boost the popularity of the sport amongst fans, it prevented the UFC from appealing to the wider public and resulted in rejection by a lot of the major networks.

In order to get back on to the general viewers’ television screens, John McCarthy and Jeff Blatnick spent the next few events coming up with a new list of rules and regulations that would help change the public perception of the sport. Many of them are still in place today. 

The Dana White Era

With over 20 years under his belt as the President of the UFC, it’s safe to say that Dana White has had an instrumental role in shaping the UFC into what it is today. He took over in 2001 and has contributed to the revolutionization of the fighting industry in the process. 

For the bargain price of $2.1 million, Dana White and the Fertitta brothers purchased the UFC and grew it to be the $10 billion company it is estimated to be worth today. 

Dana White’s upfront and straight-talking personality made for some great interviews and over the years he has produced some priceless moments of tv gold.

Another factor in the UFC’s success was The Ultimate Fighter, a reality tv show that followed amateur fighters as they lived together in a house and competed to win a UFC contract. White created the show which debuted on January 17, 2005, with 28 seasons that followed. 

Furthermore, after a decent run with Fox, the UFC signed with ESPN which has allowed the UFC to up its game in terms of content and production quality. This has helped to bring in more and more new fans and to take the UFC to the next level in fighting entertainment.

The Women’s 180

After years of remaining adamant that women would not be allowed to participate in the UFC, Dana White signed Strikeforce champion Ronda Rousey in the latter half of 2012. 

Her ability to win a fight in a matter of mere seconds saw her stardom rise to heights previously unheard of in the UFC, going on to become the UFC’s greatest fighters. 

Rousey was joined by the likes of Amanda Nunes, Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier, and the world’s richest athlete, Conor McGregor, as being some of the biggest names in the UFC. 

Despite their role in growing the UFC and contributing to its success, fighters raged over low pay while investors reaped big dividends

Although still a male-dominated sport and industry, the introduction of the women’s division in the UFC has helped bring it into the 21st century. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, you can clearly track the UFC’s success through its history. The UFC’s current net worth alone should be an indication of how far it’s come and hopefully hints at its prosperous future. 

With the amount of money the UFC brings in through pay per views, tickets to live events, brand sponsors and endorsements, and income generated from UFC bets, it’s safe to say the history of the UFC is about to get a whole lot longer as the industry continues to grow.