To the most casual observer, UFC and MMA mean the same thing. You can even have come across the dumb statement, “I train UFC, bro.” But this is not true at all.
MMA is the sport of mixed martial arts, and UFC is one organization that promotes fights under MMA rules.
The confusion of the two terms, on the other hand, makes sense. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is by far the largest and most well-known MMA promoter, and they are solely responsible for the sport’s meteoric rise in popularity.
In this post, we will go over the history of MMA and the differences between various MMA organizations and the UFC.
Table of Contents
As we said in the opening paragraph, MMA is a combat sport combining many different fighting disciplines. The rules tend to differ on some essential topics, but MMA is a combat sport that allows striking, grappling, and wrestling.
The UFC is just one organization promoting fights under mixed martial arts rules. A perfect example is that the UFC is to MMA what the NBA is to the sport of basketball.
However, for a good portion of the general public, the UFC and MMA are the same thing. This misunderstanding is dissolving with time, but it’s still existing. This is because, until recently, MMA was a very niche sport, and the only information available in the mainstream was about the UFC, the first and largest MMA organization.
Here’s a brief history of MMA and how the UFC contributed to its current success.
History of MMA
Many people believe MMA to be the purest form of combat we can get and still be a televised athletic competition. At its core, MMA is a collection of effective fighting techniques, all mixed in a beautifully brutal mix.
We can easily trace the origins of MMA back to antiquity. There are some records of ancient Chinese and Indian combat systems that combine striking and grappling, but the most well-documented system from the past is Is the Greek Pankration, which was first introduced to the Olympics in 648 BC.
A lot can be said about these ancient fighting systems, but we will move fast forward to the 19th century, where we have a lot more concrete information. It was then that the first mix between Eastern and Western martial arts was created under the name of Baritsu. The creator, Lord Edward William Barton-Wright, combined elements of judo, wrestling, savate, and jiu-jitsu.
The first televised mixed rules contest was held in 1963 when legendary judoka Gene Lebell fought professional boxer, Milo Savage. The outcome showed what would happen decades later in the UFC- the judoka strangled the boxer unconscious.
A pivotal figure in the development of martial arts in the West was, without a doubt, Bruce Lee. He created his own style, called Jeet Kune Do, revolving entirely around the philosophy of taking what works from every other martial art and forgoing what is useless.
He was adamant about creating a cohesive fighting system capable of dealing with every aspect of unarmed fighting. You can often find him called “The Father of MMA.”
The other family name that is pivotal in the development of modern MMA is Gracie. The Brazilian family transformed traditional judo and jiu-jitsu techniques into the style we know as BJJ.
They held cross-style challenge matches with every willing opponent and would usually win because most challengers lacked any grappling knowledge. Many of these fights, called “Gracie challenges,” were fought as Vale Tudo matches.
Vale Tudo (meaning “no rules”) was popular in Brazil through the 20th century and is very similar to modern MMA but with fewer rules and regulations.
The birth date of MMA as we know it is November 12, 1993, when the first UFC tournament was held in Denver, Colorado. There were no rules (aside from no biting and eye-gouging), no rounds, no protective gear, and no weight limits.
It was a one-night, eight-man tournament looking to create the real-world version of video games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat and the clash of different fighting styles.
From that point on, the meteoric rise of MMA has been breathtaking. From a sport outlawed in many states in less than 30 years, MMA has become a highly regulated sport with a vast amateur and professional scene that rivals some mainstream sports with more than a century-long history.
The UFC is far from the only MMA organization. Let’s look at the other competitors across the world.
The domestic rival of the UFC is Bellator. The California-based promoter is a concrete second outside of the Asian market. Bellator was founded in 2008 and has held a significant number of events. On the one hand, Bellator managed to snatch a lot of prominent UFC fighters over the years, and on the other hand, they have provided some top-notch talent to their biggest rival.
In just 10 years, the Singapore-based organization has conquered the Asian market and has become a prevalent name in the West. They often organize fights under different rulesets- Muay Thai, boxing, kickboxing, and MMA.
The stable of fighters in ONE, especially if you count Muay Thai fighters and kickboxers, can rival even the UFC’s quality. Another distinguishing feature is that ONE FC is attempting to challenge some of the sport’s problematic areas and do things their way.
For example, fights are not scored round by round but rather by the entire duration of the fight. They’ve also revolutionized weight loss by prohibiting extreme dehydration.
Japan has long traditions in MMA, and Rizin FF looked to be the spiritual successor of the top MMA promotion in the 2000s, Pride FC. They hold too few events to come close to the glory days of Pride, but the scope and quality of the events are outstanding.
The Japanese also like freak fights from time to time, and Rizin happily supplies its domestic crowd with shows like the exhibition match between Floyd Mayweather and Tehnshin Nasukawa.
Absolute Championship Akhmat
Also known as ACB, ACA has become the biggest promotor operating in the Russian market after longtime leader M1 Global stopped working in late 2020. They promote BJJ matches in addition to MMA. ACA improves the quality of the events constantly and develops some serious fighters, namely UFC champ Peter Yan.
Poland’s KSW holds the crown as the leading MMA promotion in Europe. They sell out huge crowds in Poland, and the overall quality of their production is unmatched even by the UFC. KSW spends a lot of money and time telling stories and hyping up the public for battles.
Notable fighters that have come out there are Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Jan Blachowicz, and Alexander Gustafsson. The KSW has a reputation for paying its stars handsomely, thus keeping them from leaving the organization.