Since its humble beginnings dating back to 1993, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, known as the UFC has blown up into the mainstream entertainment industry.
The action packed sport that combines martial arts from wrestling to muay thai has quickly escalated in the past 10 years, but has faced many challenges in getting there. Many wanted to see the UFC and MMA banned. According to Fox Sports, John McCain dissented the UFC and thought of it as “human cockfighting.”
Thirty six states would ban any future events from happening, causing the UFC to become more organized, creating sets of rules and regulations. Almost bankrupt from legal troubles, the UFC sold for 2 million to the Fertida brothers in 2001.
With strict regulations and weight classes, the UFC was beginning to be accepted. Pay-per-view numbers began to rise. The UFC worked with TV. stations, first Spike then Fox, to host live events and reality shows.
Fox Sports described that the show “The Ultimate Fighter,” brought lots of attention to the UFC because it connected the audience personally to the athletes. Many of the UFC’s top promotions would come from the Ultimate Fighter, creating personal fan bases inside the UFC.
The UFC has boomed in popularity because of its fighters and the diversity in the fight game. MSN says, “Just like any other global sport, MMA is not restricted to any single country or gender. In the UFC alone, there are fighters from from all corners of the world…” With super stars like Georges St. Pierre from Canada or Anderson Silva from Brazil, there is a worldly found base.
The UFC’s rise in recent years can also be attributed to opening to both genders. A sport once dominated by men now has three weight classes for women’s mix martial artists. James McDonald from Bleacher Report attributed the rapid growth of women’s mma to the success of Ronda Rousey. Rousey was dominate and charismatic, the perfect combination to lead a new division of women. The UFC has also marketed and promoted the women’s divisions equally to the men’s, being very successful and drawing in more and more fans.
The promotion has reached its popularity today through many stars including Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Brock Lesnar, and Ronda Rousey. Alan Dawson from Business Insider makes the point that the popularity from fighters like these not only break through the world of mma, but they contest Hollywood and other sports. Conor McGregor is on the top paid athletes Forbes list and is known to millions. He is known world wide; even those who do not pay attention to the sport.
With such a fast growth in the span of 15 years, the UFC went from almost being bankrupt to being apart of one of the largest single transactions in all of sports history. Noah Kirsch from Forbes found that the UFC would sell for over 4 billion dollars to WME/IMG. Both brothers would individually walk away with 870 million dollars and keep a small portion of equity in the company.
Since buying the UFC, WME/IMG has pushed to create a larger roster, promote fighters to stardom, and create more events than ever before. Now legal in New York, the UFC is growing even larger. Fox Sports writes, “The dizzying levels of popularity it has achieved resulted in New York, the last state in which MMA was illegal, finally lifting the ban.” With UFC 205 New York being one of the largest pay-per-view to date, WME has many opportunities to create super shows.