What Does UFC Stand For? UFC Meaning & Must-Know Facts
When it comes to mixed martial arts, known as MMA for short, there is one organization that stands above the rest. The Ultimate Fighting Championship has become the face of the sport, the organization that nearly everyone thinks about when talking about MMA. Read on to find out more about the UFC, including how it started, how it became popular and more.
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💡 What Was The UFC Originally Called?
The UFC has quickly become a favourite of many sports fans with its intense, action-packed format and style. Before the UFC became what we know it to be now, it started as a mere seed of an idea. At the time, businessman Art Davie brought the concept to Brazilian martial artist Rorion Gracie and screenwriter/director John Millnus.
The original concept was for an eight-man, single-elimination tournament. The tournament would be called “War of the Worlds,” with the idea being that martial artists from different disciplines would compete without weight classes and minimal rules to find out which discipline would come out on top. The tournament was the inspiration for the “Gracies in Action” video series, where Gracie jiu-jitsu students would take on a variety of martial artists. They would do so using a wide array of disciplines, such as kickboxing, kung fu, and karate in Vale Tudo matches. The tournament would be held under no-holds-barred combat to find out which was the best martial art.
The “War of the Worlds” name was more of a placeholder, ultimately becoming the name of the company – WOW Promotions. Before it was set to launch, the show itself would be named The Ultimate Fighting Championship. The official change to the company name would not come until after UFC 5. Both Gracie and Davie would sell their interest in the organization, ultimately disbanding WOW Promotions. Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG) would then be the controlling owner of the promotion.
🆚 Differences Between UFC and MMA
One of the major misconceptions about both the UFC and MMA is that they are one and the same. However, there are some big differences between the two, and it helps to know what those are. So let’s do a breakdown on each to find out what it is, what it’s about, and how it differs from the other. This will help you have better definitions of the word and understand what is going on with the acronyms.
The first difference between the two is that one is a sport while the other is an organization. Mixed martial arts is a term that can be originated when discussing the first UFC event, UFC 1. The term itself is recent, but the sport goes all the way back to Ancient Greece. During that time, athletes would compete in matches featuring hand-to-hand combat. The only moves made illegal were eye-gouging and biting.
Many MMA fighters tend to train in different styles. These include muay thai, karate, boxing, taekwondo, and more. When it comes to ground fighting and grappling, MMA fighters learn Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, and different forms of wrestling. All of this while doing strength and cardiovascular training to improve their fitness to make sure that they have the best chance of winning any fight.
The UFC creates some confusion in that it operates under traditional MMA rules. MMA matches can be won by knockout, tap-out, or decision. A knockout occurs when one fighter has been rendered unconscious or unable to defend themselves. A tap-out occurs when a fighter is put into submission and taps either the mat, the other fighter, or themselves to indicate they have given up. Matches can go the full set of rounds, requiring scoring from judges at ringside. Finally, matches can end either via medical issues or critical injuries.
The UFC is an organization that hosts MMA events. Each event features a full card of matches featuring fighters of various backgrounds and disciplines. These events are broadcast on pay-per-view throughout the United States as well as several different international television networks.
The UFC is also oftentimes home to the best fighters in the MMA world. In this day and age, the UFC is considered to be the “big leagues” in the same way that the NFL, NBA, and NHL are the pinnacle of what those athletes can hope to aspire to. Fighters at the bottom of the card are not paid well, but the best can be paid millions of dollars per fight.
While MMA has experienced a boom in recent years, it is largely due to the success of the UFC. The company, which once struggled to stay on pay-per-view due to regulations, was sold for $4 billion in 2016. Its estimated worth, at least in 2019, was $7 billion and continues to grow.
🏆 Which Is More Popular: UFC or MMA?
This is actually something of a difficult question to answer. The reason is that UFC is an organization that operates within the sport of MMA. It deserves a further breakdown to understand the true popularity of the UFC as well as the sport of MMA.
Firstly, it is safe to say that the UFC is the most popular form of MMA today. It is a billion-dollar company with a global reach and continues to grow at an astronomical rate. Moreover, it brings together many of the world’s top fighters to the biggest stage. If anything, the question should be whether or not MMA has finally performed above and beyond boxing. For decades, boxing was the undisputed king of pay-per-view, selling millions of pay-per-views each time a notable fighter was involved.
That has changed in recent years. For starters, Google trends consistently favour the term ‘UFC’ over ‘Boxing’ on a worldwide basis. The UFC has a stronger presence in areas like Europe, South America, and the Middle East. Popular forums like Reddit allow fans of the sport to share information and opinions from around the globe.
That said, it will take some time for peak UFC numbers to match peak boxing numbers. The highest-selling UFC pay-per-view, Khabib vs. McGregor, garnered 2.4 million buys. Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao, meanwhile, is boxing’s highest-selling pay-per-view, with more than 4.6 million buys.
Given the similarities to entertainment-based professional wrestling, it is easy to see why MMA has been gaining ground in boxing for years. If MMA isn’t currently more popular than boxing, it won’t be long before it is official.
🚩 What Do The Numbers in UFC Events Mean?
The UFC holds a plethora of different events, including a card nearly every weekend. Generally speaking, more fights will be held during the pay-per-view events to build hype for the main event while also attempting to deliver greater value to the buyer.
When you see a number behind the UFC name, it is to indicate the chronological order of the event; the first event was UFC 1. Because they are pay-to-play, many of the UFC PPV cards have multiple championship fights and feature at least some of the biggest stars in all of MMA.
That said, these pay-per-view events are not the only events that they hold. UFC also holds UFC on ESPN events as well as UFC Fight Night. These oftentimes feature undercard or lesser-known fighters who are just trying to gain recognition and time in the spotlight. The pay-per-view events are held roughly once per month and come from the biggest arenas in the world. The UFC has held events at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Madison Square Garden in New York City, and more. Events have also been held internationally in countries like Canada, Brazil, and Australia.
🥊 How Is The UFC Different From Other Fighting Organizations?
The vast majority of fighting organizations are built on the same foundation as MMA. The goal is to bring the best of the best together from around the world in a plethora of interesting matches to crown champions and create exciting MMA action. That said, there are some minor differences between the UFC and other fighting promotions.
🔴 Professional Fighting League (PFL)
The biggest difference between the UFC and PFL is that the latter has structured seasons. Comparatively speaking, the UFC runs year-round and has a ranking system for its fighters to determine contenders for each of its weight class championships.
🔴 Bellator MMA
Bellator is the largest competitor to the UFC today. Structurally, the two are very similar, with the biggest difference being the rosters. Fighters signed with the UFC are exclusive to that company. Bellator has a different roster of fighters.
🔴 One Championship
UFC is a global promotion with fighters from around the world taking part in events throughout the year. One Championship, however, puts a focus on Asia. It is arguably the biggest MMA organization in Asia, though UFC is attempting to grow its presence in the far east.
There are some fundamental differences between a UFC show and a Rizin show. For instance, the UFC uses a cage, while Rizin uses a ring. The striking rules are also different, with elbow strikes being banned in Rizin. The pace is also much faster than that of the UFC, creating more potentially explosive moments.
🏷️ Facts & a Brief History of The UFC
There is a lot more to learn about the UFC besides the basics. A further dive into the history of the UFC will unveil a bit more about how it has come to be the global giant that it is today. Let’s look at who started the UFC, who owns it now, and how it has become more popular, among other things.
❓ Who Created The UFC?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is the creation of Brazilian martial artist Rorion Gracie and businessman Art Davie. In its incarnation, the goal was to create a tournament featuring different martial arts disciplines to see which would prevail. The concept was initially to be a one-time tournament featuring the best fighters from around the world. Ultimately, it would develop from a single event into a recurring series of events held under the Ultimate Fighting Championship banner. Initially, there were no weight classes, and contests were fought under no-holds-barred rules. Things quickly evolved as the first tournament was a success, and the UFC began to take hold in American pop culture.
❓ Where Are The UFC Headquarters?
Given how many pay-per-view events the UFC has held there, it should come as little surprise that the company is based out of Las Vegas, NV. It is one of the entertainment hubs of the United States and has become a consistent home for many UFC pay-per-view events.
❓ Who Currently Owns The UFC?
There is a common misconception that Dana White owns the UFC. However, he had a 9% stake in the company prior to 2016, when the Fertitta brothers sold the UFC to Endeavor. Endeavor is a Hollywood entertainment company. Endeavor bought the company in 2016 for $4 billion, keeping White in his position due to his ability to grow the organization. At the time of the sale, White’s ownership percentage was undisclosed, so no one knows how much he currently owns. Endeavor is the majority owner with 50.1% of ownership in UFC.
❓ How Did The UFC Become so Popular?
During the early days of the UFC, there was underground momentum because it was so different than everything else. Pay-per-view fighting was either boxing, which typically featured the biggest heavyweight names in the sport, combined with an undercard of mixed weight classes, or professional wrestling like the WWF or WCW.
During much of the 1990s and early 2000s, the UFC struggled with staying on pay-per-view. In addition, states banned “no-holds-barred” fighting, making it difficult for the UFC even to hold events. This led to rapid regulation and change within the organization in an attempt to remove bans. Though they were on death’s doorstep several times, the UFC survived into the new millennium.
After an ownership change in the early 2000s, advertising began to give UFC a greater foothold. There was also a greater focus on personalities and big-time fights. A changing point was UFC 40, featuring the bitter rivalry between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. The event resulted in 150,000 buys on pay-per-view, nearly double the previous few events.
Another major turning point came with the debut of The Ultimate Fighter. Debuting on Spike TV, the show was made available for free on national television. The format featured aspiring fighters competing in a tournament to win a spot in the UFC as well as a six-figure contract. With greater exposure and the success of The Ultimate Fighter, more eyes were on the UFC than ever before.
Using this success – The Ultimate Fighter still runs to this day – UFC began to expand internationally. In 2012, the UFC signed its first female, Ronda Rousey. She attracted a larger female audience and became a household name because of her penchant for delivering fast submissions to opponents. This has led to more women getting involved in the UFC.
Greater success would follow with the emergence of popular fighters. Conor McGregor would become one of the most well-known athletes on the planet, not only for his performance in the octagon but for his larger-than-life personality. McGregor is also responsible for the UFC’s biggest day on pay-per-view, as his match against Khabib resulted in a whopping 2.4 million buys.
In recent years, the UFC has continued to grow because of tremendous marketing and an ambitious push to become global. That foundation helps insulate against down business in a particular country and ensures that the organization remains strong.
💰 What Are The UFC’s Revenue Streams?
You don’t get to be a multi-billion-dollar company without having serious revenue streams available. Companies like this, the NFL, the NBA, etc., all create several different streams so that if one suffers, the others continue to pump money into the organization. When it comes to the UFC, the organization generates income from several sources. Primarily, it focuses on ticket sales, pay-per-view events, sponsorships, and merchandise sales. In recent years, the UFC has also created its own network featuring the UFC Fight Pass. Let’s break down each of these revenue systems and their impact on the company’s overall earning power.
Without a doubt, pay-per-view is the biggest earning stream the company has. On average, the UFC runs anywhere between 12 and 15 events per year. Based on buys alone, each event earns in the neighbourhood $80-$100 million. That is without including the live gates (more on that in the next section).
For the bigger events, that number can jump. For instance, the biggest event in the history of UFC was UFC 229, which saw Khabib Nurmagomedov defend the UFC Lightweight Championship. He defended against PPV giant Connor McGregor, earning a whopping 2.4 million buys on PPV. That resulted in over $180 million in PPV money, a huge event for the UFC.
🟢 Ticket Sales
Though the numbers are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the PPV buys, don’t sleep on ticket sales. Given that tickets can run anywhere from $50 to well over $1,000, the UFC adds a pretty penny through ticket sales as well. The average gate for a major UFC event can run around $2 million. Holding 12-15 events per year, that is another roughly $20-$30 million in revenue just by selling tickets. For many other MMA promotions, that would be a serious number.
🟢 Merchandise Sales
UFC merchandise has become hugely popular in recent years. As more fans come to the organization, the ability to generate revenue has grown as well. UFC has its own store, the UFC store, where fans can purchase exclusive organization merchandise. Between 2022 and the first quarter of 2023, it is estimated that the UFC store will earn $10-$20 million. UFC reported a record $1.3 billion in revenue for 2022, an increase of nearly $225 million from the year before. A major part of this is not only the popularity of pay-per-view but the growth of revenue streams like merchandise sales.
Sponsorships and television deals are also a major portion of UFC revenue. Though there are no solid numbers, a deal with BT Sport in the UK and Ireland is estimated to have netted them $100 million so far. In July 2021, UFC signed a 10-year pact worth $175 million with Crypto.com. Another deal signed in 2021, this one with DraftKings, is worth $350 million in cash and marketing. The big one is the deal with ESPN. The deal not only includes television broadcasting rights but the ability to sell pay-per-views through the ESPN+ platform. The deal was signed between the two in 2019, with UFC collecting $300 million per year. The deal expires in 2024 when it is expected that the UFC will earn even more.
🟢 UFC Fight Pass
Copying the model of the WWE, which created its own streaming network in 2014, UFC Fight Pass offers access to past UFC events on an on-demand basis. It is estimated that the app brought in nearly $60 million in revenue in 2021, providing another healthy source of income for the organization. It is estimated that there are more than 250,000 subscribers around the globe.
Though the UFC has only been around for 30 years, a lot has happened in that time. Even a piece spanning 30,000 words would be unlikely to contain all of the nuanced histories that this organization possesses. Thankfully, with an extended FAQ, you can learn more about the UFC than ever before. Find out how it started, how it compares to the sport of MMA, and so much more. Read on to find out even more about the UFC.
The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is currently the biggest mixed martial arts organization in the world. They host television shows and pay-per-view events featuring full cards of MMA bouts from fighters around the world.
Though the UFC features MMA, the two are not the same. The UFC is an organization, while mixed martial arts is a sport.
Compared to other sports like the NHL, NBA, and NFL, which pay their players around 50% of total revenue, UFC fighters only get roughly 16-20% of total revenue. Bellator, the biggest competitor to UFC, pays its fighters around 45% of its total revenue.
Created by Rorion Gracie and Art Davie, the event was initially created to determine which form of martial arts is most effective in a contest with no weight classes and minimum rules.
UFC fighters can no longer bet on themselves. This was allowed until October 2022, but the UFC has since changed its rules, amending the code of conduct to forbid it.
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Jake is an SEO-minded Combat Sports, Gaming and Pro Wrestling writer and successful Editor in Chief. He has more than ten years of experience covering mixed martial arts, pro wrestling and gaming across a number of publications.More info on Jake Skudder