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What are the Differences Between UFC and MMA?

MMA is the fastest growing and evolving combat sport. But despite being very popular in every part of the world, there are still people who mix UFC and MMA with one another. Most of these people think that these two terms have the same meaning, and use them to describe the same thing. However, this is wrong in many ways, and here is why.

MMA is a regulated combat sport while UFC is a private company that operates in the combat sports industry and promotes MMA matches. You can look at MMA as the sport of basketball, while UFC is the NBA league that puts together exciting matches for a broad audience and makes money from it.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to differences between UFC and MMA so keep reading this article to learn more about it.

UFC and MMA — the main differences

A lot of people think that UFC and MMA are the same thing, which is wrong. Mixed martial arts (MMA) is an official combat sport that is a mix of different techniques from various striking and grappling martial arts. There are many different associations and governing bodies all around the world, and of course, strict rules all fighters and promotions must follow.

Speaking of promotions, the UFC is a private organization that promotes MMA matches under these rules. So saying that you would “love to train UFC” is the same as saying you would love to “train NBA”, it literally means that. To better understand all the differences, here is a detailed explanation:

 MMAUFC
What it meansMMA stands for “mixed martial arts” and it is a regulated combat sportUFC stands for “Ultimate Fighting Championship” and it is an organization.
ConceptMMA is a sport that consists of different grappling and ground fighting techniques, and strict rules.UFC is a promotion and its main job is to promote MMA events and make money from it.
History and originsMMA has been around since ancient times and the sport called “Pankration”.UFC emerged in 1993 in the US.

Why do people mix MMA with UFC so often?

The differences between these two terms are quite obvious with MMA being a combat sport and UFC private organization. But on the other side, there is a good reason why people mix these two terms with one another so often. To find the right answer, you need to go back in history and take a look at how and why mixed martial arts has become the most popular combat sport worldwide.

MMA origins go all the way back to Ancient Greece and the sport called “pankration”. However, the modern form began to emerge in Japan with the birth of the famous “Shooto” promotion in 1985. But just a couple of years later, in 1993, the sport would arrive in the US with the foundation of the first MMA promotion, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Bear in mind that, at the time, MMA wasn’t a regulated sport, in fact, no one actually used the term “MMA” to describe this form of fighting. The man who was the first on to use it was Howard Rosenberg in 1993 after the UFC 1 event. The UFC would start to use the term MMA two years later in 1995.

In some way, UFC existed long before MMA became a regulated sport. These early events in the 90s were brutal slugfests without the rules, weight classes, time limits, or protective gear. Over the years, the UFC kept adding more rules until the sport became fully regulated and recognized in 2001 with the birth of “Unified Rules of MMA”. Why this is important you may ask?

As you can see, the UFC brand has been synonymous with the sport of MMA since the early days. Back in the 90s, people didn’t use the term “MMA” as they use it today to describe the sport. No, they were saying “UFC” instead.

What’s more, UFC owners were the ones who pushed for the regulation of the sport and made it legal in the US back in the 2000s. They literally built the sport from scratch, were involved in the creation of the rules, helped it become legal, and popularized it through a series of spectacular shows. Because of all of this, the UFC has, in the end, become synonymous with the sport of MMA.

Who owns the UFC?

Since 2016, the UFC has been owned by the company named Endeavor, which in 2016 was known as “WME-IMG”. Endeavor owns 50.1% of the UFC, which means they are making key decisions. The other 49.9% are owned by Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and MSD Capital. Together, they bought the UFC for a staggering $4 billion dollars in 2016. Dana White also sold his part of the ownership, but he remained the president of the UFC.

The previous owners were brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who bought the UFC back in 2001 for $2 million dollars. Dana White was their partner in the business and he owned 9% of the company.

What are the other MMA promotions besides the UFC?

UFC is not the only organization in the MMA industry, but it is the most famous one. There are dozens of other promotions all around the world and here are some of the most popular:

  • Bellator — is often seen as the second best MMA promotion. Founded in 2008 and based in Santa Monica, Bellator is owned by Paramount Global. Some of the most famous fighters who fought in this promotion are Fedor Emelianenko, Chael Sonner, Ryan Bader, Gegard Mousasi, and many others.
  • ONE FC — is the leading Asian MMA promotion based in Singapour. It was founded in 2014 by Chatri Sityodtong and Victor Cui and since then, ONE FC has held over 100 events all across Asia. Unlike in other promotions, ONE FC events also include Muay Thai and Kickboxing matches inside the MMA cage. Some of the most famous fighters are Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez.
  • PFL — is the MMA league founded in 2018 when the “MMAX Investment” partners bought the former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) promotion. PFL has a unique concept where fighters compete in a regular season, post-season, and championship. It is the concept of the league, the same as the one in the NBA for example.

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