UFC Adesanya before fight v Silva

UFC – The Ultimate Fighting Championship

Since the dawn of athleticism, there have been many sports created to determine the skills, strength and tactical minds of athletes across the globe. None, however, are as simple as UFC. The aim of the game? Hit your opponent. The nature of winning? Hit more times, earn more points.

Of course, it’s not just fists that are involved. Players can use their legs, elbows, knees, or even their thighs to keep an opponent on the ground and continuously strike them (the more strikes per round, the higher the chance of winning it). 

It is brutal. But in its brutality comes a rapturous display of skill, persistence, bravery and strength. There is no chance of “cruising” a UFC tournament. Every player has a shot and every round can have a different outcome. Why? Because this is more than simply putting two fighters in a cage and watching them go at it. This is mixed-martial arts – a sport that demands more than packing on the pounds and being the biggest fighter you can be. 

In many ways, this is a sport of dancers; it’s two fighters attempting to control the other through precise tactics and agility. One wrong move, one glimmer of fear and uncertainty, and the dance could be over in seconds. 

In many ways, this is why the UFC is so popular. It takes the sport of MMA and places it on the world stage, giving it the lights and popularity it deserves. But how did UFC become so popular and where did MMA start in the first place? 

Well, there were many stages that led to the UFC finding its feet, but first it’s important to get the lowdown on what it is. Starting with the 101:

The 101

  • The UFC began in 1993 with the goal of finding the “Ultimate Fighting Champion”.
  • It positioned itself as a single-night tournament that involved the best athletes who are skilled in a variety of martial arts.
  • Over the years, the UFC grew more and more popular, beaming to more than 1.1 billion television sets in over forty different languages.
  • Today, the UFC’s headquarters are located in Las Vegas, and it produces more than forty live events per year.
  • The UFC is now the largest PPV (pay-per-view) event provider in the world.

A Striking History Of MMA And UFC

Although the UFC began in the early 1990s, mixed martial arts technically originated in Ancient China under the name of Leitai. This was a mixed combat sport which had elements of kung fu, boxing and wrestling. Many other countries also adopted their own versions of mixed combat sport, including Ancient Greece, Japan and India.

The Nineteenth Century 

In the mid-19th century, however, the sport began to gain more significant popularity. This was a time in which boxing and individual martial art sports were at their peak, but a number of fighters wanted to go beyond the traditional route of “one size fits all”. If there were multiple styles of martial arts – such as judo, karate, kung fu and taekwondo, to name a few – then why couldn’t fighters put all of them in the ring and determine a victor through a range of different fighting styles?

This then led to the creation of mixed combat sports such as savate – the French combat sport – which was established in the early 1850s. A sport known as “catch wrestling” also became big towards the end of the nineteenth century, as well as bartitsu, canne de combat and jujitsu.

The Twentieth Century 

In the midst of the twentieth century, the essence of these games was changed. Whilst the original mixed combat sports attempted to blend alternative styles into one system, a sport known as “mixed fights” became a way to bring together alternate fighters and pit two different kinds of fighting against each other.  

This included putting boxers, judoka and karateka up against wrestlers and jiu jitsu athletes – with one particularly famous match being the fight between Antonio Inoki and Muhammed Ali, which took place in 1976.

The Late Twentieth Century

This matchup was certainly an inspiration for Art Davie, who pitched his own version of mixed-combat to Rorio Gracie – a jiu-jitsu grandmaster. In the early nineties, a business plan for the tournament was drawn up and funded by 28 different investors, which led to the foundation of WOW Promotions and the first UFC event in November, 1993.

The plan was to utilise the success of “mixed fights” and make it an official, annual tournament, drawing in the biggest names in martial arts and boxing and letting them fight it out for the top prize. This didn’t necessarily go to plan, however.

The Twenty-First Century 

It’s important to remember that, although MMA is all about tactics, agility and strength, it can also be brutal. This was Senator McCain’s thoughts when watching footage of the early tournaments in 1996. According to him, the events were akin to “human cockfighting” and a campaign was launched to ban the sport entirely. In late 1996, the UFC was dropped from the major pay-per-view distributors, including TCI Cable and Viewer’s Choice. A number of states also placed laws to ban the fighting, leading to the UFC promoters having to move the UFC 12 to Alabama from New York.

Although this could have been the end of UFC before it had even really begun, it was instead a pivotal moment in its history. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the UFC readjusted its rules and introduced weight classes to lessen the dangers of uneven matchups. As well as this, the UFC required mandatory gloves and banned moves such as head butting, fish hooks and hair pulling. 

The Twenty-First Century To Today

Because of the pressure from the government, however, the organisation was still losing money. With the sanctioning battle leading them to the brink of bankruptcy, the UFC held talks with Dana White Enterprises, who eventually purchased the organisation in 2001 for only $2 million. Under the stewardship of Dana White, the brand was reshaped into an organised, sanctioned combat sport with a new headquarters in Las Vegas. Since then it has strived for high quality and safety to protect its athletes and ensure the events are the best and safest of their kind.

From then on, things have only grown from strength to strength. In 2013, UFC launched a “fight pass”, which allowed viewers to subscribe digitally and in 2016, an extension of the Cleveland Clinic partnership was put in place, demonstrating its continued support of the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study. Today, the UFC is the biggest MMA tournament ever to have existed.

UFC: Top Names

Having officially started in 1993, there have been many notable fighters throughout the UFC’s thirty-year history. Some of the most famous include Anderson Silva, who had a career record of 34-11. With a total of ten title defences, he was one of the most dominant fighters in UFC history – totalling around 2,457 days as champion. 

Jon Jones was another prominent belt-wearer. At 23 years old, he was the youngest ever UFC champion, and since then he has won the light heavyweight title 26 times. As well as this, the most popular UFC fighter today has to be Conor McGregor, who might not have as high a success rate, but is gold dust when it comes to entertainment and keeping the sport at the forefront of the media. In 2021, he was the highest-paid athlete in the world, and he has achieved titles as both a lightweight and a featherweight.

There are, of course, many other fighters who can’t pass by unnoticed. These include:

Amanda Nunes – Bantamweight and Featherweight

Career Record: 21-4 

Title Defences: 7

Cris Cyborg – Featherweight and Light Middleweight

Career Record: 27-2-0 

Title Defences: 4

Stipe Miocic – Heavyweight

Career Record: 20-4 

Title Defences: 4 

Chuck Liddell – Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight

Career Record: 21-9 

Title Defences: 4

Randy Couture – Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight

Career Record: 19-11 

Title Defences: 0

A Fresh Season: UFC 2023

There were a number of incredible fights in 2022, including two UFC women’s strawweight title fights, and a heavyweight title fight that went five rounds and saw Ngannou become an undisputed champion. In 2023, the drama is only set to continue. 

For one, UFC maverick Conor McGregor is set to make his return to the cage after a period of recovery in 2022. Who he will be fighting is still unknown, but if McGregor’s past antics are anything to go by, that doesn’t really matter. If he’s in the cage, there’s going to be fireworks. 

As well as this, UFC legend Jon Jones is also set to make his heavyweight debut. He has been away from the sport for nearly three years and, at 35, it’s hard to foresee whether he will still have an impact. What is foreseeable, however, is that his return will transfix viewers across the world, with an encounter against Ngannou or Gane being so tantalising that it’s impossible to find a UFC fan who isn’t buzzing about it.

Outside of these returns, we also have Islam Makhachev against Alexander Volkanovski, with Volkanovski going up a weight class to add an entirely different title to his repertoire. Sterling’s title defence will also be one to watch. He is one of the most skilled and entertaining fighters in the game, and his appetite to remain as champion will undoubtedly lead to a match that will go down in the ages.

So there we have it, a history of MMA, UFC, alumni and a fresh look at the new 2023 season. But what about some facts and figures? Well, if this article wasn’t enough, here’s a pop quiz which should help you out in those sticky sports bar situations, ensuring you aren’t left behind when you’re watching the next big fight. Got your gloves on? Let’s get started: 

Who Holds The Record For The Most Knockouts?

Basically which fighter do you really not want to get on the wrong side of? That would have to be Derrick Lewis, who has knocked out a total of 13 people in his UFC career. As a light heavyweight, Chuck Liddell comes in second, with 10 knockouts between 1999 and 2010.

Who Has Won The Most Consecutive Fights?

Anderson Silva holds the current record for the longest winning streak in the history of the UFC, having won 16 fights in a row between 2006 and 2013. It was Chris Weidman who eventually ended that party. Spoilsport.

Who Is The Number One UFC Fighter Right Now?

As of today, Alexander Volkanovski is the best fighter in terms of pound-for-pound rankings. He has a record of 25-1, with Islam Makhachev not far behind on 23-1. Hence why the match up between them in 2023 is so tantalising!

What Was The Most Successful Fight?

In terms of pay-per-view, McGregor against Nurmagomedov was the biggest and most successful fight in UFC history, earning a total of 2,400,000 pay-per-view buys. Interestingly, McGregor also shows up in second and third place, with his fights against Poirier and Diaz bought by as much as 1,600,000 each.

How Many Weight Divisions Are There?

Overall, there are a total of 12 weight divisions in the UFC – eight for the men and four for the women. These include heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, lightweight, men’s featherweight, men’s bantamweight, men’s flyweight, as well as women’s featherweight, bantamweight, flyweight and strawweight.

How Much Do UFC Fighters Make?

There are three tiers when it comes to the Octagon paycheck. These include an earning of $10,000 to $30,000 per fight in the low tier and $500,000 to $3,000,000 in the high tier. Of course, popularity and reputation also affect payouts; the more popular you are, the more the Octagon is willing to pay. Basically, Connor McGregor won’t be needing to check his wallet any time soon.

What Is The Most Common Martial Art?

Of course, every fighter brings something different to the table. That being said, brazilian jiu-jitsu is one of the most frequented styles in the UFC. This is followed by a mix of muay thai, judo, sambo and, of course, boxing.