Top MMA Competitions

Who’s Who of MMA Promotions

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If you’re reading this, you know the Octagon.  The three three-minute rounds, Bruce Buffer’s bellow – IIIIIT’S TIME.  The Ultimate Fighting Championship is the godfather of MMA.  This promotional monolith is so successful, casual fans of might mistake the brand for the sport, like, “I’d like to train some UFC”.  UFC President and possible human-sized tomato, Dana White, has taken this promotion a long way.  From UFC 1 in 1993, an event struggling to find a market for cage fighting amidst heaps of regulation, to their 4 billion dollar buyout in 2016.  The UFC is largely responsible for the popularizing of MMA. It churns out stars, sells out stadiums, and puts on big shows.  Promoting the stars of the brand to rock star levels of publicity has been a specialty of the UFC.  Who hasn’t heard of Conor McGregor now?

Bellator MMA

Latin for “Warrior”, Bellator Fighting Championship was founded in 2008 by Bjorn Rebney. Scott Coker took over the promotion in 2014.  Bellator has gained traction pulling fighters from the UFC.  “It’s about putting fighters first,” Coker said.  Business Insider asked Rory MacDonald, who moved from UFC to Bellator, if there is a notable difference in UFC and Bellator pay.  His response – “Absolutely there is, and Bellator pays considerably more.”

Coker laid down his plan for a UFC takeover as:

  • Continue to expand internationally with more broadcast deals and more local fighters.
  • Sign up more legends and free agents
  • Develop its home-grown stars for the future
  • Attract more blue-chip sponsors through Viacom’s sales department
  • Organize two/three pay-per-view shows a year

In the future we can probably expect to see more high-profile fighters move to Bellator.

Spike TV has the broadcast rights for Bellator, where fights are three 5 minute rounds, 5 rounds for a world championship.  The promotion follows the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.

360 Cam of Aaron Pico’s KO on Justin Linn:

Toby Imada’s crazy reverse triangle choke:

ONE Championship

ONE Championship is Asia’s fast rising answer to the UFC.  Capitalizing on Asia’s ancient traditions of martial arts, Chatri Sityodtong and former ESPN Star Sports senior executive Victor Cui began ONE in 2011.  ONE Championship is Asia’s largest sports media property with a global broadcast to over one billion homes in 128 countries.  They’ve been putting out a lot of free promo fights on social media, too.  Worth a watch, as there are some high-level fighter rising in the promotion.

As opposed to UFC, ONE uses a circular cage.  Here’s a practice other promotions could pick up on – fighting weights in ONE are based on “walking weight” rather than pre-fight weigh-ins.  Weight cutting can be a dangerous strain on a fighter’s body.

Non-championship bouts are three rounds of five minutes per round with one minute breaks in between rounds. Championship bouts are five rounds of five minutes per round with one minute breaks in between rounds.

Pancrase (1993-2011)

The name ‘Pancrase’ was based on Pankration, a fighting sport in the Ancient Olympic Games, where the only rules were no biting, gouging, or groin attacks.  Pancrase opted for a bit more regulation, allowing only palm-strikes to the head, and prohibiting knees to the head of a grounded opponent.  In the original rules, if a participant gets too close to the ropes, he is stood back up on the feet.  The uniform of the fighter included boots, shin pads and trunks – influences from the founders past as professional wrestlers.  Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki started Pancrase as an alternative to pro-wrestling, a sport of showmanship and pre-determined outcomes.

Pancrase adopted similar rules to Pride in 1999.

Luminaries of Pancrase are the infamous El Guapo, Bas Rutten; Ken Shamrock, and Frank Shamrock.


Pride Fighting Championships (1997-2007)

Pride was the Granddaddy, the original big-spectacle MMA competition.  A freak-show phenomenon without weight-classes, where THIS gem was written into the fighter-contract:

Fighter agrees to be tested immediately preceding and following the fight in each event, to confirm negative results of the use of marijuana, cocaine, barbiturates, and other illegal substances. Should any test be positive, fighter shall forfeit all amounts payable under this agreement granted for such event. Performance-enhancing stimulants of the steroid-based family are specifically excluded from the scope of the tests and the prohibition in this section.”

(emphasis by author)

Pride took place in a five-roped square ring with sides 7 m in length, with three round bouts; the first lasted ten minutes and the second and third lasted five minutes. Intermissions between each round were two minutes long.

Close to 100000 seats were filled for Pride: Shockwave in 2002.  Needless to say, Pride was a big deal.  A laundry list of legends came from the promotion, including the Gracies, Nogueira, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filopovic, Fedor Emelianenko, Mark Hunt, Fabricio Verdum, Don Frye, Quentin “Rampage” Jackson, Wanderlai Silva, Maurecio Shogun Rua, Chuck Lidell, Anderson Silva, and Alistair Overeem.

PRIDE was the Wild West, the behind-the-scenes rife with drugs and gangster ties. When PRIDE FC mastermind Naoto Morishita died under suspicious circumstances in 2003, a war broke out between competing Yakuza interests for control of Pride, ultimately leading to its downfall.

PRIDE FC Top 5 Freakshow fights:

Image Credit: Francis Chang via CC BY-SA 2.0

Jordan Kovacs

Jordan Kovacs is a Canadian freelance writer, and Muay Thai practitioner. He studied Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Victoria, and is currently traveling around South East Asia.

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