UFC logo transparent

The Ultimate Fighting Championship, commonly abbreviated as the UFC, is a mixed martial arts promotion company based in the United States. Dana White serves as the president of the UFC; Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta control its parent company, Zuffa, LLC.[1]

Inspired by vale tudo competitions in Brazil, the UFC held its first competition in Denver, Colorado in 1993. Showcasing fighters of different proficiencies—including boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling and Muay Thai, among others—the UFC sought to identify the most effective martial art in a real fight. After a period of political backlash, the UFC gradually underwent reform by embracing stricter rules and achieving sanctioning with State Athletic Commissions.

With a cable-television deal and expansion into Canada, Europe and new markets within the United States, the UFC as of 2011 has gained in popularity, along with greater mainstream-media coverage. As of 2011 viewers can access UFC programming on pay-per-view television, in the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Italy. UFC programming can also be found on Spike, Versus and Ion Television in the U.S., on ESPN in the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as in over 130 countries and 20 different languages worldwide.

History of the UFCEdit

Early competitionEdit

Businessman Art Davie met Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pioneer Rorion Gracie in 1991, while researching martial arts for a marketing client. Gracie operated a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school in Torrance, California and the Gracie family had a long history of vale tudo matches - a precursor of modern mixed martial arts - in Brazil. Davie became Gracie's student.

In 1992, inspired by the Gracies in Action video-series produced by the Gracies and featuring Gracie jiu-jitsu defeating various martial-arts masters, Davie proposed to Rorion Gracie and John Milius an eight-man, single-elimination tournament with a title of War of the Worlds. The tournament would feature martial artists from different disciplines facing each other in no-holds-barred combat to see which martial art was truly the best which replicated the excitement of the matches Davie saw on those videos.[2] Milius, a noted film director and screenwriter, as well as a Gracie student, agreed to be the event's creative director. Davie drafted the business plan and twenty-eight investors contributed the initial capital to start WOW Promotions with the intent to develop the tournament into a television franchise.[2]

In 1993 WOW Promotions sought a television partner and approached pay-per-view producers TVKO (HBO), SET (Showtime) and the Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG). Both TVKO and SET declined, but SEG – a pioneer in pay-per-view television which had produced such off-beat events as a mixed-gender tennis match between Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova]] – became WOW's partner in May 1993.[2] SEG contacted video and film art-director Jason Cusson to design the trademarked "Octagon", a signature piece for the event. Cusson remained the Production Designer through UFC 27.[2]

WOW Promotions and SEG produced the first event, later called UFC 1, at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado on November 12, 1993. Art Davie functioned as the show's booker and matchmaker.[3] The television broadcast featured kickboxers Patrick Smith and Kevin Rosier, savate fighter Gerard Gordeau, karate expert Zane Frazier, shootfighter Ken Shamrock, sumo wrestler Teila Tuli, boxer Art Jimmerson and 175 lb. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Royce Gracie — younger brother of UFC co-founder Rorion Gracie who was hand-picked by Rorion himself to represent his family in the competition. The show became an instant success, drawing 86,592 television subscribers on pay-per-view.

The show proposed to find an answer for sports fans to questions such as: "Can a wrestler beat a boxer?" As with most martial arts at the time, fighters typically had skills in just one discipline and had little experience against opponents with different skills.[2] Royce Gracie's submission skills proved the most effective in the inaugural tournament, earning him the first ever UFC tournament championship.

However, the show was not intended to be part of a series. "That show was only supposed to be a one-off," eventual UFC President Dana White said. "It did so well on pay-per-view they decided to do another, and another. Never in a million years did these guys think they were creating a sport."[4]

With no weight classes, fighters often faced significantly larger or taller opponents. For example, Keith Hackney faced Emmanuel Yarborough at UFC 3 with a 9 inch height and 400 lbs weight disadvantage. Many martial artists believed that technique could overcome these size disadvantages, and that a skilled fighter could use an opponent's size and strength against him. With the 175 lbs Royce Gracie winning three of the first four events, the UFC quickly proved that size does not always determine the outcome of the fight.

During this early stage of the organization, the UFC would showcase a bevy of different styles and fighters. Aside from the aforementioned Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Patrick Smith, the competitions also featured prominent competitors such as Kimo Leopoldo, Hall-of-Famer Dan Severn, Marco Ruas, Oleg Taktarov, Tank Abbott, Don Frye and Gary Goodridge.

In April 1995, following UFC 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Davie and Gracie sold their interest in the franchise to SEG and disbanded WOW Promotions. Davie continued with SEG as the show's booker and matchmaker, as well as the commissioner of Ultimate Fighting, until December 1997.

Emergence of stricter rulesEdit

Although the UFC used the "There are no rules!" tagline in the early 1990s, the UFC did in fact operate with limited rules. There was no biting, no eye gouging, and the system frowned on (but allowed) techniques such as hair pulling, headbutting, groin strikes and fish-hooking.

In fact, in a UFC 4 qualifying match, competitors Jason Fairn and Guy Mezger agreed not to pull hair, as they both wore pony tails tied back for the match. Additionally, that same event saw a matchup between Keith Hackney and Joe Son in which Hackney unleashed a series of groin shots against Son while on the ground.

The UFC had a reputation, especially in the early days, as an extremely violent event, as evidenced by a disclaimer in the beginning of the UFC 5 broadcast which warned audiences of the violent nature of the sport.

UFC 5 also introduced the first singles match, called "The Superfight". This was an important development because singles matches would become a staple in the UFC for years to come. "The Superfight" began as a non-tournament match that would determine the first reigning UFC Champion for tournament winners to face; it later evolved into a match that could feature either title matches or non-title matches. The "Superfight" would eventually completely phase out tournament matches; by UFC Brazil, the UFC abandoned the tournament format for an entire card of singles matches (aside from a one time UFC 23 tournament featuring Japanese fighters). UFC 6 was the first event to feature the crowning of the first non-tournament UFC Champion, Ken Shamrock.

Controversy and reformEdit

The violent nature of the burgeoning sport quickly drew the attention of the U.S. authorities.[5] American Senator John McCain saw a tape of the first UFC events and immediately found it abhorrent. McCain himself led a campaign to ban the UFC, calling it "human cockfighting," and sending letters to the governors of all fifty U.S. states asking them to ban the event.[6] As a result, the UFC was dropped from the major cable pay-per-view distributor Viewer's Choice, and individual cable carriers such as TCI Cable.

Thirty-six states enacted laws that banned "no-holds-barred" fighting, including New York]], which enacted the ban on the eve of UFC 12', forcing a relocation of the event to Dothan, Alabama.[2] The UFC continued to air on DirecTV PPV, though its audience remained minuscule compared to the larger cable pay-per-view platforms of the era.

In response to the criticism, the UFC increased its cooperation with state athletic commissions and redesigned its rules to remove the less palatable elements of fights—while retaining the core elements of striking and grappling. UFC 12 saw the introduction of weight-classes. From UFC 14 gloves became mandatory and kicks to a downed opponent, hair pulling, fish-hooking, head-butting, and groin strikes were banned. UFC 15 saw more limitations on permissible striking areas: strikes to the back of the neck and head, and small joint manipulations were banned. With five-minute rounds introduced at UFC 21, the UFC gradually re-branded itself as a sport, rather than a spectacle.[7]

As the UFC continued to work with state athletic commissions, events took place in smaller U.S. markets, including Iowa, Mississippi, Louisiana, Wyoming and Alabama. SEG could not secure home-video releases for UFC 23 through UFC 29. With other mixed martial arts promotions working towards U.S. sanctioning, the International Fighting Championships secured the first U.S. sanctioned mixed martial arts event, which occurred in New Jersey on September 30, 2000. Just two months later, the UFC held its first sanctioned event, UFC 28, under the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board's "Unified Rules".[8]

McCain's opinion of the sport has changed since reform. He stated, "The sport has grown up. The rules have been adopted to give its athletes better protections and to ensure fairer competition."[9]

As the UFC's rules started to evolve, so too did its field of competitors. Notable UFC fighters to emerge in this era include Mark Coleman, Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz, Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture, Mikey Burnett, Pat Miletich, Chuck Liddell, Pedro Rizzo, Jeremy Horn, Pete Williams, Jens Pulver, Evan Tanner, Matt Hughes and Andrei Arlovski, among others.

Zuffa PurchaseEdit

After the long battle to secure sanctioning, SEG stood on the brink of bankruptcy when Station Casinos executives Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, and aerobics instructor Dana White approached them in 2001, with an offer to purchase the UFC. A month later, in January 2001, the Fertittas bought the UFC for $2 million and created Zuffa, LLC as the parent entity controlling the UFC.[10]

With ties to the Nevada State Athletic Commission (Lorenzo Fertitta was a former member of the NSAC), Zuffa secured sanctioning in Nevada in 2001.[11] Shortly thereafter, the UFC returned to pay-per-view cable television with UFC 33: Victory in Vegas featuring three championship bouts.

Turn-around and struggle for survivalEdit

The UFC slowly, but steadily, rose in popularity after the Zuffa purchase, due partly to greater advertising, corporate sponsorship, the return to cable pay-per-view and subsequent home video and DVD releases.

With larger live gates at casino venues like the Trump Taj Mahal and the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and pay-per-view buys beginning to return to levels enjoyed by the UFC prior to the political backlash in 1997, the UFC secured its first television deal with Fox Sports Net. The Best Damn Sports Show Period aired the first mixed martial arts match on American cable television in June 2002, as well as the main event showcasing Chuck Liddell vs. Vitor Belfort at UFC 37.5.[12] Later, FSN would air highlight shows from the UFC, featuring one hour blocks of the UFC's greatest bouts.

At UFC 40, pay-per-view buys hit 150,000 for a card headlined by a grudge match between Tito Ortiz and UFC veteran Ken Shamrock, who had previously defected to professional wrestling in the World Wrestling Entertainment before returning to MMA. It was the first time the UFC hit such a high mark since being forced "underground" in 1997.[13]

Despite the success, the UFC was still experiencing financial deficits. By 2004, Zuffa had $34 million of losses since they purchased the UFC.[14] Fighters who came into prominence after Zuffa's takeover include B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, Matt Serra, Ricco Rodriguez, Robbie Lawler, Frank Mir, Rich Franklin, Karo Parisyan, Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz.

The Ultimate Fighter and mainstream emergenceEdit

aced with the prospect of folding, the UFC stepped outside the bounds of pay-per-view and made a foray into television. After being featured in a reality television series, American Casino, and seeing how well the series worked as a promotion vehicle, the Fertitta brothers developed the idea of the UFC having its own reality series.

Their idea, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF)–a reality television show featuring up-and-coming MMA fighters in competition for a six-figure UFC contract, with fighters eliminated from competition via exhibition mixed martial arts matches–was pitched to several networks, each one rejecting the idea outright. Not until they approached Spike TV, with an offer to pay the $10 million production costs themselves, did they find an outlet.>

In January 2005, Spike TV launched TUF in the timeslot following WWE Raw. The show became an instant success, culminating with a notable season finale brawl featuring finalists Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar going toe-to-toe for the right to earn the six-figure contract, an event that Dana White credits for saving the UFC.

On the heels of the Griffin/Bonnar finale, a second season of The Ultimate Fighter launched in August 2005, and two more seasons appeared in 2006. Spike and the UFC continue to create and air new seasons.

Following the success of The Ultimate Fighter, Spike also picked up UFC Unleashed, an hour-long weekly show featuring select fights from previous events. Spike also signed on to broadcast live UFC Fight Night, a series of fight events debuting in August 2005; Countdown specials to promote upcoming UFC pay-per-view cards, and several other series and specials featuring and promoting the UFC and its fighters.

After a very successful run on Spike and with the upcoming announcement of the UFC's new relationship with FOX, Spike officials made a statement regarding the end of their partnership with the UFC, “The Ultimate Fighter” season 14 in September will be our last....Our 6-year partnership with the UFC has been incredibly beneficial in building both our brands, and we wish them all the best in the future.”

With the announcement of UFC's partnership with FOX in August 2011, The Ultimate Fighter which enters its 14th season debuting in September, will move to the FX network and air on Friday nights starting with season 15 in the Spring of 2012. The new format will take the show in a completely different direction, which includes fighters being on the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ for 13 weeks total, with each elimination fight airing live on FX on Friday nights.

Surging popularity and growthEdit

With increased visibility, the UFC's pay-per-view buy numbers exploded. UFC 52, the first event after the first season of The Ultimate Fighter which featured eventual-UFC Hall of Famer Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell avenging his defeat to fellow future Hall of Famer Randy Couture, drew a pay-per-view audience of 300,000, doubling its previous benchmark of 150,000 set at UFC 40. Following the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC's much-hyped rubber match between Liddell and Couture drew an estimated 410,000 pay-per-view buys at UFC 57.

For the rest of 2006, pay-per-view buy rates continued to skyrocket, with 620,000 buys for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie — featuring Royce Gracie's first UFC fight in 11 years — and 775,000 buys for UFC 61 featuring the rematch between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz, the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter 3. The organization hit a milestone with UFC 66, pitting Ortiz against Liddell with over 1 million buys.[15]

The surge in popularity prompted the UFC to beef up its executive team. In March 2006, the UFC announced that it had hired Marc Ratner, former Executive Director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, as Vice President of Regulatory Affairs. Ratner, once an ally of Senator McCain's campaign against no holds barred fighting, became a catalyst for the emergence of sanctioned mixed martial arts in the United States. Ratner continues to educate numerous athletic commissions to help raise the UFC's media profile in an attempt to legalize mixed martial arts in jurisdictions inside and outside the United States that have yet to sanction the sport.

In December 2006, Zuffa acquired the northern California-based promotion World Extreme Cagefighting. The WEC showcases lighter weight classes in MMA, whereas the UFC features heavier weight classes.[16] Notable fighters included Urijah Faber, Miguel Angel Torres, Mike Thomas Brown, Brian Bowles and Jose Aldo.

The sport's popularity was also noticed by the sports betting community as, an online gambling site, stated in July 2007 that in 2007 UFC would surpass boxing for the first time in terms of betting revenues.[17] In fact, the UFC had already broken the pay-per-view industry's all-time records for a single year of business, generating over $222,766,000 in revenue in 2006, surpassing both World Wrestling Entertainment and boxing.[18]

The UFC continued its rapid rise from near obscurity with Roger Huerta gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated and Chuck Liddell on the front of ESPN The Magazine in May 2007.

UFC programming is now shown in 36 countries worldwide, and the UFC plans to continue expanding internationally, running shows regularly in Canada and the United Kingdom, with an office established in the U.K. aimed to expand the European audience.

UFC has also held events in Germany, Australia and the United Arab Emirates, while Afghanistan, China, Mexico and the Philippines are candidates for future events.

In August of 2011, the UFC and FOX announced a multi-year, multi-media rights agreement which delivers four live events in prime time or late night each year to the FOX broadcasting company. The first live event airs November 12, 2011. Additional programming on multiple FOX networks launches January 2012 and includes live fights, pre and post shows, countdown shows, UFC Unleashed, UFC Primetime, the UFC Knockout series, Best of Pride, weigh-in specials, and much more original content from extensive Zuffa archives. And in the spring of 2012, The Ultimate Fighter will move to FX, FOX’s general entertainment cable network.

PRIDE acquisition and beyondEdit

On March 27, 2007, the UFC and their Japan-based rival Pride Fighting Championships announced an agreement in which the majority owners of the UFC, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, would purchase the Pride brand.

The acquisition of Pride was perceived by UFC officials as a watershed moment for mixed martial arts. "This is really going to change the face of MMA," Lorenzo Fertitta declared. "Literally creating a sport that could be as big around the world as football. I liken it somewhat to when the NFC and AFC came together to create the National Football League."

Initial intentions were for both organizations to be run separately but aligned together with plans to co-promote cards featuring the champions and top contenders from both organizations. However, Dana White felt that the Pride model wasn't sustainable and the organization would likely fold with many former Pride fighters such as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva and others already being realigned under the UFC brand. On October 4, 2007, Pride Worldwide closed its Japanese office, laying off 20 people who were working there since the closing of its parent company Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE).

In 2008, the UFC announced two major exclusive sponsorship deals with Harley-Davidson and Anheuser-Busch InBev, making the brewer's Bud Light the official and exclusive beer sponsor of the UFC.

On June 18, 2008, Lorenzo Fertitta accommodated the UFC's growth by announcing his resignation from Station Casinos in order to devote his energies to the international business development of Zuffa, particularly the UFC. The move proved to be pivotal, as Fertitta helped strike TV deals in China, France, Mexico and Germany as well as open alternative revenue streams with a new UFC video game and UFC action figures, among other projects.

Popularity took another major surge in 2009 with UFC 100 and the ten events preceding it including UFC 90, 91, 92, 94 and 98. UFC 100 was a massive success garnering 1.7 million buys under the drawing power of former NCAA wrestling champion and WWE star Brock Lesnar and his rematch with former Heavyweight champion Frank Mir, Canadian superstar Georges St-Pierre going head-to-head with Brazilian knockout artist Thiago Alves, and Pride legend Dan Henderson going against British Middleweight Michael Bisping; rival coaches on The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom.

Fighters exposed to the UFC audience—or who became prominent—in the post-Pride era include Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, Quinton Jackson, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, Mauricio Rua, Thiago Silva, Josh Koscheck, Nate Marquardt, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez, among others.

UFC 100 and beyondEdit

Popularity took another major surge in 2009 with UFC 100 and the 10 events preceding it including UFC 90, 91, 92, 94 and 98. UFC 100 was a massive success garnering 1.7 million buys under the drawing power of former NCAA wrestling champion and ex-WWE superstar Brock Lesnar and his rematch with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir, Canadian superstar Georges St-Pierre going head-to-head with Brazilian knockout artist Thiago Alves, and Pride legend Dan Henderson opposing British middleweight Michael Bisping; rival coaches on The Ultimate Fighter: U.S.A. vs U.K..

UFC 100 was unique in that it drew significant interest from ESPN, which provided extensive coverage of the event in the days preceding and following it. In fact, ESPN would eventually devote additional coverage of the UFC and other MMA news with the television debut of "MMA Live" on ESPN2 in May 2010.

The buzz from UFC 100 was hampered significantly in the second half of 2009 after a rash of injuries and other health-related issues —including Brock Lesnar's life-threatening bout with diverticulitis—forcing the organization to continuously scramble and reshuffle its lineup for several events.

However, the momentum gradually began to pick up in the first quarter of 2010 after victories from defending champions Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva, as well as Lyoto Machida's first career defeat to "Shogun" Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight title. These fights segued into a very popular clash between former UFC Champions and rivals Rashad Evans and Quinton Jackson—rival coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 10: Heavyweights—at UFC 114, featuring the UFC's first main event headlined by African-American fighters. The event scored over 1 million pay per view buys as Evans secured a unanimous decision victory.

This momentum carried into the summer of 2010 at UFC 116, which featured the return of Brock Lesnar defending his UFC Heavyweight title against the undefeated interim-champion Shane Carwin before 1.25 million PPV viewers. Lesnar survived an early barrage of Carwin's punches in a contest that was nearly stopped by referee Josh Rosenthal. However, Lesnar recovered in the second round to submit Carwin via arm triangle choke to retain the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Championship. The event as a whole was critically acclaimed in the media[72][73][74] for living up to the hype with a number of exciting fights that were featured on the televised card.

After a dramatic fifth round, last minute victory by UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva over Chael Sonnen at UFC 117, Lesnar finally surrendered his belt to the undefeated Cain Velasquez via 1st round TKO at UFC 121. The fight produced Velasquez's eighth knockout or technical knockout in his first nine MMA fights.

WEC mergerEdit

On October 28, 2010, Zuffa announced that its sister promotion, World Extreme Cagefighting would merge with the UFC. The WEC held its final card on December 16, 2010. As a result of the merger, the UFC absorbed WEC's bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight weight divisions and their respective fighters. The UFC also made the last WEC Featherweight and Bantamweight Champions, José Aldo and Dominick Cruz respectively, the inaugural UFC Champions of their new weight divisions.

Strikeforce purchaseEdit

On March 12, 2011 UFC president Dana White revealed on AOL to Ariel Helwani that Zuffa had purchased rival MMA promotion Strikeforce. White explained that Strikeforce would operate as an independent promotion and that Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker would continue to run day-to-day operations. "As we continue to grow and expand into these other countries, we need more fights," White explained in his interview with Helwani. "Let's face the facts: Strikeforce is a brand fans have come to like." Similar to the acquisition of Pride Fighting Championships, the Strikeforce purchase was significant in Zuffa acquiring more top-ranked fighters including Fedor Emelianenko, a heavyweight who many pundits and fellow fighters had once considered the greatest MMA fighter of all-time. Zuffa also acquired Strikeforce champions Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, Ronaldo Souza, Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez, as well as Strikeforce's female division including notables Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, Marloes Coenen and Gina Carano. However they will stay in Strikeforce until their contracts are up, "Once their contracts are up it's fair game between us and Scott Coker," White also stated in the interview with Helwani.

FOX partnershipEdit

File:FBC logo.svg
On August 18, 2011, The Ultimate Fighting Championship and FOX announced a major seven year broadcast deal through the FOX Sports subsidiary, effectively ending the UFC's Spike TV and Versus partnership. The deal includes four events on the main FOX network, 32 live fights a year on Friday night on cable network FX, 24 events following The Ultimate Fighter reality show and six separate Fight Night events.

The first live event on Fox will be air November 12. The Ultimate Fighter will change formats and now be live and air on Friday nights on FX followed by a live fight card. Many of the preliminary fights before UFC pay-per-views and UFC Unleashed programming will be on Fuel TV. Additional programming begins in January, including live fights, pre- and post-shows, countdown shows, UFC Unleashed, UFC Primetime, the UFC Knockout series, Best of Pride and weigh-in specials.

One of the other programming opportunities that is already in motion is a weekly UFC magazine-style show. When asked about the potential for a weekly magazine-style series, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta responded, “Not only weekly, but, potentially, multiple times per week you’ll have a UFC magazine (show).”

The UFC will maintain production control of its product, including the use of it broadcast team of Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. Fox Sports will produce the pre- and post-shows.


The current rules for the Ultimate Fighting Championship were originally established by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board.[19] The "Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts" that New Jersey established has been adopted in other states that regulate mixed martial arts, including Nevada, Louisiana, and California. These rules are also used by many other promotions within the United States, becoming mandatory for those states that have adopted the rules, and so have become the standard de facto set of rules for professional mixed martial arts across the country.


Every round in UFC competition is five minutes in duration. Title matches have five such rounds, and non-title matches have three. There is a one-minute rest period between rounds.

Weight divisionsEdit

The UFC currently uses five weight classes:

In addition, there are four other weight classes specified in the Unified Rules which the UFC does not currently use:

The Flyweight, Bantamweight, and Featherweight classes are used in another promotion owned by Zuffa, LLC, World Extreme Cagefighting.


The UFC stages bouts in an eight-sided enclosure; "The Octagon." Originally, SEG trademarked The Octagon and prevented other mixed martial arts promotions from using the same type of cage, but in 2001, Zuffa gave its permission for other promotions to use octagonal cages (while reserving use of the name "Octagon"), reasoning that the young sport needed uniformity to continue to win official sanctioning.[2]

The cage is an octagonal structure with walls of metal chain-link fence coated with black vinyl and a diameter of 32 feet, allowing 30 feet of space from point to point. The fence is 5'6" to 5'8"  high. The cage sits atop a platform, raising it 4 feet from the ground. It has foam padding around the top of the fence and between each of the eight sections. It also has two entry-exit gates opposite each other.[20] The mat, painted with sponsorship logos and art, is replaced for each event.


All competitors must fight in approved shorts, without shoes. Shirts, gis or long pants (including gi pants) are not allowed. Fighters must use approved light-weight open-fingered gloves, that include at least 1" of padding around the knuckles, (110 to 170 g / 4 to 6 ounces) that allow fingers to grab. These gloves enable fighters to punch with less risk of an injured or broken hand, while retaining the ability to grab and grapple.

Originally the attire for UFC was very open, if controlled at all. Many fighters still chose to wear tight-fitting shorts or boxing-type trunks, while others wore long pants or singlets. Multi-time tournament champion Royce Gracie wore a jiujitsu gi in all his early appearances in UFC.

Match outcomeEdit

Matches usually end via:

  • Submission: a fighter clearly taps on the mat or his opponent or verbally submits.
  • Technical Submission: A technical submission is achieved when the referee stops a fight due to an injury resulting from a submission hold or due to a fighter going unconscious from a choke.
  • Knockout: a fighter falls from a legal blow and is either unconscious or unable to immediately continue.
  • Technical Knockout (TKO): If a fighter cannot continue, the fight is ended as a technical knockout. Technical knockouts can be classified into three categories:
    • doctor stoppage (a ringside doctor due to injury or impending injury, as when blood flows into the eyes and blinds a fighter)
    • corner stoppage (a fighter's own cornerman signals defeat for their own fighter)
  • Judges' Decision: Depending on scoring, a match may end as:
    • unanimous decision (all three judges score a win for fighter A)
    • majority decision (two judges score a win for fighter A, one judge scores a draw)
    • split decision (two judges score a win for fighter A, one judge scores a win for fighter B)
    • unanimous draw (all three judges score a draw)
    • majority draw (two judges score a draw, one judge scoring a win)
    • split draw (one judge scores a win for fighter A, one judge scores a win for fighter B, and one judge scores a draw)

Note: In the event of a draw, it is not necessary that the fighters' total points be equal (see, e.g., UFC 41 Penn vs. Uno, or UFC 43 Freeman vs. White). However, in a unanimous or split draw, each fighter does score an equal number of win judgments from the three judges (0 or 1, respectively).

A fight can also end in a technical decision, disqualification, forfeit, technical draw, or no contest. The latter two outcomes have no winners.

Judging criteriaEdit

The ten-point must system is in effect for all UFC fights; three judges score each round and the winner of each receives ten points, the loser nine points or fewer. If the round is even, both fighters receive ten points. In New Jersey, the fewest points a fighter can receive is 7, and in other states by custom no fighter receives fewer than 8.


The Nevada State Athletic Commission currently lists the following as fouls:[21]

  1. Butting with the head
  2. Eye gouging of any kind
  3. Biting
  4. Hair pulling
  5. Fish hooking
  6. Groin attacks of any kind
  7. Putting a finger into any orifice or into any cut or laceration on an opponent.
  8. Small joint manipulation
  9. Striking to the spine or the back of the head (see Rabbit punch)
  10. Striking downward using the point of the elbow
  11. Throat strikes of any kind, including, without limitation, grabbing the trachea
  12. Clawing, pinching or twisting the flesh
  13. Grabbing the clavicle
  14. Kicking the head of a grounded opponent
  15. Kneeing the head of a grounded opponent
  16. Stomping a grounded opponent
  17. Kicking to the kidney with the heel
  18. Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his head or neck.
  19. Throwing an opponent out of the ring or fenced area
  20. Holding the shorts or gloves of an opponent
  21. Spitting at an opponent
  22. Engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to an opponent
  23. Holding the ropes or the fence
  24. Using abusive language in the ring or fenced area
  25. Attacking an opponent on or during the break
  26. Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee
  27. Attacking an opponent after the bell (horn) has sounded the end of a round
  28. Flagrantly disregarding the instructions of the referee
  29. Timidity, including, without limitation, avoiding contact with an opponent, intentionally or consistently dropping the mouthpiece or faking an injury
  30. Interference by the corner
  31. Throwing in the towel during competition

When a foul is charged, the referee in their discretion may deduct one or more points as a penalty. If a foul incapacitates a fighter, then the match may end in a disqualification if the foul was intentional, or a no contest if unintentional. If a foul causes a fighter to be unable to continue later in the bout, it ends with a technical decision win to the injured fighter if the injured fighter is ahead on points, otherwise it is a technical draw.[22]

Match conductEdit

  • After a verbal warning the referee can stop the fighters and stand them up if they reach a stalemate on the ground (where neither are in a dominant position or working towards one). This rule is codified in Nevada as the stand-up rule.
  • If the referee pauses the match, it is resumed with the fighters in their prior positions.
  • Grabbing the cage brings a verbal warning, followed by an attempt by the referee to release the grab by pulling on the grabbing hand. If that attempt fails or if the fighter continues to hold the cage, the referee may charge a foul.
  • Early UFC events disregarded verbal sparring / "trash-talking" during matches. Under unified rules, antics are permitted before events to add to excitement and allow fighters to express themselves, but abusive language during combat is prohibited.

Evolution of the rulesEdit

  • UFC 1 – Although the advertising said there are no rules, there were in fact some rules: no biting, no eye-gouging, and no small joint manipulation. Fights ended only in the event of a knockout, a submission, usually signaled by tapping the hand three times on the mat or opponent, or by the corner throwing in the towel. Despite this, the first match in UFC 1 was won by referee stoppage, even though it was not officially recognized as such at the time.
  • UFC 2 – Time limits were dropped. Groin strikes were unbanned, though it was still illegal to attempt to grab the genitals. Modifications to the cage were added (higher fences and less floor padding.)
  • UFC 3 – The referee was officially given the authority to stop a fight in case of a fighter being unable to defend himself. A fighter could not kick if he was wearing shoes. This rule would be discarded in later competitions.
  • UFC 4 – After tournament alternate Steve Jennum won UFC 3 by winning only one bout, alternates (replacements) were required to win a pre-tournament bout to qualify for the role of an alternate.
  • UFC 5 – The organizers introduced a 30-minute time limit. UFC 5 also saw the first Superfight, a one-off bout between two competitors selected by the organizers with the winner being crowned 'Superfight champion' and having the duty of defending his title at the next UFC.
  • UFC 6 – The referee was given the authority to restart the fight. If two fighters were entangled in a position where there was a lack of action, the referee could stop the fight and restart the competitors on their feet, in their own corner. In UFC 6 they officially adopted the 5 minute extension to the 30 minute rule which had been used in UFC 5.
  • UFC 8 – Time limit changed to 10 minutes in the first two rounds of the tournament, 15 minutes in the tournament final and Superfight. Fights could now be decided by a judges decision if the fight reached the end of the time limit. The panel was made up of three judges who simply raised a card with the name of the fighter they considered to be the winner. In this fashion, a draw was not possible since the only two possible outcomes of a decision were 3 to 0 or 2 to 1 in favor of the winner.
  • UFC 9 – To appease local authorities, closed fisted strikes to the head were banned for this event only. The commentators were not aware of this last minute rule that was made to prevent the cancellation of the event due to local political pressures. Referee "Big John" McCarthy made repeated warnings to the fighters to "open the hand" when this rule was violated. However, not one fighter was reprimanded.
  • Ultimate Ultimate 1996 This event was the first to introduce the "no grabbing of the fence" rule.
  • UFC 12 – The main tournament split into a heavyweight and lightweight division; and the eight-man tournament ceased. Fighters now needed to win only two fights to win the competition. The Heavyweight Champion title (and title bouts) was introduced, replacing the Superfight title (albeit matches were still for a time branded as "Superfights").
  • UFC 14 – The wearing of padded gloves, weighing 110 to 170 g (4 to 6 ounces), becomes mandatory. Gloves were to be approved by the UFC.
  • UFC 15 – Limits on permissible striking areas were introduced. Headbutts, groin strikes, elbow strikes to the back of the neck and head, kicks to a downed opponent, small joint manipulation, pressure point strikes, and hair-pulling became illegal.
  • UFC 21 – Five minute rounds were introduced, with preliminary bouts consisting of two rounds, regular non-title bouts at three rounds, and title bouts at five rounds. The "ten point must system" was introduced for scoring fights (identical to the system widely used in boxing).
  • UFC 28 – The New Jersey Athletic Control Board sanctions its first UFC event, using the newly developed Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. Major changes to the UFC's rules included barring knee strikes to the head of a downed opponent, elbow strikes to the spine and neck and punches to the back of the neck and head. Limits on permissible ring attire, stringent medical requirements, and regulatory oversight were also introduced. A new weight class system was also introduced. This new set of rules is currently the de facto standard for MMA events held in the USA and is still in use by the UFC.
  • UFC 31 - Weight classes are re-aligned to the current standard. Bantamweight moved from 150 to 155 and became known as Lightweight. Lightweight became known as Welterweight, Middleweight became Light Heavyweight, and a new Middleweight class was introduced at 185.
  • UFC 43 – In the event of a stoppage fights restart in the position the fight was stopped.

The Ultimate FighterEdit

Fights that occur on The Ultimate Fighter are classified as exhibition matches under NSAC sanctioning, and thus do not count toward the professional record of a fighter. Match outcomes also do not need to be immediately posted publicly, which allows for fight results to be unveiled as the series progresses.

These exhibition matches variably have two or three rounds, depending on the rules used for each season. In most seasons, preliminary matches (before the semi-final bouts) were two rounds; in season two, all matches had three rounds. For two-round matches, if there is a draw after two rounds, an extra five-minute round ("sudden victory") is contested. If the extra round concludes without a stoppage, the judges' decision will be based on that final round. All matches past the first round use three rounds as per standard UFC bouts. During the finales for each series, the division finals have the standard three rounds, plus a fourth round if the judges score a tie.

Notable FightersEdit

Current ChampionsEdit

Main article: List of UFC champions
Division Upper weight limit Champion Since Title Defenses
Mega UltraHeavyweight 2,500 lb 22px Alvinato Aguilar November 12, 2011 (Abs Cbn on FOX 1) 1
Heavyweight 265 lb Brazil flag Junior dos Santos November 12, 2011 (UFC on FOX 1) 1
Light Heavyweight 205 lb Jon Jones March 19, 2011 (UFC 128) 3
Middleweight 185 lb Brazil flag Anderson Silva October 14, 2006 (UFC 64) 10
Welterweight 170lb Canada flag Georges St-Pierre
United States flag Carlos Condit (Interim)
April 19, 2008 (UFC 83)
February 4, 2012 (UFC 143)
Lightweight 155 lb United States flag Ben Henderson February 26, 2012 (''UFC 144'') 0
Featherweight 145 lb Brazil flag José Aldo November 20, 2010 (UFC 123) 1*
Bantamweight 135 lb United States flag Dominick Cruz
Brazil flag Renan Barão (Interim)
July 2, 2011 (UFC 132)
July 21, 2012 (UFC 149)
Flyweight 125 lb United States flag Demetrious Johnson September 22, 2012 (UFC 152) 0*

(*)The fighters defended their belts in WEC prior to the merger.

UFC Hall of Fame inducteesEdit

(In the order inducted)

Accomplished fightersEdit

The following fighters have won a UFC tournament, championship title, or an Ultimate Fighter tournament. Some have won championships in different weight classes.


206 to 265 lb:

Light HeavyweightsEdit

186 to 205 lb:


171 to 185 lb:


156 to 170 lb:


146 to 155 lb:


136 to 145 lb:

  • Brazil flag José Aldo (first and current UFC Featherweight Champion)


126 to 135 lb:

In other mediaEdit


Video gamesEdit

In January 2007, Zuffa and videogame developer/publisher THQ announced a license agreement giving THQ worldwide rights to develop titles under the UFC brand. The agreement gives THQ exclusive rights to current and next-generation consoles as well as to PC and handheld titles. Also included are "certain wireless rights" which were not detailed. The licensing agreement is to expire in 2011. UFC 2009 Undisputed became the first game released under this agreement on May 19, 2009.

Action figuresEdit

On June 10, 2008 it was announced that the UFC had signed an exclusive four year contract with Jakks Pacific to create action figures for UFC. As of 2009 the schedule envisages the release of these figures in November 2009. Series include the "UFC Deluxe Series Zero", which includes Royce Gracie, Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Houston Alexander, Kendall Grove and Miguel Torres. There is also "UFC Deluxe Series 1" which includes Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Forrest Griffin, Michael Bisping, Evan Tanner, Kevin Randleman, Cheick Kongo and Mike Swick. They will also release an "Official Scale Octagon Playset".

Figures are also available from the company Round 5. Series one of their figures includes Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Matt Hughes, Tito Ortiz, and Randy Couture. Series two (released on November 10, 2008) includes Wanderlei Silva, Sean Sherk, Rich Franklin, and Anderson Silva. An exclusive version of the Randy Couture figure was released at the 2008 San Diego Comic Convention in which he has different colored shorts that are adorned with the Comic Con's Logo.


Every UFC event has been released onto DVD and DVD boxsets. UFC 23 through UFC 29 were not released in the US on home video or DVD by SEG, and many consider this period to be the "Dark Ages" of the UFC. Although they have since been released onto boxsets which feature around 10 events each set, in chronological order.

See alsoEdit


  1. "Ultimate Cash Machine", published May 5, 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 No Holds Barred: Ultimate Fighting and the Martial Arts Revolution
  3. Blood Sport
  4. "How the Ultimate Fighting Championship Works"
  5. "The Evolution of the UFC"
  6. "Fight Clubbed", URL accessed March 21, 2007
  7. "UFC History", URL accessed on January 20, 2008
  8. "New Jersey Commission Corrects Mainstream UFC Stories"
  9. "UFC night proves a hit", URL accessed November 20, 2007
  10. "Mixed Martial Arts: A New Kind Of Fight", URL accessed December 11, 2006
  11. "New Jersey Commission Corrects Mainstream UFC Stories", URL accessed December 5, 2006
  12. "The Best Damn Sports Show Period"
  13. "UFC's Pay-Per-View Buys Explode in 2006", URL accessed November 11, 2006
  14. "The Ultimate Fighting Machines", URL accessed November 8, 2006
  15. "UFC 66 Falls Short of 1.2 million PPV buys"
  16. "UFC Buying World Extreme Cagefighting", URL accessed December 11, 2006
  17. "UFC set to surpass boxing in betting revenue", URL accessed March 5, 2008
  18. "Sun Discusses Company Milestones and Provides Year End Summary"
  19. "Mixed Martial Arts Unified Rules of Conduct, Additional Mixed Martial Arts Rules", New Jersey Athletic Control Board. URL accessed April 3, 2006
  20. "UFC 62: Streaming en Espanol", URL accessed August 4, 2006.
  21. "NSAC Regulations: Chapter 467 - Unarmed Combat", Nevada State Athletic Commission. URL accessed April 3, 2006
  22. "MMA rules explained", Nevada State Athletic Commission. URL accessed June 30, 2006

External linksEdit