The Ultimate Fighting Championships brands itself as “the fastest-growing sports organization in the world.” Launched in 1993, the UFC quickly went from a blip on the sports world’s radar to one of the most profitable and popular leagues on the planet. It is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, with satellite offices in London, England as well as Beijing, China and Toronto, Canada.
The organization’s runaway success belies its humble beginnings. When its first event was held in 1993, the UFC consisted of just eight competitors, each of whom had mastered a unique and different style of fighting. The UFC’s original intent was to allow combatants to compete in the octagon with very few rules, letting their fighting determine who was best and which fighting style was superior.
Though the UFC attracted a growing fan base in its early years, many state athletics commissions weren’t sure what to make of the ferocious and intense competitions. Mixed martial arts was subsequently outlawed in many jurisdictions, making it extremely difficult for the UFC’s original owners to secure venues. By the turn of the 21st century, the UFC was saddled with financial problems. Unexpectedly, the organization’s difficult state was exactly what planted the seeds for its subsequent success.
In 2002, a group of investors headed by casino executive Lorenzo Fertitta bought the UFC, and minority owner Dana White became its president. Under White’s direction, the UFC began to grow rapidly. With standardized rules and regulations in place, sanctions against UFC events were lifted one by one, allowing the sport to make major inroads in previously inaccessible markets. In turn, television coverage and successful pay-per-view events boosted the organization’s profitability.
Today, the UFC is the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, attracting the planet’s top fighting talent. The UFC has a large and devoted fan base, totaling an estimated 65 million people and more than 2 million Twitter followers. Its future is looking extremely bright, thanks in large part to a 7-year, $700 million TV broadcasting deal the UFC signed with FOX Sports in 2011.