The urge to combat or fight is something which we all possess deep inside our subconscious mind. Combat as a sport is present ever since the dawn of Human civilization. Different parts of the world had their own unique combat sport until the 19th century when Boxing took over the world by storm to become the universal combat sports.
But by earlier 2000s a new form of fight called Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) emerged to challenge the Boxing.
What is MMA?
Unlike other combat, sports MMA allows both striking and grappling and it does not matter whether the fighter is standing or not. For this reason, MMA is considered to be full contact combat sport.
The origin of MMA can be traced back to Ancient Greece and Ancient China. But the term “MMA” is believed to be coined by newfullcontact.com during UFC 1 event. UFC adopted the Jeff Blatnick and John McCarthy proposed the term which was adopted by UFC for UFC 17 event.
Popularity of MMA
Nowadays MMA fights are watched all over the world, thanks to the rise in popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Some MMA fights like the one between Khabib and Conor at UFC 229 earns more PPV buys than their counterparts in Boxing.
The key to MMA’s growing popularity is the different promotions which not only give opportunities to talented fighters but also organizes and produces quality events. Throughout the world, dozens of MMA events are held every year.
Now we all know that UFC is the most popular MMA promotion in the world but what about other promotions. Keep on reading to learn about top MMA promotions in the world (ranking via scorecardmma.com).
Table of Contents
- 1.Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
- 2.Bellator MMA
- 3.Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB)
- 4.Fight Nights Global (FNG)
- 5.ONE Championship
- 6.Rizin Fighting Federation (Rizin FF)
- 7.Invicta FC (all Female MMA)
- 9.M-1 Global
- 10.Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA)
- 11.World Fighting Championship Akhmat (WFCA)
- 12.Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW)
- 14.Road Fighting Championship (Road FC)
- 15.Cage Warriors (CWFC)
1.Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
Founded year: 1993
Events held: over 450
Headquarters: Las Vegas, Nevada
Famous Fighters: Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz, Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov
At top of the major MMA promotions list is the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) which is the number one brand in the world when it comes to Mixed Martial Arts. It features the high-profile fights in the UFC Octagon. Being founded in 1993, the UFC was the first organization to put on real fights in a cage.
The current UFC president – Dana White and the founders of Zuffa – Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta made a new promotion of $2 million in the early 2000s and took the sports mainstream.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) is the first popular reality show to broadcast the events. A lucrative TV rights deal was made with Fox Sports by Zuffa and created a streaming network called Fight Pass, and frequently recorded over a million pay-per-view buys for high-profile events.
In 2015, the UFC promotion brought in a total revenue of $609 million and a $1.5 billion worth media rights agreement was made with ESPN. In 2016, the largest transaction in sports history was made. The UFC was sold to WME-IMG for $4.2 billion.
Highest Paying MMA Organization
Due to its popularity, UFC has become the highest paying MMA promotion in the world. Popular fighters in UFC earn millions of dollars per fight. For their fight at UFC 229, Khabib and Conor earned $2 million and $3 million respectively which does not include bouns.
Founded year: 2008
Events held: over 200
Headquarters: Santa Monica, California
Famous Fighters: Michael Chandler, Ryan Bader, Gegard Mousasi, Paul Daley, Rory MacDonald
The Bellator is owned by the giant cable Viacom which offers events that are more spread out than the UFC. The Bellator MMA was founded in 2008 which was previously known as the Bellator Fighting Championship.
Bellator was initially marketed as the toughest tournament in sports and the tournament used a format of single-elimination that awarded the winner a title in the applicable weight class.
Since the arrival of Strikeforce President Scott Coker in 2014, the tournament format has been changed and the Bellator MMA works exactly like the UFC. The Bellator also have some of the top fighters like Rory MacDonald, Phil Davis, Ryan Bader, and Douglas Lima. The Spike TV broadcasts the Bellator events on Spike TV and they also show the events occasionally on a pay-per-view basis.
3.Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB)
Founded year: 2014
Events held: over 90
Headquarters: Grozny, Chechnya
Famous Fighters: Beslan Isaev, Magomed Bibulatov, Musa Khamanaev, Aslambek Saidov
Absolute Championship Berkut is one of the leading MMA promotions in Europe. Mairbek Khasiev is the founder of the ACB promotion in 2009, which was initially a fighting club. In order to test the competency level of the fighters, he decided to conduct a clash between them in the Berkut Cup in 2012.
With an increase in the number of events conducted by the ACB, the promotion was highly recognized and the club came into the promotion market in 2014. The ACB has its own fighting team which consists of the most elite fighters like Beslan Isaev, Magomed Bibulatov, Musa Khamanaev, and Aslambek Saidov.
The ACB works together with the other promoters in Europe by exchanging fighters with KSW and the Cage. Throughout Europe, the ACB broadcasts its shows on various TV networks like Match TV and Polsat Sport.
4.Fight Nights Global (FNG)
Founded year: 2010
Events held: over 90
Famous Fighters: Fedor Emelianenko, Batu Khasikov, Vitaly Minakov, Rasul Mirzaev
The Fight Nights Global (FNG) conducted its first event in 2010 in Moscow. It is one of the most popular promotion companies in the world that features high-profile fighters of the sport. As of 2018, the FNG has contested over 80 events in various cities. The former fights of the FNG were held according to the MMA and K-1 rules.
The first event contested by the FNG promotion is the Lightweight Grand Prix. The FNG has also featured some of the high-profile fighters like the Greek kickboxer Mike Zambidis facing Batu Khasikov in which Batu won the match by TKO.
The FNG improvised their way of conducting the fights by introducing the octagonal cage in 2013 which is famous in the MMA industry. The events of FNG are broadcasted on ESPN in both Spanish and English as Fight Night with the additional coverage of the pre and post events on a pay-per-view basis in the ESPN+ network.
Founded year: 2011
Events held: over 80
Famous Fighters: Bibiano Fernandes, Yoshitaka Naito, Angela Lee
Next up on the list is Asia’s top MMA promotion. The ONE Championship which was started in 2011, reigns supreme in the Asian market. ONE Championship is a Singapore based MMA promotion which features great fights regularly. If UFC and Bellator are the best brands of MMA in North America and Europe, then the ONE championship is one of the most successful MMA organizations in Singapore.
The ONE Championship promotion has made a lucrative ten-year broadcast deal with the Asian channel Fox Sports and the ESPN Star Sports. By an exclusive focus on the Asian talents, the ONE Championship showcases some of the best Asian fighters on the planet which includes Bibiano Fernandes, Yoshitaka Naito, and Angela Lee. There is another important event called Welterweight that features one of the best welterweights, the American Ben Askren.
6.Rizin Fighting Federation (Rizin FF)
Founded year: 2015
Events held: around 15
Famous Fighters: Muhammed Lawal, Mirko Filipovic, Amir Aliakbari
Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the former Pride Fighting Championship president created the Rizin Fighting Federation organization in 2015. Initially, the Rizin FF was developing under the PRIDE and DREAM organization.
The PRIDE was a tough competitor of the UFC which was considered to be the premier mixed martial arts association that featured most of the famous fighters during the golden age of the MMA. The Rizin FF took its official name on 8th October 2015 when Nobuyuki Sakakibara announced his return to MMA with Rizin FF.
Spike TV, which is the broadcaster of Rizin FF is the same as that of the Bellator MMA which shows the pre and post events of the Rizin FF. Apart from the Spike TV, some of the other official partnering broadcasters are Fuji Television, Fox Sports Brazil, SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, Kix and Match TV. In Europe and North America, the Rizin FF streams exclusively digital on FITE TV.
7.Invicta FC (all Female MMA)
Founded year: 2012
Events held: over 30
Famous Fighters: Jandiroba, Morandin, Kaufman, Megan Anderson
At number 7 is the all-female MMA Promotion Invicta FC. It was founded in 2010 by Shannon Knapp and Janet Martin with the necessary funding in the mid-2000s. Though Invicta has no TV rights deal, the fights can be seen on the Fight Pass which is the UFC’s streaming site.
In 2012, as a small promotion, the Invicta FC included the pay-per-view events. By 2014, the Invicta FC came to an agreement with the UFC and that is how the events are now being telecasted on Fight Pass.
Founded year: 1993
Events held: over 340
Headquarters: Shinjuku, Tokyo
Famous Fighters: Yuki Nimura, Glaico Franca, Andy Main, Rafael Silva
The Pancrase is a Mixed Martial Arts promotion company that was founded in 1993. This Japanese MMA organization was formed by the professional wrestlers Minoru Suzuki and Masakatsu Funaki. Pancrase was considered as the home for some of the high-profile best fighters in the MMA industry.
Some of the most popular Openweight Champions like Bas Rutten, Josh Barnett, and Ken Shamrock were all known for their exceptional tactics used during the fight to defeat the opponent. Though the production of high-level competitors has nowadays reduced in Pancrase, the organization will always be a remarkable piece in MMA history.
In 2007, the then Legends of MMA: Pancrase had its events aired weekly on ImaginAsian TV. The network later folded and the Pancrase had to look for an alternative channel in 2011. In Canada and the UK, the Fight Network began airing Pancrase events in 2008.
An exclusive long-term deal was made in 2015, which allowed the Pancrase events to be streamed live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass. A new deal called video-on-demand was also introduced in the Fight Pass which added all of Pancrase’s historical fights to its library.
Founded year: 1997
Events held: over 250
Headquarters: St. Petersburg
Famous Fighters: Marcin Tybura, Alexander Volkov, Kenny Garner
M-1 Global (Mixfight-1) or MMA-1 (Mixed martial arts-1) is another Russian promotion to make it into our top MMA promotions list. Based in St. Petersburg M-1 Global features several high-profile fighters. The M-1 Global conducts around 10 to 20 competitions per year. The president of M-1 Global, Vadim Finkelstein, and part-owner Fedor Emelianenko are the founders on M-1 in 1997.
M-1 Global Presents Breakthrough is the first major show hosted rather than co-promoted on August 28, 2009, at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. A contract was signed to co-promote with Explosion Entertainment in 2009.
10.Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA)
Founded year: 2017
Events held: over 50
Headquarters: Houston, Texas
Famous Fighters: Kevin Aguilar, Damon Jackson, Thanh Le
The Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) is an American mixed martial arts promotion which was formed as a result of the merger of two former MMA promotions Legacy Fighting Championship and the Resurrection Fighting Alliance. This merger was announced in September 2016 and the first LFA event – Bantamweight was held on January 13, 2017, as the main fight.
A total of 30 events were promoted by the merged LFA promotion in 2017. The LFA promotion’s events are broadcasted on the AXS TV.
11.World Fighting Championship Akhmat (WFCA)
Founded year: 2014
Events held: over 50
Headquarters: Grozny, Chechnya
Next up on the list is World Fighting Championship Akhmat (WFCA). The Grozny based promotion is established by the Head of the Chechen Republic (a Federal subject of Russia), Ramzan Kadyrov. So far the promotion has held over 50 tournaments and is one of the top promotions in Eastern Europe.
The arrival WFCA into top MMA promotions list cements Russia as the major destination for fighters outside the American MMA organizations.
12.Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW)
Founded year: 2004
Events held: over 50
Famous Fighters: Mamed Khalidov, Krzysztof Kulak, Łukasz Jurkowski or Antoni Chmielewski, Jan Błachowicz
The Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki commonly known as the KSW was founded in 2004 which is a Russian premier Mixed Martial Arts organization in Poland. KSW is one of the most leading promotions in Europe which hosts most of its events in Warsaw, Poland. The fighters of the KSW were capable of signing on and participating in one of the most well-known promotions the UFC.
KSW team is a separate tag used by the KSW promotion, which comprises some of the promotion’s elite fighters like Mamed Khalidov, Krzysztof Kulak, Łukasz Jurkowski or Antoni Chmielewski, and Jan Błachowicz. KSW co-operates with the other promotions in Europe in terms of exchanging fighters, for example, The Cage and WFC.
Throughout Europe, the KSW runs the majority of its events live on a variety of TV networks like the Polsat Sport, Polsat Sports Extra. Since KSW XI event, the KSW promotion runs its events live on nationally available private television Polsat.
Founded year: 2001
Events held: over 310
Famous Fighters: Ryo Chonan, Ikuhisa Minowa
Deep is a Japanese Mixed Martial Arts promotion organization that was found in 2001. Shigeru Saeki is the founder of the Deep promotion who is also the former Public Relations Director of Pride Fighting Championships. Deep was established in 2000 as “Deep 2001”, and the first event was promoted on January 8, 2001. In 2003, Deep 2001 changed its name to Deep.
In 2003, Deep initiated the promotion of bouts with female fighters at its 13th event. Then as a continuous step of improvisation, on February 22, 2008, deep established the weight division system created by Nevada State Athletic Commission for its male fighters. Since 2009 deep has started to use a UFC-style octagon for their Cage impact events.
Initially, the Deep started playing the role of a subcontractor for Pride Fighting Championships in September 2003. It mainly focused on training the Japanese fighters for Middleweight and Lightweight championship. As a result of this training, a number of Japanese fighters like Ryo Chonan and Ikuhisa Minowa, began their careers fighting in Deep. Later they moving on to larger and more famous MMA promotions like the UFC.
Deep has also trained the Korean talents including Dong Hyun Kim, Chan Sung Jung, and Doo Ho Choi, all of which have moved on to successful MMA promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
14.Road Fighting Championship (Road FC)
Founded year: 2010
Events held: around 57
Country: South Korea
Famous Fighters: Min Jong Song, A Sol Kwon, Mighty Mo
Road Fighting Championship is a South-Korea based MMA promotion which was founded in 2010 by Mun-Hong Jung. The first event – Road FC 27 was held in Shangai on 26th December 2015. A broadcast deal for 3-years with China’s state broadcaster CCTV was made. The first event of the Road FC was the first live MMA event to be broadcasted on CCTV5 and a viewership of 35 million was recorded.
The first event of a female MMA league – Road FC 037 XX was conducted on March 11, 2017, at the Convention Centre, Grand Hilton Seoul in Seoul, South Korea. Following the match, the 2017 Road FC Awards Ceremony was held which was the first time to be aired live on television, on MBC Sports+.
In 2018, the sports industry in China made an announcement of the “2018 China Top 100 Most Sponsored Sports Events Award Ceremony” in Beijing. Road FC is ranked as the 15th overall “2018 China Top 100 Most Sponsored Sports Event”.
15.Cage Warriors (CWFC)
Founded year: 2001
Events held: over 110
Famous Fighters: Conor McGregor, Gegard Mousasi, Michael Bisping, Jeff Monson, Dennis Silver
Cage Warriors is a London based MMA promotion established in 2001 by Dougie Truman. The first event of the Cage Warriors was held in 2002, entitled as Armageddon which dealt with the prominent fighters like Matt Ewin, Paul Jenkins, Jean Silva, and Rosi Sexton.
Some of the high-profile fighters have made their names under Cage Warriors banner namely, Conor McGregor, Gegard Mousasi, Michael Bisping, Jeff Monson, Dennis Silver and many more.
The Cage Warrior promotion is telecasted globally especially in Europe and Asia via a host of television partners such as BT Sport, FreeSports and Viasat. It is one of the few top featured promotions to take their events abroad and has the UFC’s digital streaming service UFC Fight Pass.
Which is your favorite MMA promotion? Let us know in the comments below.