The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a sport that brings together the world’s most talented Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) athletes. The UFC was created in 1993 as a made for pay-per-view spectacle to garner worldwide attention. There never was a plan to proceed beyond one or two shows. The idea was to bring together champions of various martial arts and Olympic sports, such as karate, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, sumo and other disciplines to determine which style would be most successful in a tournament. International support for the event was enormous.
What began as a mere spectacle was transformed into one of the world’s most entertaining sporting events. Over the course of its eight-year existence and 31 events, the UFC has become the premier mixed martial arts event in the world, featuring competitors of multiple disciplines in a quest to become an ultimate fighting champion.
THE ALL-NEW ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP
The all-new UFC features a strong ownership and management team with years of experience in business development, sports and entertainment. By establishing strong, committed relationships with state athletic commissions and other martial arts venues, the UFC has plans to elevate MMA to major league status among all sports and build UFC fighters into international stars. Ultimately, the new UFC is committed to providing the highest quality live event and television production available to entertain consumers worldwide and promote MMA.
In 1993, Bob Meyrowitz and his New York-based Sephamore Entertainment Group (SEG), in association with Art Davie and Rorian Gracie, created the UFC. SEG took full control in 1994 and guided the organization until the end of 2000. Zuffa, LLC (Zuffa), a Nevada limited liability corporation owned by Lorenzo Fertitta and his brother, Frank Fertitta, III, acquired the assets of the UFC in January 2001.
Lorenzo Fertitta serves as the president of Station Casinos, Inc. (NYSE: STN) and chief executive officer (CEO) of Fertitta Enterprises, Inc., an investment management company dealing with securities and real estate. A former vice chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Fertitta received his MBA from the Stern School of Business at New York University (NYU).
Frank Fertitta, III is chairman of the board and CEO of Station Casinos, Inc. He expanded Station Casinos into the fifth largest publicly traded gaming company, with more than $1 billion in revenue and $300 million in cash flow. In 1999, Casino Executive Magazine named Fertitta “Hotelier of the Year” and Station Casinos was named “Company of the Year.”
Zuffa’s management team includes UFC President Dana White, owner and president of Dana White Enterprises and former manager and trainer for various boxing and MMA competitors. Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Bernie Dillon, the owner and president of Dillon Productions, has promoted and produced ESPN, HBO and Showtime boxing events. Also highlighting the management team is James Werme, UFC’s vice president of production and a producer of more than 30 UFC events worldwide, as well as Vice President of Talent Relations Joe Silva, who has been with the UFC since 1993.
The UFC brings together the most talented martial arts experts worldwide. Fighters hail from such locales as Japan, Russia, Holland, Australia, the U.S. and Brazil. Many of these athletes have strong educational backgrounds to go along with lifelong training in martial arts and combative sports. UFC fighters often train for more than six hours a day in preparation for MMA competition. Backgrounds vary from 37-year-old family man and current UFC World Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture of Gresham, Ore., to UFC World Welterweight Champion Carlos Newton, a 23-year-old pre-med college student from Canada.
RULES & REGULATIONS
During early UFC events, few rules existed in order to allow fighters of many disciplines to compete fairly and freely, without inhibiting any particular style. This format existed to encourage competition, not injury. The evolution of the sport, fighter safety, the necessity to meet pay-per-view scheduling demands and the efforts to involve state athletic commissions would call for a number of rules changes.
State Athletic Commissions
Until UFC 31 (May 4, 2001), there never was any official affiliation between the UFC’s MMA rules and any state athletic commission. Commissions and international martial arts federations have been sanctioning events for years. However, an official relationship, including commission appointed officials and judges had never been established until recently.
At UFC 31, the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board’s unified MMA rules were utilized in what now will be the standard in UFC competition. Zuffa’s management team is making a firm commitment to the integrity of MMA as a sport and will not take the show to any state that does not officially sanction and govern MMAs. More than 40 states allow some form of MMA competition. California and New Jersey are two highly respected commissions that officially recognize the UFC. UFC officials are continually working with the Nevada and New York state commissions to get the sport sanctioned in those states as well.
Fighter safety always has been a major concern of UFC officials. While original promoters wanted to include such sensationalistic side shows as alligator motes and electric fences surrounding the ring, UFC doctors warned against them due to the dangers fighters could face.
Unique to MMA is the ability to tap out. Unlike boxing and other combative sports that do not allow fighters to stop a fight, the UFC allows fighters to “tap out” by tapping the floor or their opponent, motioning to the referee that they do not wish to continue and risk further harm. Also, trained referees and physicians do not allow a fight to continue once a fighter risks serious injury or can no longer intelligently defend himself.
Dr. Richard Istrico, former USA Boxing “Physician of the Year” and member of the New York State Athletic Commission’s panel of athletic physicians, serves as the UFC’s head physician.
The original UFC format involved multiple fighter tournaments where the winners advanced until one competitor won the championship. If fighters could not continue, they were replaced. This issue partially led to the use of single bouts, rather than tournaments. Fresh fighters often had an advantage over fighters who already had been through previous matches in the same night. Also, multiple fights in one night are extremely demanding and lead to injury.
The first “Superfight” occurred by UFC 5 on April 7, 1995. The title fights were fought separately from the tournament format, which was not completely dissolved until UFC 22 on Sept. 24, 1999. Single bouts became necessary with the inclusion of weight divisions, time limits and continued fighter safety concerns.
MIXED MARTIAL ARTS (MMA)
MMA is a universal sport that combines techniques from a variety of combative sports disciplines including boxing, wrestling, judo, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, karate and others. MMA techniques can be broken down into two categories, striking and grappling. The types of strikes permitted include blows with hands, feet, knees or elbows. Grappling involves submissions, chokeholds, throws and takedowns. Nearly all techniques used in UFC competition are allowed by some form of Olympic sport. Today’s fighters are skilled in many martial arts, an aspect due in part to the evolution of the sport. No single discipline reigns.