We hear a lot of statements today, such as “I’m going to train in UFC” and “UFC is the most popular sport in the world.” But are these statements factual? People often use the words UFC and MMA interchangeably. This shouldn’t be.
UFC and MMA do not have the same meaning. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a sport. UFC stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship and is a promotion that promotes MMA fights.
It is similar to saying that UFC and MMA can be considered the same thing as NBA and basketball. The NBA is only a league in which basketball teams compete. Basketball itself is a sport. Just like NHL and ice hockey or FIFA and football (soccer) – one is a league/tournament/cup, and one is a sport.
So why is it that people confuse the two? This confusion can be attributed to UFC’s global popularity and rise. Today we hear a lot of news about UFC.
UFC is so popular that it is now more popular than any other MMA promotion. Regular viewers often confuse UFC with MMA.
Let’s dive deeper into this topic by examining MMA’s history and how UFC got their names.
The History of MMA and Its Name
Let’s first explain what MMA means to you. Mixed Martial Arts stands for MMA. It’s a sport that incorporates elements from many other martial arts and fighting styles, such as boxing, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, karate, and taekwondo.
In other words, any technique or move that can be successfully used and is legal (see our article about the illegal actions in UFC fights) can be used for MMA.
The roots of combat sports, such as karate, wrestling, and kung fu, can be traced back to ancient times. What about MMA? Although MMA is considered a new sport by many, it combines techniques from different martial arts. When did these moves first become a part of MMA?
The first recorded combination of moves from different martial arts styles dates back over 6,000 years. It comes from ancient China, specifically Shuai Jiao (known as Kung Fu Wrestling and Chinese Judo).
Shuai Jiao practitioners were taught to throw and butt their opponents. It was initially created to aid soldiers in hand–to–hand combat.
Pankration was first introduced in Ancient Greece during the 33rd Olympiad. It was 648 BC. Pankration was a mixing of boxing and wrestling, as well as other elements like kicks and throws and various submission attempts. It was strictly prohibited to bite, strike the groins, or use eye-gouging. The fight was not over when one of the fighters couldn’t compete or was defeated by his opponent.
Now, fast forward to the 19th Century. Some events were designed to match fighters of different styles. In 1852, an event featured fights between English bare-knuckle and French Savate boxers.
A fight took place in 1887 between John L. Sullivan (heavyweight boxing champion) and William Muldoon (Greco-Roman wrestling champ). Muldoon reportedly landed Sullivan on the floor after ending the fight.
Baritsu events were held in the 1800s in England. This art combines elements of European and Asian fighting styles such as catch wrestling, judo, and western boxing with Savate and jiu-jitsu.
It is essential to mention the first televised mixed-fighting style fight between Gene Lebell, a judo wrestler (who would later train UFC superstar Ronda Rosey), and professional boxer Milo Savage when discussing the origins of MMA.
Bruce Lee is, without a doubt, the most significant figure in MMA’s history. He was known as the “Father” of Modern Day MMA.
He developed his fighting style, Jeet Kune does, in the 1960s and 1970s. It was based on combining the best martial arts into one fighting style.
A fight took place between Muhammad Ali (Japan) and Antonio Ioki (Japan). The rules of the fight were particular. Many consider the war the beginning of modern mixed martial arts because of Ali’s worldwide stardom and popularity. The fight ended in a draw.
The Tough Guys competition was founded in 1979 in Pittsburgh. It was the founding of an American MMA league. It was the beginning of sanctioned MMA fighting according to a set of rules.
Origin of the term “MMA.”
Howard Rosenberg, a television critic, reviewed the UFC 1 event in 1993 and recorded the first use of the term Mixed Martial Arts. UFC official Jeff Blatnick, who, along with John McCarthy, suggested the name MMA at the UFC 17 Rules Meeting, is responsible for UFC’s use of the term.
The UFC used the term MMA for the first time in 1995. Before that, fights were called “Ultimate Fighting,” and the UFC was known as “Ultimate Fighting.” This brings us to the UFC’s brief history and how it began.
UFC History and Its Origins
It is important to briefly outline the history of UFC’s origins when answering questions like “Are UFC/MMA the same thing?” or “What are the differences?” As I mentioned, Mixed Martial Arts was first used in a review of UFC 1’s event. The UFC soon adopted the term.
UFC was not what it was today 20 years ago. There weren’t Conor, Ronda, or Khabib, and there were no megafights, antics outside the cage, and no global phenomenon. It was an event that allowed fighters from different martial art backgrounds to compete and demonstrate which style was better.
Twenty years later, UFC has become a global phenomenon. People love to see fighters fighting inside a cage without rules. MMA is the purest form and most effective way to show who is the best fighter overall. UFC’s success is evident when you add the antics outside the cage.
Considering UFC’s popularity worldwide, it is not uncommon for people to use UFC and MMA interchangeably. UFC is a huge MMA promoter and brand that you will more often hear the term “UFC” than “MMA.”
Take a look at this infographic from Google Trends. It compares Google’s search results in UFC and MMA (in America) from 2004 to now.
Other MMA Promotions/Organizations
UFC is the most well-known and popular MMA promotion. There are many other promotions. There are currently 41 ranked MMA promotions as of May 26, 2018. Let’s look at the top 15 MMA promotions in the world, ranked by event quality and the fighters involved.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Absolute Championship Berkut
Fight Nights Global (FNG).
Rizin Fighting Federation (Rizin FF)
Invicta FC (all-female MMA).
Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA).
World Fighting Championship (WFCA).
Konfrontacija Sztuk Walki (KSW)
Road Fighting Championship (Road FC).
Cage Warriors (CWFC).
There are many MMA promotions. However, UFC is the most popular. It is not surprising that people often use the terms UFC and MMA interchangeably.
Here’s a detailed analysis and ranking of the biggest MMA promotions.