One of the beautiful things about MMA is that it’s such a new sport. Most sports have a professional league that is the de facto gatekeeper for all the top talent. Where do the best football players go? The answer is, of course, the NFL. For sure, there are some alternative leagues where a football player can make a living, like the CFL, but 98% of the players in the CFL would jump at the chance to play for virtually any NFL team. That 2% that would stay – that’s just being conservative and accounting for a statistical margin of error. The reality is that basically all of them would make a living in the NFL if they could. It’s the biggest stage for the sport of football, and all of the guys on the field during the NFL season undoubtedly grew up watching the NFL. It’s so ingrained in the culture that it’s not going to be going anywhere anytime in the next century, unless by some seismic shift in the public perception of football itself.
Unlike the established sports, the UFC has only been around for 20 years – and for the first 10 years of its existence it was pretty much viewed as nothing more than obscene violence by the general public. The idea of MMA as an established, respected sport by the mainstream is less than 10 years old, and the UFC was the organization that pioneered and worked very hard to change public opinion. Still, the UFC is a financial minnow compared to the NFL, NBA and the like. They’re definitely the big dog in the yard, but they don’t quite have the monopoly on the MMA world that they would have you believe in their advertising. If you dig deep enough on the internet – or flip on the TV to the right channel at the right time – you can watch other MMA organizations in action. Although the production value is sometimes a bit of a joke compared to the UFC, they have quality fighters, exciting cards, and small but dedicated fan bases. Next time someone tells you ‘I train UFC, bro,’ kindly point them in the direction of these companies and let them know that MMA isn’t always about the UFC.
5 Maximum Fighting Championship
Maximum Fighting Championship (MFC) is an MMA organization based out of Edmonton, Canada. Founded by Mark Pavelich in 2001 – and run with the assistance of other family members Dave Pavelich and Manon Pavelich – they have remained focused on promoting events for their hometown Edmonton audience. In 2011, after a decade in business, they signed a 5-year TV deal with HDnet, and a few months later signed another to air some of their events on TSN2 in Canada.
4 Invicta FC
3 ONE FC
2 World Series of Fighting
Undoubtedly the UFC’s biggest competitor at the moment, Bellator is an MMA organization backed by Viacom – the entertainment multinational giant – that broadcasts its product on Spike TV. Founded in 2008 by Bjorn Rebney and based out of Newport Beach, California, Bellator has quietly become the biggest destination for MMA talent outside of the UFC. Bellator has acquired UFC stars Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Tito Ortiz, and came very close to signing Gilbert Melendez earlier this year. They’ve also showcased and developed their own top talent, particularly in the lighter weight classes, such as Eddie Alvarez, Michael Chandler, Patt Curran, Daniel Straus, and Eduardo Dantas.
Bellator is moving forward with the company’s first pay-per-view event, Bellator 120, with one of its strongest cards ever. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of numbers they can draw, because if they can produce a successful pay-per-view that sells well, it’ll herald the arrival of the first real competitor the UFC has encountered in the North American market in quite some time.
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