The Ultimate Fighting Championship, more commonly known as UFC
has become one of the most significant mixed martial arts (MMA) forces in the past decade. Founded in 1993 as a single-night event, UFC has drastically evolved in the past decade. It has permeated every aspect of contemporary MMA culture and transcended from a purely combat sport to a funding ground for professional athletes. This transformation has pushed the boundaries and led to some of the most memorable fights and fighters in the sport’s history. This article will analyze the influence of UFC on MMA and the major fights and fighters who have shaped the sport throughout the decade.
The Rise of UFC
Since its emergence, the UFC has enjoyed unprecedented success and recognition both in the combat industry and in the mainstream. In 2009, PPV giant, Zuffa LLC purchased the organization and it evolved into one of the largest sports companies in the world. Zuffa’s biggest investment was in the safety of their fighters which led to the introduction of state athletic commissions, stricter rules and regulations and the UFC becoming the first major combat promotion to implement a detailed Wellness Program. This shift in culture and the proliferation of the sport’s visibility led to the contract negotiation of large multimillion dollar PPV deals, sponsorships and marketing. In addition to the focus on fighter safety, the company also cultivated an entirely new category of fans which drew in a diverse range of demographics and reignited interest in the sport.
Well-Known UFC Fighters
UFC’s most notable figure is undoubtedly Conor McGregor. The Irishman was the first man to hold two UFC championships simultaneously and has become one of the sport’s most recognizable faces. His meteoric rise to fame began in 2013 when he won his first title, the featherweight championship, against Brazilian standout Jose Aldo. His brash persona and destructive displays inside the Octagon have seen him become one of the most marketable UFC fighters. Thanks to his popularity, the organization capitalized on his image and transformed him into one of the most recognized athletes in the world.
Jon Jones is another fighter who has won over the hearts of MMA fans since his debut in 2008. Jones, who is considered one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, has proven to be a consummate professional inside and outside of the cage. As a result, he has become one of the most beloved fighters in the UFC. His rise to fame was meteoric, and he used his success to solidify his position as the promotion’s most dominant fighter. His record-breaking 11 consecutive title defenses in the light heavyweight division proved his dominance and marked him as one of the best fighters of the past decade.
Legacy of Legendary UFC Fights
UFC has produced a plethora of legendary fights since 2009, but two fights stand out above the rest. The first is the 2021 lightweight championship bout between former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and current champion Dustin Poirier. The second is the 2017 middleweight championship bout between then champion Michael Bisping and then interim champion Georges St. Pierre.
Khabib Nurmagomedov versus Dustin Poirier: On April 7th, 2021, a lightweight championship fight took place between the undefeated Nurmagomedov and the former interim champion in Poirier. The fight would prove to be one of the most momentous bouts in MMA history. Going into the fight Nurmagomedov was the clear favorite, but the fight quickly turned on its head when Poirier came out with a blistering assault that eventually resulted in a TKO victory for the American. The fight sent shockwaves throughout the MMA community, as Poirier established himself as one of the most dangerous fighters in the organization.
Michael Bisping versus Georges St. Pierre: On November 4th, 2017, a middleweight championship bout took place between two former UFC champions. The fight saw Canadian veteran Georges St. Pierre, the former welterweight champion, face off against the former middleweight champion Michael Bisping. The bout showcased an intense display of striking and wrestling, as both rivals bloodied each other with numerous strikes and submissions. In the end, Georges St. Pierre scored a third-round submission victory, becoming the UFC’s fourth simultaneous two-division champion.
In 2009, the UFC was in its infancy stages and was far from the juggernaut that it is today. The last decade was an enormous turning point for the organization, drastically changing the landscape of contemporary MMA. The organization ushered in numerous changes to the sport, from strict fighter safety regulations and detailed wellness programs to record-breaking mult-million dollar PPV deals and sponsorships. This transformation made way for some of the most memorable fights and renowned fighters in the history of MMA, from the meteoric rise of Conor McGregor to the dominance of Jon Jones, and from the lightweight championship bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier to the middleweight championship bout between Michael Bisping and Georges St. Pierre. UFC has effectively redefined the sport over the past decade and is now the world’s premier combat promotion.