From UFC 1 to 100: Evolution of the UFC

To see athletes of different or similar fighting practices challenge each other – that has always been the goal behind the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

That goal has come a long way since the UFCa��s conceptual development in 1991. The original concept was a single event tournament to discover the worlda��s best fighting style. The tournament aired in 1993, and was a mini-success, with nearly 90,000 Pay Per View buys. At the time the tournament aired, the entire concept of a�?mixed martial arts,a�? as we know it today, did not really exist. The tournament placed athletes of only one fighting art against each another, pitting boxers against Karate, and wrestlers against jiu jitsu and everything in between. Most times, fighters did not know what to do to handle the other opponent as they had never faced someone of that particular art, and the matches were often lacking in entertainment value. Another problem also existed. There were no weight classes, usually setting opponents together with huge size differentials. While this proved to be entertaining at times, this was not practical, especially if the UFC had any desire to be a legitimate organization.

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Due to its success, the UFC became a recurring tournament, but many aspects of the tournament needed to be addressed. With a tag-line that read a�?there are no rules!a�? and a�?fighting techniquesa�? such as hair pulling, groin strikes and head butting allowed; the UFC had to revamp ita��s entire concept if there was any hope in becoming a permanent fixture in the sporting community.

The tournament had aired five times but in 1995, it started to gain negative popularity, attracting wide press coverage from all over the nation, most of it very unfavorable. Political action was quickly taken against the UFC, and Senator John McCain led the campaign, calling the UFC a�?human cock fighting.a�? It was dropped shortly after by major cable and pay per view providers, and in 1997, 36 states had banned no-holds-barred fighting. The UFC was launched into the abyss of sports, thought by many to never be seen again.

However, in response to all the criticism, and much to the surprise of many, the UFC began to cooperate with state athletic commissions. The transformation of the UFC into a legitimate sporting event began to take place. The rules were revamped, eliminating the a�?dirtya�? aspects of the tournament like hair pulling, groin shots, and head butting, as well as putting an emphasis on the core elements of the UFC as we know it today; striking, grappling, and punching. With UFC 12 came the introduction of weight classes, UFC 14 mandatory gloves, UFC 15 the banning of strikes to the back of the head and neck, and UFC 21 the introduction of 5 minute rounds. By 1999, the UFC had evolved into a full-fledged sport, almost ready to be accepted by both politicians, and the sporting community. With UFC 28 in 2000, the final step was taken in legitimizing the UFC as an athletic organization, and the New Jersey State Athletic Commission sanctioned the event.

In 2001 the UFC was sold to Zuffa LLC and Dana White. With UFC 33 in September of that year, came ita��s returned to main stream cable television and PPV. With effective advertisement and a partnership with the Spike TV network in 2005 for the development of the currently running show, The Ultimate Fighter, now in season 9, the UFC quickly gained mainstream popularity.

On July 11th, UFC 100 is scheduled to take place, and will mark a very important milestone for the UFC. Sixteen years and 100 events since its creation in 1993; from a no-holds-barred tournament with sumo wrestlers and kick boxers to what it is known as today. The card will be headlined by Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar. Ten other fights are on both combined main, and undercard, for an event that is sure to out do the last; something the UFC seems to accomplish with all their recent events.

Despite much adversity, the UFC is the quickest growing sport in American and a far cry from its early no-holds-barred days. It is no longer just a tournament but a multimillion dollar organization and mainstream sporting event. The fighters that participate in the UFC are no longer athletes of two very different fighting arts. This current generation of fighters has a very mixed array of skills, and study everything from wrestling to Jiu Jitsu. The UFC is beginning to reach global audiences, and recently held its first event, UFC 99 early this month, in mainland Europe. With good fights, smart advertising, and entertaining television, the UFCa��s future is very bright.

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