MMA (mixed martial arts) is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with its premier promotion, UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), leading the way in unarmed combat sports.
UFC has come a long since it was founded back in 1993. The first ever event held, UFC 1, saw fighters from eight disciplines go head-to-head in a knockout format, with the idea of finding the ultimate fighter and the most effective fighting style. In the end, it was karate black belt, Royce Gracie, who won the event, winning three contests by submission in a tournament containing boxers, kickboxers, Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialists and even a sumo wrestler, to win the $50,000. Rules were lacking in those days, with only biting and eye-gouging prohibited.
Flash forward to today’s UFC and the promotion is almost unrecognisable. Sure, it still takes place in the famous Octagon, but these days weight classes exist, fighters tend to have mastered multiple disciplines, and you certainly won’t see anyone fighting in karate robes or any hair pulling.
Pay cheques have also increased dramatically, with the UFC’s star boy, Conor McGregor, becoming the sport’s first mainstream superstar – thanks to his powerful stand-up fighting style which has created some iconic knockouts, and some of the most outrageous ever MMA quotes.