1993 Enter The Octagon
Inspired by the Chuck Norris film, the UFC’s unique fighting structure “The Octagon” changed the shape of combat sports.
To avoid giving fighters from boxing and kickboxing backgrounds the advantage of competing inside a ring, a uniquely-shaped fighting surface was designed to level the playing field in the UFC. The result was the now iconic eight-sided Octagon, which soon became known as “the ultimate proving ground” and symbolized not only a sport, but a fighting generation.
1993 UFC 1: The Beginning
November 12, 1993. Denver, Colorado. The martial arts changed forever.
For decades, every martial art had existed in isolation, with each discipline claiming to be the “ultimate” form of fighting. But on November 12, 1993, in Denver, Colorado, an undersized Royce Gracie used a unique style of submission fighting called Brazilian jiu-jitsu to effortlessly defeat three much larger opponents in succession. Martial arts changed more that one night than in the previous century.
1997 to 2001 Rules Are Law
Gradually, gloves, more rules and weight classes were introduced, cumulating in the 2001 adoption of the Unified Rules of MMA.
While there were always rules, the early UFC events were marketed as if there weren’t. In time, as the UFC moved from carnie spectacle to sport, a total of 31 rules were put in place including weight divisions (starting in UFC 12) and mandatory fingerless gloves (UFC 14). By adopting what would become the Unified Rules of MMA in 2001, the UFC signaled that MMA was no longer an outlaw sport.
1997 World Championship Weight Classes
The first UFC heavyweight champion of the world was crowned when Mark Coleman defeated Dan Severn at UFC 12.
Slowly, the UFC moved away from the single-night elimination tournament format and toward the world championship weight classes of the modern era. The first event to feature a world title fight was UFC 12, where tournament champ Mark Coleman beat Superfight champ Dan Severn for the inaugural world heavyweight title.
2001 Zuffa Buys the UFC
In January 2001, the UFC was purchased by Zuffa LLC, marking its shift into a premier sports league.
While negotiating bigger UFC purses for his friend and client Chuck Liddell, gym owner and fight manager Dana White learned that the UFC was close to going under. White made a call to his high school friend Lorenzo Fertitta who, with his brother Frank III, were Las Vegas businessmen and lifelong fight fans. In January 2001, the newly- formed Zuffa LLC bought the UFC and installed White as the league’s new president.
2001 UFC’s Las Vegas Debut
On September 28, 2001, the UFC finally arrived in the Fight Capital of the World.
UFC 33 was far from a classic card, but as the first event to be sanctioned by the world-renowned Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC), it has its place in history. UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, who had previously served as the vice-chairman of the NAC, was instrumental in making the case that the UFC was a legitimate sport which belonged in "the Fight Capital of the World."
2004 – 2007 The Ice Age
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell was the first UFC fighter to become a mainstream celebrity.
More than any other individual, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell personified what it meant to be a UFC fighter. Whether it was his mohawk, knockout power, thrilling fights or iconic victory roar, something about the Iceman connected with audiences. Liddell was a coach on the original Ultimate Fighter TV series and parlayed his personality into appearances on the hit shows “Entourage” and “Dancing With the Stars.” In December 2006, UFC 66 found him at the height of his powers when he knocked out rival Tito Ortiz in three rounds. It was during the “Ice Age” that the UFC made the jump into the mainstream.
2005 The Rise of MMA
By the mid-2000s, the era of single-skill fighters was over. The mixed martial artist had arrived.
As the UFC business evolved, so did the sport of MMA. Former NCAA wrestler Matt Hughes used his skills to keep the fight where he wanted it, and submission specialist BJ Penn was as feared for his crisp boxing as his rear-naked chokes. With the 1990s in the rear view mirror, being a boxer who could wrestle a little or a BJJ player who could punch was no longer good enough in the Octagon. Every fighter needed a full skill set. The mixed martial artist had arrived.
2005 The Ultimate Fighter Premiered
The TV reality competition ushered in a new wave of interest for the UFC.
Despite some successes, in 2005 the UFC was struggling to the point where Dana White and his partners considered selling the league. Instead, Zuffa rolled the dice by spending $10 million on a reality TV series… and everything changed. “TUF,” as it was affectionately dubbed, allowed viewers to see what makes the sport so great: the courage, hard work, sacrifice and unparalleled athleticism of its fighters. A new generation of fans was created, and TUF is currently in its eighteenth season on US TV.
2007 to 2013 Enter the Champions
One by one, the greatest fighters from around the world proved their mettle in the Octagon.
In his first televised interview, Dana White told the fans the UFC would become “the Super Bowl of MMA” and that he would bring all the greatest fighters in the world to the promotion. In 2007, 2010 and finally 2013, the talent pools of the PRIDE, WEC and Strikeforce organizations came crashing into the UFC. This made all-time dream matches like Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva possible, and also gave pound-for-pound talents like Jose Aldo, Anthony Pettis, Daniel Cormier and Gilbert Melendez the chance to showcase themselves on MMA’s biggest stage.
2007 Going Global
UFC 70 was held in Manchester, England and featured fighters from 11 nations. It was sign of the UFC’s rapidly-expanding international footprint.
It was 2007 when the UFC really began to take the world by storm. Opening a full-time office in the UK, the UFC began to stage regular events not only in the British Isles, but mainland Europe, Australia, China, Canada and all points in between. UFC 70, held in April 2007 in Manchester, England underlined the international nature of the UFC with the 20 fights featuring fighters from 11 different nations.
2009 The UFC reached milestone UFC 100 event
The 100th UFC super-card celebrated the fastest rise to global prominence of any sport in history.
In anticipation of the July 2009 event, fans demanded that UFC 100 celebrate of all that the sport had accomplished in the previous 16 years. The UFC responded with a loaded card topped by Brock Lesnar’s revenge win over Frank Mir. UFC 100 also showed us the future of the sport, the first ever UFC FAN EXPO drew tens of thousands of fans to Vegas for what is now an annual pilgrimage to the Fight Capital of the World.
2010-2012 Greatest. Feud. Ever.
For two years, the rivalry between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen captivated the world.
Chael Sonnen’s penchant for colorful statements turned what was originally just another fight into the must-see event of summer 2010. Sonnen taunted Anderson Silva relentlessly. The match, which headlined UFC 117, was amazing, with Silva snatching a last-round submission victory after getting dominated for four rounds. The rematch, at the epic UFC 148, became the single biggest fight in the sport, with Silva once again emerging victorious after struggling with the fearless Sonnen.
2011 UFC 129 Goes Big
55,724 fans — the largest audience in MMA history — flocked to the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada.
In what was by far the largest attendance for a mixed martial arts event in the sport’s young history, 55,724 fans jam-packed the famous Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada, for an unforgettable night. Fans lucky enough to get tickets to this instant sellout were treated to a jaw-dropping spectacle and vintage performances by world champs Georges St-Pierre and Jose Aldo.
2011 The FOX Nation
UFC On FOX debuts, confirming the UFC’s place among the established television sports properties.
The UFC had been the #1 PPV provider in the world since 2006, but the November 2011 debut of the UFC on the FOX network confirmed the league’s place as a television juggernaut alongside the traditional “big four” US sports (football, baseball, basketball and hockey). For the first time, UFC events were available on free-to-air broadcasts in the US. The historic first UFC on FOX card on November 12 saw Junior Dos Santos KO heavyweight king Cain Velasquez in just 64 seconds. It was the most- watched fight of any kind in over a decade.
2012 TUF World
The search for the next generation of champions went international.
For eight years and 18 seasons, The Ultimate Fighter series has served as the UFC’s Trojan Horse into the living rooms of America, exposing mixed martial arts to new audiences while searching for undiscovered talent like Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Nate Diaz and John Dodson. In 2012, TUF went international with cameras rolling for versions of TUF in Brazil, Australia, China and Canada, intensifying the searchlight for the champions of tomorrow all over the world.
2013 Females' First
In February 2013, history was made when female fighters entered the Octagon.
In 2013, the new women’s bantamweight division exploded in the UFC. Ronda Rousey, Liz Carmouche, Miesha Tate, Cat Zingano and others wowed the crowds with fights that were frequently among the most exciting on the card. Unlike in other sports, the women competed on the same card, on the same show and on the same night as the men. A co-ed season of TUF, coached by Rousey and Tate, cemented female MMA's place in the UFC.
2013 Baddest Man on the Planet
As the UFC turns 20, Cain Velasquez is the Baddest Man on the Planet.
The UFC heavyweight champion symbolizes what Mike Tyson once called “the Baddest Man on the Planet.” From 2011 to 2013, Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos collided three times for the UFC heavyweight championship, with Dos Santos winning the first bout, and Velasquez claiming revenge twice. As a two-time champion, Velasquez has scored more knockouts, landed more takedowns, landed more strikes and spent more time in control of the Octagon than any other UFC heavyweight. “He’s the baddest man now,” Tyson said.