We have previous covered the history of the UFC – the early years of the UFC 1993 – 2001 , through it inception, UFC 1 and right up to UFC 30 in 2001. Now let’s look at the next chapter as see how the UFC under new ownership went global.
Pictured above : UFC 74
Under the new ownership of the Fertitta brothers and management of Dana White, the UFC rose in popularity partly due to greater advertising, sponsorship and he return to cable pay-per-view and subsequent home video and DVD releases. But the organisation was still struggling financially.
Despite the UFC’s first television deal with Fox and the hugely successful UFC 40 in November 2002, which arguably saved the UFC from bankruptcy, Zuffa, (the company who owned the UFC) had racked up millions in losses since purchasing the UFC.
The Ultimate Fighter – 2001
Something had to be done to stop the company haemorrhaging money and so the Fertitta brothers developed the idea of the UFC having its own reality series. Their idea, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) was a reality television show which would feature up-and-coming MMA fighters who would compete for a six-figure UFC contract.
After pitching the idea to a number of networks unsuccessfully, eventually Spike TV stepped up and in January 2001 The Ultimate Fighter 1 was launched. The show became an instant hit and Dana White has since credited TUF 1 for saving the UFC.
Mid 2000’s success
With the big rise in popularity due to big names such as – Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Rich Franklin, B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, Matt Serra, Ricco Rodriguez, Robbie Lawler, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, the UFC flourished. The UFC 52 was the first event after season one of the Ultimate Fighter and it was a massive success, doubling it’s pay per view numbers from the previous benchmark of 150,000 set at UFC 40.
Pictured above : Matt Hughes and BJ Penn
2006 – 2007
2006 proved to be the biggest year so far for the UFC. UFC 57 in February featured the much-hyped match between the 2 future Hall of famers Liddell and Couture. PPV rates rocketed again for UFC 60 which would see Royce Gracie’s first fight in 11 years. This was followed up by UFC 61 featuring the highly anticipated rematch between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz, the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter 3.
Such was the rise in popularity in 2006 that the UFC had broken the pay-per-view industry’s all-time records for a single year of business, generating over $222,766,000 in revenue in 2006, surpassing both WWE and boxing. And in terms of sports betting it was catching up too.
Pictured above Anderson Silva V’s Thales Leites UFC 97
2009 – 2010
2009 was to be another huge year for the UFC with UFC 100 seeing big names such as Brock Lesner, Frank Mir, Georges St-Pierre Thiago Alves, and Michael Bisping all in the Octagon. Such was the hype that ESPN started coverage of UFC. They would would eventually devote additional coverage of the UFC and other MMA news with the television debut of MMA Live on ESPN2 in May 2010.
The decade or 2000-2010 cemented the UFC as a major global franchise and arguably the period which oversaw some of the greatest UFC fighters and influencers such as Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, George St. Perrie, Randy Couture, Brock Lesner and Matt Hughes.
The latter part of the decade would see the rise of some big new names such as Anderson Silva, Jon Fitch, Lyoto Machida, Cain Velasquez, and Jon Jones, among others.
In the next chapter we’ll look at the emergence and rise new names and woman’s MMA / UFC.
PledgeSports is the global leader in crowdfunding & sponsorship for sport.