Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship

Many know the Ultimate Fighting Championship as the UFC or one of the fastest growing sports the United States and the world have ever seen.  Introduced to the world in 1993, UFC 1: The Beginning was an 8 man elimination tournament held in Denver, Colorado with 2,800 in attendance.  Many sports traditionalists despised mixed martial arts and the UFC because it was direct competition to the traditional boxing.  Years later many opinions have changed and many fans have been acquired.  

The beginning of the new millennium was when the UFC really gained its popularity.  In 2001, the UFC held five live events with tickets averaging $81.45.  By 2006, the UFC had jumped to 10 events with an average ticket price around $270.  2006 was truly a historic year of growth with 3.5 times more pay-per-view buys and about 4.25 times more in pay-per-view revenue than in 2003.  The fight between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock was the fourth highest rated cable network sporting event in 2006, beating the NBA playoffs, the NFL Draft, and World Cup Soccer. 

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is now the most powerful MMA promotion company in the world having acquired the Japanese rival Pride Fighting Championship in 2007, merging with World Extreme Cagefighting in 2010, and acquiring Strikeforce in 2011.  

UFC 128 was held Saturday, March 19th in Newark, New Jersey and it was a truly historic night.  The night wasn’t historic because of the 12,619 in attendance with an average ticket price around $270.  The night wasn’t historic because MMA legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Folipovic was manhandled by Brendan Schaub.  History was made when New York native, Jon “Bones” Jones, became the youngest UFC champion ever when he beat Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the Light Heavyweight belt.  UFC 128 was another of Dana White’s (president of UFC) tactics to have the state of New York sanction MMA fighting.  New York is one of only 3 states that do not sanction MMA.  The thought behind it was to have the most promising UFC prospect, Jon Jones, fight right outside of his home state in order to keep the pressure on New York state legislators.  With the money the UFC can bring to the state (and crime fighting from “Bones”), how could New York continue denying the UFC?

The Ultimate Fighting Championship will again give one of the main card fighters the “home-field” advantage at UFC 129 on April 30th when Canadian and arguably the best UFC fighter George St. Pierre takes on Jake Shields.  This is GSP’s second straight fight in his home country, mainly because of the money he brings in.  Average price for a UFC 129 ticket is close to $450.  

The UFC is big business and cities are taking notice.  Many host cities already build the expected revenue into their budgets each year.  New York is the biggest market not to sanction UFC.  A few years ago, the governor had about $700,000 of UFC revenue built into his budget before it was denied.  Dana White knows that New York has the interest and the fan base, so expect the UFC to keep the pressure on and continue to hold events surrounding New York until the state finally gives in.  Keep an eye out for more expansion from the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2011 and years to come.

-Written by Kevin Rossi   

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