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Zuffa, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Endeavor Group Holdings, owns and operates the Ultimate Fighting Championship, an American mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion organization located in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is the world’s largest MMA promotion business, with a roster that includes some of the sport’s best competitors. The UFC holds events in twelve weight classes (eight men’s divisions and four women’s divisions) all over the world and follows the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. The UFC has hosted almost 500 events as of 2020. Since 2001, Dana White has served as the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The UFC has developed into a multibillion-dollar worldwide phenomenon under White’s leadership.
The first tournament was place in Denver, Colorado in 1993 at the McNichols Sports Arena. The goal of the early Ultimate Fighting Championship competitions was to find the most effective martial art by pitting competitors from various fighting disciplines such as Boxing, Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, Wrestling, Muay Thai, Karate, Taekwondo, and Judo against each other in a contest with few rules and no weight classes. Following these incidents, combatants began to combine efficient tactics from many disciplines, resulting in the creation of a distinct fighting style known as today’s mixed martial arts. UFC’s parent company, Zuffa, was sold for US$4.025 billion in 2016 to a consortium led by Endeavor, then known as William Morris Endeavor (WME”IMG), which included Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and MSD Capital. Endeavor paid $1.7 billion to buy out Zuffa’s other shareholders in 2021.
The UFC has grown in popularity and received more mainstream media coverage as a result of a television deal and expansion in Australia, Asia, Europe, and new markets within the United States; the promotion generated total revenue of US$609 million in 2015, and its next domestic media rights agreement with ESPN was valued at $1.5 billion over a five-year term.
Art Davie presented an eight-man single-elimination tournament named “War of the Worlds” to John Milius and Rorion Gracie. The competition was inspired by the Brazilian Gracie family’s Gracies in Action movie series, which depicted Gracie jiu-jitsu pupils defeating martial artists from a variety of disciplines, including karate, kung fu, and kickboxing. The competition would also involve martial artists from various disciplines facing off in no-holds-barred fighting to determine which martial art is the greatest, with the goal of replicating the thrill of the bouts Davie had seen on the recordings. Milius, a well-known filmmaker and screenwriter who also happens to be a Gracie student, consented to serve as the event’s artistic director. WOW Promotions was founded after Davie created the business plan and twenty-eight investors supplied the first funds, with the goal of turning the tournament into a television franchise.
WOW Promotions sought a television partner in 1993 and approached pay-per-view companies TVKO (HBO) and SET (Showtime), as well as Semaphore Entertainment Group’s Campbell McLaren and David Isaacs (SEG). SEG ” a pioneer in pay-per-view television who had produced such eccentric events as a man against woman tennis match between Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova ” became WOW’s partner in May 1993 after both TVKO and SET rejected. Jason Cusson, a video and film art director, was asked by SEG to develop the event’s patented “Octagon,” a hallmark component. Cusson stayed on as Production Designer until UFC 27. The Ultimate Fighting Championship was the moniker that SEG came up with for the program. The UFC promoted the event at first as a real-life combat video game competition akin to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.
On November 12, 1993, WOW Promotions and SEG staged the first event, eventually dubbed UFC 1, at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. Art Davie worked as a booker and matchmaker for the show. The show aimed to address queries from sports enthusiasts, such as “Can a wrestler defeat a boxer?” Fighters in most martial arts at the time often specialized in one discipline and had limited experience competing against opponents of varying abilities. Kickboxers Patrick Smith and Kevin Rosier, savate fighter Gerard Gordeau, karate expert Zane Frazier, shootfighter Ken Shamrock, sumo wrestler Teila Tuli, boxer Art Jimmerson, and 175 lb (79 kg) Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt 175 lb (79 kg) Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt 175 lb (79 kg) Brazilian jiu-jit Royce Gracie, the younger brother of UFC co-founder Rorion, was chosen to represent his family in the tournament by Rorion himself. In the first tournament, Royce Gracie’s submission abilities were the most effective, winning him the first ever UFC tournament championship after submitting Jimmerson, Shamrock, and Gordeau in quick succession. With 86,592 pay-per-view television subscribers, the program was a huge success.