The UFC was first established to provide a solution to the quandary of what martial art is the most efficient.
In a Playboy article, BJJ veteran Rorion Gracie promised to fight anyone for a $100,000 winner-take-all payout, which caught the attention of businessman Art Davie. In order to start WOW marketing, Davie met with Gracie and screenwriter-director John Milius and collected money from 28 investors.
On November 12, 1993, WOW Promotions and SEG broadcast their debut event, which would later become known as UFC 1: The Beginning.
Although Davie had placed advertisements in several magazines, the event ultimately took the form of an eight-man tournament, with a prize pool of $50,000 up for grabs. The competition was ultimately won by Rorion Gracie’s brother Royce, solidifying jiu-jitsu as the most effective skill set in the early years of MMA.
While there were few restrictions and no weight divisions in the inaugural event, there were many more rules in succeeding tournaments. In 1995, Davie and Gracie liquidated WOW Promotions after selling their franchise ownership to SEG.
Dana White and Fertittas’ takeover of the UFC
When Senator John McCain first viewed a footage of an early UFC event in 1996, he immediately referred to it as “human cockfighting.” He spearheaded a movement that led to the outlawing of no holds barred fighting in 36 US states.
The company then began organising competitions in less well-known states while collaborating with state athletic commissioner Jeff Blatnick and referee John McCarthy. SEG was on the verge of bankruptcy when the promotion held its first official event in the year 2000.
Together with Station Casinos owners Frank and Loronzo Fertitta, Dana White made an offer to purchase the business in January 2001. The acquisition was finalised for $2 million, and Zuffa, LLC was established as the new parent company.
White was the one who approached the Fertittas with the goal of obtaining the promotion, therefore he was elected president. Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz’s animosity helped the business survive at first, but it soon rose to become by far the most popular mixed martial arts promotion in the world.
Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, was sold to a consortium headed by Endeavor in 2016 for USD 4.025 billion.