Know Your Combat Fighting Promotions: A Look at UFC, Bellator, World Series of Fighting, and Glory World Series
A bit of history of Combat Sports in the United States
Combat sports have been around for as long as there have been sports. Forms of boxing and wrestling were seen during some of the first Olympic games in ancient Athens and have survived to this day to be extremely popular. Even up to this very day, boxing and professional wrestling are still the most profitable of the combat sports in the US.
In recent years, however, other combat sports such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Kickboxing have started to make inroads into mainstream American sports broadcasting, with a few notable promotion companies leading the way.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
First off is the Ultimate Fighting Championship. UFC is the front-runner in the combat sports competition by a good margin in the US. The company was founded in 1993 but was considered a violent fringe sport until the Zuffa era that began in 2001. During the mid-1990s, there was so much controversy surrounding the sport that politicians like Senator John McCain led campaigns to ban the sport outright. Despite this tumultuous beginning, UFC events have now become mainstream sporting events that sell out venues and attract audiences in the hundreds of thousands. This has been aided tremendously by the reality show "The Ultimate Fighter" (TUF) which launched UFC from the world of Pay-per-View sports into homes nationwide on Spike TV. Now, UFC fighters such as Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, and George St. Pierre are household names internationally and in their respective countries of origin the US, Brazil, and Canada respectively. George St. Pierre was awarded Canadian Athlete of the Year three years in a row. Currently, UFC has expanded all over the world and does not look like it will be stopping anytime soon.
Promotion for UFC 162
Fightmaster: Bellator's Reality Show
Next up is Bellator MMA. Bellator is the second most popular mixed martial arts organization in the United States, but it also holds the distinction as being the most popular internationally. One of the key differences between Bellator and UFC is that Bellator utilizes the tournament system instead of the single fight system. Some fans feel that under this system they can more judge who is the better fighter more realistically, as each fighter has to earn his way to a championship spot as opposed to being assigned a fight that the fighter may or may not deserve. Once a fighter has made it through a tournament and is the last contestant standing, he is crowned the champion of that weight class for that season. As of now, Bellator has been through 8 seasons.
Recently Bellator has also found its way into the realm of reality TV with its new show "FightMaster". The show begins with 32 contestants who get narrowed down to 4 teams of 4 fighters each through a series of preliminary elimination fights. Each of the four teams is coached someone who is a veteran in the world of mixed martial arts. In the first season, the coaches are Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture, Greg Jackson, and Joe Warren. After each contestant wins his respective pre-lim fight, he can choose which camp he wants to train under and who he wants to be his coach.
World Series of Fighting
World Series of Fighting (WSOF)
An honorable mention in the world of MMA goes to World Series of Fighting. Even though this promotion only began in 2012, it has the backing of NBC Sports, and therefore was met with a lot of fan fare. The very first broadcast had heavy hitters in the industry such as Bas Rutten, and Michael Schiavello as commentators.
Even though this promotion is still in the early stages of its development, the amount of money of money and advertising behind it warrants a mention.
MMA World Series of Fighting Promotional Video
Glory World Series
Promotion for Glory 9
Glory World Series
Finally, we have a combat sport that is as popular as, or arguably more popular than, mixed martial arts in the international combat sport scene. Kickboxing is a purely striking form of combat sport like boxing. This means that unlike MMA, wrestling, and Jiu-Jitsu, Kickboxing does not involve many throws or grapples. For the most part, kickboxing has not been a popular sport to watch on TV stateside even though there are many practitioners of kickboxing martial arts such as Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and Muay Thai.
Glory World Series is looking to change all that. The GLORY World Series is the top stand up fighting promotion internationally, and as of 2013, it is making headways into the US market. This is a tournament style fight series, much like Bellator, which includes 16 and 8-man tournaments and events with traditional, single bouts. Yet, a crucial difference is that Glory tournaments are done in one sitting, meaning a fighter may have up to 3 fights in one night in order to be crowned champion.
Glory World series has broadcast deals in several countries, and it also makes a good amount of money off of webcasts from countries that it doesn't have deals. According to some estimates, GLORY is one of the world's most widely-broadcast sporting organizations.