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The sports world submits to MMA’s chokehold on future growth prospects. The UFC reigns victorious in the fight for organizational supremacy. Bellator aims to be mentioned in the same breath of excitement. This article compares and contrasts the two clear front-runnners in MMA’s race toward recognition.
UFC stands for Ultimate Fighting Championships. The professional sports organization comprises the most-skilled mixed martial artists competing in the most-watched matches held inside the famed Octagon. The UFC rose from maligned beginnings as an arguably barbaric, underground spectacle to worldwide exposure on Spike, Fox Sports, UFC and ABC. UFC’s 13.6-million Youtube subscribers outnumber the combined total of the NFL and MLB.
Bellator provides the main alternative to the UFC’s MMA dominance. It resembles Strikeforce, which UFC’s parent company Zuffa acquired in 2011. The organization consolidates its goals into raising awareness and production quantity. Bellator ramped up from approximately 15 yearly events before president Scott Coker arrived, to 27 in 2019 before COVID-19.
Since Pride and Strikeforce closed, the UFC has rostered essentially every fighter universally considered elite, with a few exceptions who generally become disgruntled and leave due to pay or politics, for example Cyborg and former flyweight king Demetrius Johnson.
Bellator subjects itself to endless punchlines and memes about being a glorified retirement home for the UFC. Bellator’s 2021 Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix included five participants out of eight who competed in over 10 UFC fights.
Four of those fighters are in their late 30s/early 40. Injury prevented Yoel Romero from joining the list as a 44-year-old former Middleweight title challenger.
Strategies and styles mirror each other since both leagues adopt MMA’s Unified Rules. That said, the UFC’s outreach draws a wider geographical pool of professionals and employs over 650 fighters, making the possibilities far greater.
One perk Bellator dangles in front of fighters looking for financial opportunities is sponsors. Former Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader bragged that he quadruples his earnings thanks to gaining sponsors. The UFC discontinued individual fighter sponsors after signing a deal with Reebok, which makes the trunks used in competition.
UFC Heavyweights bring the heaviest bodies and blows with the 265-pound/120.2 kilogram/18.9 stone maximum. Light heavyweights compete at the 205-pound/93 kilogram/14.6 stone limit. Middleweights fight at the 185-pound/83.9 kilogram/13.2 stone weight limit.
Welterweights fight at the 170-pound/77.1 kilogram/12.1 stone weight limit. Lightweights used to be the smallest division at 155 pounds/70.3 kilograms/11.1 stone weight limit. Featherweights try to dethrone Alexander Volkanovski’s rule over the 145-pound/65.8 kilogram/ 10.4 stone division.
Female athletes technically max out at the same weight, although the division’s future is grim with White proclaiming it will cease when champion/consensus women’s MMA GOAT Amanda Nunes retires.
Bantamweight contests occur at the 135-pound/61.2kilogram/ 9.6 stone weight limit. The lightest males float through the flyweight division at the 125-pound/56/7 kilogram/8.9 stone weight limit. Strawweight remains the lightest overall weight class with its 115-pound/52.2 kilogram/8.2 stone weight limit only available to females.
Bellator’s weight classes relate to the UFC. Male Bellator athletes fight under identical guidelines, minus not having a flyweight division. Female athletes tread thinner waters. Bellator’s sole division for women is flyweight. Both organizations negotiate catchweight fights (mutually agreed fights at a weight different than the stipulated class range) when needed.
Both companies adopt MMA’s Unified Rules. As such, the law of MMA’s lacerated land applies the same to the two-biggest outlets for the sport in the world.
The UFC strays from the Unified Rules’ decree to only make title fights five rounds. Almost all UFC main events span five rounds to curtail complaints about a definitive winner. Bellator agrees with the Unified Rules.
White expresses whatever is on his mind with whoever is in earshot of his decibel-climbing opinion. Rants cover everything from trying to box Tito Ortiz, to playing blackjack and verbally eviscerating famed reporter Ariel Helwani’s antagonistic questioning.
The rapid-fire sound bites and open availability to the press contributed to the UFC/MMA as a whole gaining exposure before the general public accepted fighters leading the way beyond the days of John McCain declaring the UFC “human cockfighting.”
Brashness combined with endless broken promises, intense self-defense over heavily criticized fighter pay and in the several years chasing money fights over ranked logic polarizes fan and fighter approval.
Love him or hate him, White tops the public recognition of an American sports league spokesperson. His nearly 6-million Twitter followers are more than reigning MVP and State Farm spokesperson Aaron Rodgers.
Scott Coker moves in the shadows when White reclaims the spotlight. Coker promotes his product and keeps interviews strictly business pertaining to expansion and promotion.
Not much is known about Coker other than he started as a Hollywood stuntman and eventually led Strikeforce to considerable success as MMA’s former runner-up in size and scope. He fosters affable relationships with fighters and was even under UFC contract for four years without public chaos.
UFC and Bellator never cross-promote. The rival organizations compete for market share in arguably the world’s fastest-growing sport. Both promotions require exclusivity for MMA events (although both allow fighters to enter grappling tournaments on a limited basis).