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Is There a Difference Between UFC and MMA?

Published 04/11/2024, 5:22 AM EDT

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The term MMA has gained a lot of prominence over the past couple of decades or so, and its synonymity with the UFC is no secret.  It has grown to become one of the most watched combat sports in the world. The sport has also produced numerous stars across different weight classes like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, among many others. It even made Dana White one of the most recognized people in the sphere of combat sports.

Regardless, some fans often get confused between the terms MMA and UFC. If we take a look at it, the meanings behind these terms are rather simple. So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at what the difference between the two terms is.

MMA is the sport, UFC is the promotion

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The term ‘MMA’ stands for mixed martial arts, a mixture of all kinds of fighting styles emanating from martial arts. It first took shape in the first half of the 20th century, especially in Japan, and has since gained distinction in recent times. MMA is a sport where there is a lot of contact between two competitors, where striking and wrestling, while standing up or while on the ground, is also allowed inside an eight-sided cage or a square ring.

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On the other hand, UFC, or the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is an organization that promotes mixed martial arts fights. Led by Dana White, the promotion was first established in 1993 and has since completed thirty years of its inception. It was subject to bans in several US states during the late 90s and early 2000s, as people compared it with ‘human cockfighting‘ and condemned the violence.

Nevertheless, it quickly picked up pace in the 21st century and the credit for the rise of MMA in the mainstream can be given to the UFC, who preserved through those bans with new rules. Now, let’s take a look at the development of the UFC and the sport of MMA.

Development of MMA and UFC

The UFC is not what it is today. Fighters don’t approach their careers in the way they did before. Earlier, fighters with one style would go against each other and fight to win. It could be a jiu-jitsu fighter taking on a karate fighter or a boxer fighting a wrestler. But that notion has changed over the years. UFC has now totally incorporated what MMA really stands for.

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As the years passed, it became crystal clear that fighters need to have the skills of more than just one kind of fighting style. Some of the earliest stars of UFC were Royce Gracie, Mark Kerr, Mark Coleman, Don Frye, and Pat Miletich, to name a few.

Now, UFC fighters make use of more than one fighting style. Cross-training, especially learning to strike and grapple at the same time, has now become the quintessential aspect of MMA fighters, not just in Dana White’s promotion, but in other promotions as well. Moreover, the emergence of promotions like the UFC has given rise to some of the best athletes in the modern era comprising not only stars like the aforementioned duo of Conor McGregor, and Ronda Rousey but also Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez, Randy Couture, Georges St-Pierre and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

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MMA, as a mainstream sport, is very young. However, the fast rise in popularity of the UFC has made the sport more relevant than ever. Million-dollar payouts for fighters, million-dollar ticket sales for events, and millions in revenue have made it clear that MMA will only be getting bigger and bigger in the years to come.

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Written by:

Himanga Mahanta

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Himanga Mahanta is a senior UFC writer at EssentiallySports. An all-rounder in his coverage of the sport, Himanga is a reliable voice with a knack for providing analytical coverage of breaking stories from the world of MMA. His 1700+ articles include perspective pieces on trending UFC stories, and both live and post-event coverage of weekly events.
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Edited by:

Joyita Das