Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) cage fighting has many different sanctioned leagues. As of 2018, the combat sport of MMA had 41 different leagues that adhere to mixed martial arts rules and regulations. Some of these leagues have both men and women fighting in their league, while others were strictly for either men or women only. While there are many different MMA leagues, four stand out the most in the world of mixed martial arts combat sports.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
The most well-known mixed martial arts league in the United States is the UFC. Established in 1993 by Art Davie and martial artist Rorion Gracie, the UFC has been the standard that all other MMA combat sports follow. The UFC would be a men’s only MMA combat sport until 2012 when Ronda Rousey would sign with the UFC and become its first women’s champion.
The UFC is expansive, with its reach being worldwide, from weekly TV shows, magazines, and even video games. The UFC has between 38-42 events throughout each year, with the major events being numbered. The UFC has events throughout the calendar year for fans to enjoy and title belt matches where champions defend their weight class title.
Bellator Mixed Martial Arts
Another popular MMA league is Bellator MMA cage fighting. Since 2008, Bellator has produced some of the best combat fighters in the cage with fighters like Cris Cyborg, Ryan Bader, and Michael Chandler. Bellator MMA is also the largest combat sports promotion globally and ranks second in the United States behind the UFC.
Bellator MMA has between 18-27 events each year, with some months having multiple Bellator MMA events. They also have international events like Bellator Paris, Bellator London, Bellator Milian, and Bellator Dublin. These events have made Bellator the largest MMA combat sports promotion in the world. Bellator MMA title belts are usually defended during their PPV events.
Professional Fighters League
The Professional Fighters League is also another MMA combat fighting league and was founded in 2018. The PFL is the first major MMA organization with a regular season, post-season, and championship instead of a year-round fighting schedule. The PFL consists of six weight classes and a playoff format with quarterfinals and semi-finals to determine who will go to the finals in their weight class.
For the 2021 season, the PFL only had a semi-finals playoff set-up for each weight class. The PFL season consists of ten events throughout the year, one less than the inaugural season of the PFL in 2018, with the last event being the event that crowns the champion in each of the six weight divisions.
ONE Championship (formerly ONE Fighting Championship) is a mixed martial arts league based in Singapore and founded in 2011 by Chatri Sityodtong and Victor Cui. ONE Championship is the largest MMA promotion in Asia and is also in the top ten in viewership among all MMA brands. ONE Championship has nine weight classes for the men’s MMA side and two weight classes for the women’s MMA side. Each weight class has its own champion that has to defend the title at select ONE Championship events throughout the year.