Over the years we’ve seen a tonne of MMA promotions come and go (and bought out by the UFC), which can make it pretty hard to decipher who’s who in the world of MMA.
With that in mind, this article is designed to shed some light on the top MMA promotions currently operating around the world.
While the UFC is undoubtedly the most well known, it’s always good to broaden the horizons and discover some new talent from other organisations.
So, let’s get to it and crack on with out top list of MMA promotions.
- How to Watch: ESPN+ (US), BtSport (UK)
- Primary Location: United States
- Main Stars: Jon Jones, Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov
- Year founded: 1993
Let’s kick things off with the UFC, one of, if not the longest running MMA promotion in the world. UFC is pretty much the king of MMA, and has been so for some time. On it's rise to the top, the UFC bought a number of other, competing promotions such as WEC, Pride and Strikeforce.
The good new is that this brought the talent pools from multiple organisations together, into what is now one of (probably the most) talent rich promotions in the world.
One of the greatest aspects of the UFC is the regularity of their shows, often having 3 or more events in one month.
While they're not without their faults, especially when it comes to match making, if you want to see MMA at the highest level, then the UFC is definitely a great starting place.
- How to Watch: ONE Super APP/ YouTube
- Primary Location: Singapore/ Asia
- Main Stars: Demetrious Johnson, Eddie Alverez, Cosmo Alexandre, Shinya Aoki
- Year founded: 2011
While still somewhat the 'new kid on the block', ONE Championship has managed to amass a huge following throughout Asia in a very short amount of time.
How they've managed to become the top MMA promotion in Asia could be down to a number of factors. First of all, the UFC never quite got the foothold in Asia that they wanted, only hosting a Fight Night in Singapore and few other countries once a year.
Where as ONE, who are based in Singapore, host events all over Asia at least once a month. Plus, you can catch all of their events using the ONE Super App completely free, unlike UFC where you need to purchase a PPV and be a member of ESPN+ if you're in the States.
What's more, they've actually got some serious talent. Recently, Sage Northcutt, an ex-UFC fighter moved over to ONE Championship, where he was quickly dismantled by Cosmo Alexandre. Admittedly, the match up was always terrible for Northcutt, but just goes to show the calibre of fighters on the ONE roster.
Another great example is Demetrious Johnson, the most dominant Champion in the history of the UFC. While he did win his ONE Championship debut, it was no easy task.
I could go on all day about why ONE has done so well, so quickly and why I love it so much, but I'll save that for another article. Basically, if you're in Asia and want to see top level MMA, Muay Thai and Kickboxing, then definitely check out ONE.
- How to Watch: Spike (US), Spike UK/ Channel 5 (UK)
- Primary Location: Europe & US
- Main Stars: Rory McDonald, Michael Chandler
- Year founded: 2008
Bellator has always been 'in the mix', especially once Strikeforce was purchased by the UFC. In fact, a lot of people believed in the early days that the UFC were going to make a play for Bellator as well, however that never came to fruition.
Over the years however, Bellator have seem some incredible fighters come and go through its doors. The likes of Eddie Alvarez, Ben Askren, Hector Lombard and Rory McDonald have thrown down inside the Bellator cage.
While the talent pool and over all standard may not be quite as large and high as the UFC, this doesn't mean that Bellator events are ones to be missed.
On February 23rd 2019 for example, both the UFC and Bellator hosted a MMA event on the same night. For the UFC, it was Fight Night 145 and for Bellator is was Bellator 217 in Dublin, Ireland.
Having watched both events, I can honestly say, as is the consensus with most of the MMA community, that the Bellator event was by far the most interesting and action packed. I remember reading a tweet by some MMA reporter saying "tonight, Bellator has one at MMA", which I thought was hilariously true.
So if you're not into the politics and quite frankly bullshit that often comes with the UFC, Bellator is a brilliant option and 100% deserving of a larger following.
- How to Watch: FITE TV
- Primary Location: Japan & Asia
- Main Stars: Tenshin Nasukawa
- Year founded: 2015
RIZIN was founded by the former President of Pride Fighting Championship, Nobuyuki Sakakibara. While still very much in its infancy, Sakakibara has done a brilliant job of promoting RIZIN across the world.
He's done this in a number of different ways. Most notably, utilising the services of famed boxer Floyd Mayweather to participate in a 3 round exhibition boxing match against RIZING golden boy Tenshin Nasukawa. While Mayweather dispatched of Nasukawa with undeniable ease, which is understandable considering he was only 21 and a professional Kickboxer, not a boxer.
That said, that event drew many new, interested eyes to the organisation, including my own.
Most recently, Sakakibara and Scott Coker (Bellator President) have participated in a cross-promotion fight. Specifically at Bellator 222 at Madison Square Garden, which saw Rizin's Bantamweight Champion, Kyoji Horiguchi take on Bellator's Darrion Caldwell for the belt.
While only hosting around around 7 events throughout the year, Rizin puts on a great display of both Kickboxing and MMA that's definitely worth checking out.
- How to Watch: ESPN+ (US), Sports Channel Network/ YARE TV (UK)
- Primary Location: United States
- Main Stars: Magomed Magomedkerimov, Vinny Magalhães
- Year founded: 2012
Formerly known as the World Series of Fighting (WSOF), the Professional Fighters League (PFL) is an incredibly unique and interesting MMA promotion to watch, purely down to their format.
The PFL is organised into seasons, where each fighter in the 6 weight classes will fight twice, aiming to score the highest amount of points possible (10).
At the end of the season, the 8 fighters with the highest points will enter the Playoffs. The Playoffs consist of both the quater and semi-finals, which take place on one night. The 2 winners of the semi-finals will then progress to the World Championship fight, where they will battle it out to win both the belt and $1 million.
Here's a link to the complete rule set of the PFL, which can be a bit confusing at first, however due to its format and the stakes, some seriously epic fights take place that any MMA fan would love.
For a bit of a better understanding, check out the video below where Joe Rogan chats to Yves Edwards (PFL broadcaster) a bit about the format, and how these fighters can win $1 million.
- How to Watch: UFC Fight Pass (US & Global), Free Sports (UK)
- Primary Location: United Kingdom & Ireland
- Main Stars: Mads Burnell, Jai Herbert
- Year founded: 2001
Cage Warriors are definitely an old school name when it comes to MMA in the UK. This regional (and slightly international) circuit has been home to some of the worlds most world known talent, including Conor McGregor, who became both the Featherweight and Lightweight Champion before heading over to the UFC (and doing the same).
While the talent may be young and not quite as skilled as other promotions, this is a great place to catch up and coming fighters, just before their big break.
Cage Warriors and the UFC have a fairly close working relationship, with their events shown on the UFC's Fight Pass, and many of their fighters heading over to the UFC once they've established themselves in the MMA world.
Some other big names to have emerged from the Strike Force ranks are Michael Bisping, Gegard Mousasi and Dan Hardy.
Holding roughly 10 or so events a year, if you're a Fight Pass member, or living in the UK, check out Cage Warriors for some great fights and scout out the next generation of up and coming fighters.
Well there we have it, some of the best MMA promotions in the world.
Between them, you'll pretty much be able to watch MMA every weekend for the rest of your life!
If you think I've missed any out, or you've got a promotion you love to watch, let us know in the comment section below.
Thanks for stopping by.