In the world of Mixed Martial Arts, two organizations tend to stand out from the rest in terms of competition. Ultimate Fighting Championship and Strikeforce are both huge names in the sport, and both have had a huge influence on the development of MMA.
The UFC was the first major MMA organization, getting its start in 1991. Advertising executive Art Davie was working on an ad campaign that featured the underground sport of MMA. He became intrigued by the sport and became a student of Rorion Gracie, of the famed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu family.
Within a year of that, Davie proposed to Rorion Gracie and filmmaker John Milius that the three of them create and televise a mixed martial arts championship, an event featuring the world’s best fighters showcasing a variety of fighting disciplines. The first event, known as UFC 1, was a huge success, and interest in MMA began to grow exponentially.
Strikeforce, which was a kickboxing organization in its earliest days, hit the world of MMA with the Shamrock Versus Gracie bout, which was a record-breaking event with the highest attendance of any mixed martial arts event in history. Strikeforce also sponsored a weekly MMA show on NBC, bringing mixed martial arts on to mainstream television where it gained an even larger audience.
The owners of UFC, Zuffa, LLC., bought Strikeforce in March of 2011, promising that they would not be merging the two organizations and that they would remain separate. However, many changes have occurred within Strikeforce, including the loss of most of the employee’s jobs.
In addition, since the purchase, many division championships at Strikeforce have been left vacant by fighters who moved over to UFC. Currently, in the men’s division, there are vacancies in the light heavyweight and welterweight divisions. The women’s featherweight division also remains vacant. Strikeforce’s contract with Showtime, however, has been extended until 2014, which indicates that for at least the next few years, the organization will continue to be a major player in MMA.
While each of the organizations has its own unique cage, both groups adhere to the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. Strikeforce bouts take place in a hexagonal cage, while the UFC fighters compete in “The Octagon.” Before the purchase by Zuffa, Strikeforce contests did not allows elbows to the head after an opponent has been forced to the ground, but this rule has now been eliminated.
Mixed martial arts looks to have a bright future, an interest in the sport continues to gain momentum. Fighters continue to improve their skills, and MMA athletes are increasingly focused on reaching expert levels in multiple fighting styles. Changes in Strikeforce and UFC will, of course, have far reaching effects on the sport worldwide, but most analysts agree that this sport will continue to change and the competition will become even stronger in the coming years.
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