If you want to know the difference between the UFC and Bellator then this article will provide you with all the answers you're after!
The UFC and Bellator promotions are arguably the two biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotions in the world. However, a lot of people don’t know the difference between UFC v Bellator and some more people don’t even realise that they’re not the same company.
So, in order to try and un-muddy the waters, this article is going to explain the key differences between the two MMA promotions, and add a little bit of their history so you can understand the two companies a little bit better. Before we do that, let’s quickly just define what these two juggernaut promotions are.
UFC, which stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship, is an MMA promotion which was founded in 1993. The first ever event, which was a one-night tournament, was created by Art Davie and put together on November 12, 1993. The event basically had no rules at all and it was later described by Senator McCain as “human cockfighting”.
Considering that acts like; hair pulling, eye gouging, groin shots were all allowed back in the early 1990s UFC events, it’s not really a surprise that people saw it as abhorrent.
However, the UFC has come a long way since then and it really started to grow more and more into a sport when the Fertitta brothers bought the UFC with their business partner, Dana White (who is now the UFC president).
More rules were implemented into the fights and MMA developed into a serious sport that was watched by hundreds of thousands of eager viewers.
Fast forward to today and the UFC has over 15 million followers on Instagram and hosts regular events in huge stadiums around the world, like Madison Square Garden.
The promotion has had worldwide superstars such as Conor McGregor fight under its banners and it recently celebrated its 25th year anniversary.
So, that’s a brief intro to the UFC, let’s look at Bellator now
Bellator is nowhere near as old as the UFC. It was only founded in 2008, and Scott Coker is its president (a less known public figure than his rival in the UFC, Dana White, although its possible this is more down to the controversial figure which Dana White cuts, which regularly keeps him in the headlines).
To most MMA fans, Bellator is the 2nd largest fight promotion, although it has drawn top talent away from the UFC quite regularly, by offering fighters better contracts with more money e.g. Gegard Mousasi, Cris Cyborg, Rory MacDonald and some others too.
The company was founded by Bjorn Rebney and started out with one night tournaments, before moving to the now standard format of having 1-v-1 matches on ‘fight nights’.
In late 2008, Bellator became the first MMA promotion to secure a deal for showing live MMA fights on TV with the ESPN family (ESPN Deportes).
For a long while, the UFC completely dominated the MMA scene, and only the hardcore fans knew of any other promotions in existence. However, nowadays Bellator is far more well known and even has some exposure in the mainstream.
So, history lesson over! What are the real differences between the 2 promotions? Why can’t there just be one etc. etc.
Joe Rogan said on his JRE podcast, the UFC is taken more seriously than Bellator.
Considering Joe Rogan works as a commentator for the UFC, and has been involved with the company since before it became popular, you can’t take his opinion objectively. However, he has a point, which I don’t think you can really argue with (unless you’re super hardcore or just watch Bellator).
The UFC has had all the media attention that MMA tends to get from the general public. Think Conor McGregor fights, think McGregor vs Mayweather, think Ronda Rousey etc. etc. they were all tied to the UFC as it was their fighters getting all the news coverage.
The UFC has so much clout in the MMA world that a lot of people with shallow knowledge of the sport refer to mixed martial arts as ‘UFC’ as in ‘hey, do you train UFC’ which is a statement that a lot of famous fans use on the UFC unfiltered vlog series. You don’t ever hear people asking whether you train Bellator. When your promotion’s name is used as a verb just like Google’s brand name is, or Hoover’s brand name is, then you know you’ve made it to the pinnacle of your industry.
So that’s probably the biggest difference between the 2 promotions. BUT, Bellator is catching ground on the UFC in this aspect. Like the article mentioned before, a lot of top MMA talent is coming over from the UFC to Bellator, which is helping to build their brand name, as these fighters’ fan bases come over to Bellator and become familiar with their set-up.
The UFC is keen to keep themselves well above Bellator, and there are even rumours floating around about a voicemail message left between the Fertitta brothers and Dana White which mentioned squeezing Bellator until they collapse, but at this point it’s just conjecture and it could have just been a drunken joke.
Obviously as these are 2 completely separate promotions, they can’t share fighters fighting under their banners. Instead, both promotions have a completely different set of fighters who work under their contracts.
Fighters regularly move from promotion to promotion. If they’re lucky then they are moving to a bigger promotion which offers them more money and more exposure to the public.
However, sometimes fighters move promotion for other reasons like; getting a better contract, they get cut from a promotion for bad behaviour, they fall out with the promotor, they get cut for going on a losing skid, they want to try out different competition.
5 years ago, every fighter wanted to get to the UFC, for some fighters it was an ‘end goal’ like getting a world title belt. The UFC had a MASSIVE pull on fighters, which usually meant that the UFC could negotiate pretty bad contracts for the fighters. Now, Bellator is a legitimate promotion which a lot of elite fighters sign for, even when they get offers from the UFC e.g. Michael Chandler, Gegard Mousasi.
Generally speaking, the UFC has the bigger superstars (Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Ronda Rousey, Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, Max Holloway, the list goes on). This is probably more down to the UFC having bigger budgets for fight promotion, and also having a much bigger fanbase, and it’s also down to the fighters self-promotion themselves.
Bellator are still growing their fanbase, but they have a lot of popular fighters like Michael Page (MVP), Paul Daley (an ex-UFC fighter cut for throwing a late punch), Chael Sonnen (also ex-UFC), Chandler, the Pitbull brothers…
Cross-promotional fights have happened in the past like Darrion Caldwell v Horiguchi (Bellator vs One) but none have ever happened between Bellator and the UFC (yet, although this could change VERY soon, maybe even pitting Ryan Bader vs Daniel Cormier).
Another difference in the UFC vs Bellator question is the characteristics of the promotions’ presidents.
The 2 presidents of these promotions are VERY different characters. Scott Coker, the Bellator president is a typical businessman; always very professional, rarely seen out of a shirt, and usually staying out of the limelight when it comes to news coverage.
Dana isn’t afraid of speaking his mind to anyone and it gets him a lot of coverage in the MMA world, which in turn helps to build up the UFC. He’s been a critical part of the ‘UFC circus’ which people love. There are even YouTube compilations of him going ‘crazy’ or entering in feuds with fighters, or even kicking off at what he perceived as bad MMA ref decisions.
If you’re even bored or you just want to get to know Dana a bit better, then leave him a controversial comment on one of his Instagram posts, and if you’re lucky enough he may just kick off at you…
Who owns the UFC?
The UFC is an American company owned by William Morris Endeavour, and Dana White is the President of the UFC.
Who has better fighters out of Bellator and the UFC?
Neither promotion can say it has all the best fighters. Elite MMA fighters will end up fighting for one of a few top promotions depending on contract negotiations, relationships with management and personal preferences.
Originally Published at SpeakMMA