What is the Difference Between UFC and MMA? – Simple Answers


Mixed Martial Arts(MMA) has fast become one of the world’s most popular sports with a massive following of athletes and fans alike. As with most sports, there are several organizations attached to the sport that govern the rules and regulations of the sport and promote it on a national and international level.  

MMA is an acronym for the sport known as Mixed Martial Arts, while UFC stands for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is an American promotion company based in Las Vegas that organizes fights and promotes the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). 

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has evolved from a no-holds-barred mixed combat sport that was first seen in ancient Greece to one of the world’s most-watched sports that incorporates techniques from various martial arts from around the world. Read on to find out more about this fascinating sport and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) that promotes it. 

What is the Key Difference Between MMA and UFC?

MMA is the name of the sport and UFC is the name of an enterprise. MMA is a sport like boxing or basketball while UFC is an enterprise that promotes MMA matches. 

Here’s an overview of the difference between MMA and the UFC.

Name of the SportName of the Sport Organization
BoxingWBC , WBA
Baseball MLB
FootballNFL
Ice HockeyNHL
SoccerMLS
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)UFC


MMAUFC
MeaningMixed Martial Arts 
Ultimate Fighting Championship 
FunctionA full-contact combat sport based on-ground fighting, grappling and striking. 
A promotion company and multi-billion-dollar enterprise that advertises and promotes MMA matches.
FormedEvolved from ancient Greek martial arts.
Formed in 1993.

What is MMA? 

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full-contact sport based on ground fighting, grappling, and striking. Also known as cage fighting, no-holds-barred fighting (NHB), or ultimate fighting, MMA incorporates a wide variety of fighting techniques and skills from a range of combat sports and martial arts that are fought around the world. 

Where Does MMA Originate From? 

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is based on an Ancient Greek sport known as pankration that featured skills in grappling and striking that were similar to those of modern-day MMA. It was performed at the 33rd Olympiad in 648 BC and all strikes and holds were allowed except biting and gouging. 

Fighters, known as ‘pankratiasts’ fought until one fighter could not continue or signaled submission by raising their index finger. There were no rounds in this ancient form of the sport, and it is thought that there were similar mixed combat sports fought in Ancient Egypt, India, and Japan. 

Before MMA was supported and showcased by the UFC, there were several mixed martial arts organizations, including Vale Tudo in Brazil, which focused on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighting and wrestling in Japan. These two organizations, however, only focused on showcasing their sports in their own countries and never really broke into the US market. 

The creation of the UFC in 1993 introduced MMA to the American public and the first show featured a competition with representatives of different fighting styles such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and Wrestling. 

What Are the Rules for MMA? 

MMA competitions allow athletes of different disciplines of martial arts to compete under a set of unified rules. These disciplines include but are not limited to: 

How Do You Win a Match in MMA? 

There are several ways of winning a match in MMA. These methods of victory include: 

  1. Submission (SUB): This is when one fighter achieves a submission hold and the other fighter calls defeat by tapping on the opponent’s body or the mat. This is a form of verbal submission. 
  2. Knockout (KO): When the fighter is knocked unconscious due to impact or strikes from his opponent.
  3. Technical Knockout (TKO): This occurs when a fight is stopped by the referee due to one of the fighters not being able to defend himself because of an effective attack by his opponent. A technical knockout is usually called a few days after the fight once the injured fighter has been seen by a doctor. 
  4. Judges’ Decision: This version of a victory happens if a fight lasts all rounds, and the judges award the victory according to a unique points system.
  5. Disqualification (DQ): A disqualification can be called once a fighter has performed three illegal moves with warnings. It can also be called if a fighter has been injured as a result of an illegal move. 
  6. Forfeit: A fighter forfeits a match if he is injured. A forfeit is called before the match begins. 

Are Any Moves Banned in MMA? 

There is a long list of acts that constitute fouls and penalties in an MMA fight, and they are laid out in the Unified Rules of MMA. Some of the acts that are forbidden include: 

  • Biting or spitting
  • Eye gouging or fish hooking
  • Kicking a grounded opponent in the head.
  • Sticking fingers into opponent’s orifices 
  • Grabbing or striking the throat
  • Groin attacks 
  • Striking the back of the head or the spine
  • Abusive language in the ring

What is UFC? 

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a promotion company and multi-billion-dollar enterprise that advertises and promotes MMA matches. the largest MMA promotion company in the world, UFC is based in Las Vegas and produces worldwide events that showcase the 12 weight divisions in the sport and feature some of the highest-level fighters in the sport.

UFC Headquarter

The first UFC event was held at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado in 1993. The event was held to determine which martial art was the most effective and featured minimal rules and no-weight classes. It saw fighters from a variety of disciplines including boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Sambo, and Taekwondo. 

In following events, fighters began to use a variety of techniques from different fighting disciplines, which subsequently evolved into a separate style of fighting known as present-day mixed martial arts. 

As this new version of martial arts gained traction with fans around the world, the UFC gained greater mainstream media coverage to become one of the largest promotion companies in the world today.

UFC has become synonymous with MMA fighting due to its massive popularity around the world. As such, many people can’t distinguish the difference between UFC and MMA.

How Did the UFC Help to Develop MMA? 

When the UFC was first founded, MMA generally involved only two styles of fighting with one style of fighter fighting against another. For example, a wrestler fighting someone skilled in Judo or a Taekwondo fighter coming up against a kickboxer. 

As both MMA and the UFC grew, it became evident that only showcasing two styles of fighting in a match was not as effective as it would be to showcase a combination of styles and techniques. These, MMA fighters began to cross-train in different martial arts and perfect skills such as grappling, striking, and on-ground fighting. 

Mixed martial arts developed into a separate sport of its own with the UFC being the primary organization and major promoter of the sport. Today, it attracts the best fighters from around the world across a range of disciplines.

Were There Any Popular MMA Leagues Before UFC?

UFC was not the first organization in the world to promote MMA matches. The most famous promotions that promoted MMA matches before the UFC was even founded were:

Shooto(founded in 1986, Japan)

Pancrase MMA (founded in 1993, Japan)

Vale Tudo (founded around 1920, Brazil)

A modern form of MMA began to emerge in Brazil somewhere in the 1920s. At the time, there was a huge rivalry between the two similar fighting styles called Jiu-Jitsu and Luta Livre. Fighters from both of these arts fought against each other in the famous Vale Tudo tournaments. 

Vale Tudo resembles what MMA is today. It was the first organization to promote style vs. style matchups and they were very popular. Everybody wanted to see fighters from diverse martial art backgrounds taking on each other. This was the first time in history when people could see an organized MMA event. 

Yet, the Japanese were the first ones to found a proper MMA promotion called Shooto in 1986. They established the first set of MMA rules along with some other stuff like MMA gloves. Shooto represents a turning point and the birth of modern MMA.

Final Thoughts

As with many sports, there is usually an organization that controls and promotes the sport such as the NBA in basketball and the MLB in baseball. When it comes to Mixed Martial Arts, MMA stands for the name of the sport, which is a full-contact sport based on-ground fighting, grappling, and striking. The UFC stands for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and is a promotion company and multi-billion-dollar enterprise that advertises and promotes MMA matches. Thus, the two are inextricably connected. 

Jeff J.

Jeff J is a retired Gunnery Sgt. with the United States Marine Corps and a former Federal Police officer. He was involved with extensive training with weapons systems, and hand to hand combat, mentored and trained hundreds of Marines in high-level fitness programs.

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