UFC has certainly become the premier mixed martial arts platform since its inception. It has been 20 years since the UFC was acquired by the Fertittas brothers along with Dana White.
Former double UFC champion Conor McGregor congratulated the promotion on its twentieth anniversary under Zuffa, LLC. The Irishman retweeted a video of Dana White's first interview as UFC President, where he laid out his plans for the future of the promotion.
The journey to becoming the leader in combat sports promotions has not been easy for the UFC. Prior to Zuffa, WOW Promotions was in charge of organizing UFC events. In 1993, WOW Promotions, along with television partner SEG (Semaphore Entertainment Group) organized the first UFC event in Denver, Colorado.
However, the sport was in its infancy and SEG was struggling with bankruptcy. This is when Frank and Lorenzo Fertittas saved the day with a hefty $2 million dollar check and purchased the UFC.
However, this was just the first obstacle. The battle to secure sanctioning for the promotion was still ongoing. Lorenzo's stint at NSAC (Nevada State Athletic Commission) came in handy here. In 2001, the UFC was sanctioned in Nevada and Zuffa held UFC 33 in September at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
After this, the UFC started to gain momentum. The live gates and pay-per-view numbers were reaching new heights (UFC 40 sold 150,000 PPVs), even though the promotion was still struggling financially. It was reported that since acquiring the company, Zuffa had to bear a total sum of $34 million in losses.
What rescued the UFC from going bankrupt?
They say necessity is the mother of invention. After facing huge financial setbacks, it looked like the promotion had to be more imaginative to fix the situation. In 2005, the UFC decided to launch The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV.
TUF was a reality show for up-and-coming fighters to showcase their talents on American television. The show was an instant hit and brought impressive ratings for the company. The finale matchup between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar was back-and-forth, and is widely regarded as one of the best battles on the UFC canvas.