50 Part Series of the History of MMA in United States: Florida

Florida MMA
Steve Montgomery warms up backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at the Hard Rock Live on June 27, 2015 in Hollywood, Florida.

This is the ninth of a 50 part series documenting the history and the current state of MMA for each of the 50 states in the United States of America. Each part will chronicle the history of MMA as well as several notable fighters and camps in each state. States will be completed in alphabetical order. This is the history of Florida MMA. Be sure to check out the previous chapter on Delaware.

History of Florida MMA

Florida, the 27th state to join the Union, is a major hotbed for MMA. It could arguably go toe-to-toe with California as far as the quality of fighters and fight camps found within. Being the 4th largest state based on population helps to get the best of the best within your borders.

Florida State Boxing Commission

The Florida State Boxing Commission is responsible for sanctioning MMA and boxing bouts within the state. The commission is made up of five members with one required to be a licensed physician who has practiced medicine for at least five years. The commission meets four times a year to discuss business but only one of those meetings per year is an in-person meeting.

Major Events and MMA Moments in the State of Florida

Florida has been the site of many major MMA events. UFC has held 11 events while Bellator has used Florida for 12 events. PFL (when known as World Series of Fighting) held five events in Florida. Another defunct organization, Strikeforce, held one event during its tenure in the world of MMA.

UFC in Florida

The first UFC within the state of Florida was UFC 42: Sudden Impact which took place in Miami on April 25, 2003. The event was headlined by a welterweight title fight seeing Matt Hughes defend his title against Sean Sherk and winning by decision. Rich Franklin also made his UFC debut at this event.

UFC: Ortiz vs. Shamrock 3 was the first event to be held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL. This second event in the state took place over three years later on October 2006. The third and final matchup between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock took place this night with Ortiz winning by first-round TKO. The numbers break down to nearly 5.7 million viewers for the main event. Several notable names on the card such as Thiago Alves and Nate Marquardt were also victorious.

The most recent event to take place in the state was UFC on Fox: Emmett vs. Stephens which took place on February 24, 2018. It was the first time the UFC returned to Orlando in nearly three years. The main event featured Jeremy Stephens knocking out Josh Emmett in the early minutes of round two. The prelims also featured an amazing contest between Alan Jouban and Ben Saunders with Jouban winning by knockout.

Bellator in Florida

The very first Bellator event, Bellator 1, was actually held in Florida at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino on April 3, 2009. The quarterfinals of the featherweight and lightweight tournaments began on this night along with our non-tournament bouts. Jorge Masvidal defeated Nick Agallar by decision in the first even main event. Eddie Alvarez was also on the card and won his doubt by submission against Greg Loughran.

Co-Promoted NASCAR Series with Bellator

The most recent Bellator event in Florida was a bit unusual. The fourth event in the Monster Energy Fight Series took place at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, FL. Bellator did a series of events prior to NASCAR events in the centerfield of the track. The events were never televised due to NASCAR licensing issues with NBC and PFL. One of the bouts featured American Top Team talented prospect, Michael Lombardo, earning a unanimous decision win over Emmanuel Verdier. In a previously written article with MMASucka Lombardo recalled what it was like to fight at a NASCAR co-promoted event. “It was so hot that the canvas of the cage was burning my feet before the fight. It definitely made it tough to push a hard pace. The sun played a part in the cardio.”

Fighters and Camps In/From the State of Florida

Florida is home to many of the best fighters and teams in the sport today. Arguably the best team in the business today is located in Coconut Creek. American Top Team is home to over 100 professional fighters and many world champions. Current UFC welterweight interim champion Colby Covington and UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunez call ATT home. Hayder Hassan, UFC veteran and next up for the Phoenix FC welterweight title, was born in Fort Lauderdale and calls ATT home as well. Hayder was the driving force for American Top Team on the TUF series pitting ATT vs. Blackzilians.

Another large gym in the state is the somewhat new Hard Knocks 365 gym. The gym is located in Fort Lauderdale and is partly run by former world kickboxing champion and coach Henri Hooft. The gym is home to such UFC fighters as Michael “The Menace” Johnson, Gilbert Burns, and Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts.

Part ten of the 50 states series will be the state of Georgia. Check back with MMASucka to keep up with the series.

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