MMA In 2021: How Has Each Promotion Fared

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As we approach the halfway point through 2021, Mixed Martial Arts has finally rebounded from a pandemic riddled 2020. Fans have returned to the last 3 UFC Pay-Per-Views and with the upcoming trilogy between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, the biggest event of the year is only two weeks away. With that said, let’s dive into MMA in 2021.


The UFC is still the premier promotion in professional MMA in 2021. They’ve held 22 events so far with seven of them being held on pay-per-view. They are currently averaging 16,160 fans when allowing them in attendance. The UFC has also become self-sufficient in regards to holding events in their own arena, the UFC Apex. It has held 16 of the 22 events and the UFC is scheduled to return to the Apex three times in the month of July.  

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A UFC championship has changed hands four times in the first half of 2021. Aljamain Sterling, Francis Ngannou, Rose Namajunas, and Brandon Moreno all captured gold against the previous belt-holders. Charles Oliveria won the vacant lightweight championship after Khabib Nurmagomedov decided to retire late last year. 

Second Half Storylines

The McGregor/Poirier winner is expected to become the #1 contender in the historic lightweight division. However, we know that matchmaking doesn’t always go according to plan. 

Will Jon Jones finally make his heavyweight debut? Jones has been absent from the octagon since February of 2020. The long-awaited move to heavyweight is still on hold as it was recently announced that Ciryl Gane and Derrick Lewis will compete for the interim belt in August.

Bellator MMA in 2021

Bellator has held 7 events in the first half of 2021, all being held at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Bellator 260 was the first event to hold fans since the pandemic. They’re currently averaging 2,200 fans in the last two events. Those numbers are expected to increase with the July 31st card in Los Angeles, California. 

Two new champions as well as an Interim Champion have been crowned. Sergio Pettis and Yaroslav Amosov were victorious in both of their title fights and just this past Friday, Valentin Moldavsky won the Bellator Interim Heavyweight Championship. 

Second Half Storylines

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire vs. AJ Mckee is set to be the biggest fight in Bellator History, and has left bettors and bookies such as drooling. The semi-finals for Light Heavyweight Grand Prix are expected to commence in July, however no formal fight announcements have been made. Vadim Nemkov is lined up to defend his championship against Anthony Johnson, while Ryan Bader is expected to compete against Corey Anderson. Fedor Emelianenko is also expected to return in October. 


The Professional Fighter’s League can be seen exclusively on ESPN. They’ve held 6 events all being held at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Fans have not been permitted and the upcoming playoff events are set. The PFL has a playoff system, unlike other organizations. The PFL’s biggest star is by far Kayla Harrison. She’s the most dominate fighter in the promotion and a favorite to repeat as women’s lightweight tournament champion. 

Two of the biggest acquisitions in the promotion, Fabricio Werdum and Anthony Pettis have not lived up to expectations. Neither fighter was able to make the 2021 playoffs. The PFL will crown two new champions in both the lightweight and featherweight divisions respectively. Prior winners, Lance Palmer and Natan Schulte failed to qualify for this season’s playoffs. Brendan Loughnane is the #1 seed going into the 145lb playoffs and Loik Radzhabov is the top seed for the lightweights. 

Second Half Storylines

Can Rory MacDonald win the welterweight tournament? Or will Ray Cooper III repeat as champion. The “Red King” was on the wrong side of a horribly misguided decision in his last contest against Gleison Tibau. Cooper III is on 4-fight win streak and has been one of the most improved fighters on the roster. 

This upcoming week all 3 of the major organizations are off. The LFA is holding an event this Friday with an interim flyweight title at stake between Charles Johnson and Yuma Horiuchi. How do you think each promotion has fared as we hit the midway point with MMA in 2021? 

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Brandon Joint is a 28 year old graduate of Slippery Rock University. He resides in Willoughby, Ohio with his fiancé and two children.

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