The Evolution of MMA: Tracing Its Explosive Growth Across the UK

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A full-contact combat sport that is not for the faint of heart, MMA incorporates striking, grappling, and groundwork techniques. Incorporating techniques from lots of different combat sports from around the world, MMA competitions allow athletes of different disciplines of martial arts to compete under a set of unified rules. MMA has taken a journey from fringe sport to mainstream attraction in the UK.

The Roots of MMA in the UK

Thanks to the promotion of the UFC, MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK! More and more people are getting involved in the sport at an amateur level, generally due to MMA events drawing huge crowds and fighters becoming celebrities in their own right. After a long time out of the mainstream eye – martial arts made a comeback in the 1920s – with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu forming the basis for modern day MMA. In 2002, UFC 38 was one the earliest entries of MMA in the UK at Royal Albert Hall. Manchester native Michael Bisping put British MMA on the world map after becoming the first British UFC champion.

Key Moments in UK MMA History

Famous for their brutality, the first UFC events were held in the 1980s and 1990s. There were very few rules and fighters could use a wide variety of different martial arts techniques – coining the term ‘mixed martial arts’. The vicious nature of events became notorious and attracted a lot of attention, boosting the popularity of the sport. The UFC (United Fighting Championship) is an American company that promotes MMA, organising hundreds of events worldwide and bringing events to the UK. Shortly after Michael Bisping’s UFC debut, Nottingham-based “The Outlaw” Dan Hardy brought his all-out, striking-heavy style of fighting to the UFC. Hardy started fighting in 2004, back when the sport was perceived as being as basic as bare knuckle boxing.

The Role of Media and Celebrity Endorsements

Conor McGregor is arguably the most famous MMA fighter, rising to stardom in a spectacular fashion. He became popular for his charisma and played a huge part in bringing MMA to general household knowledge. The UFC (and by extension MMA) has also been endorsed and invested in by lots of big celebrity figures, such as Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Tom Brady, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Affleck, Adam Levine and Conan O’Brien. The impact of streaming platforms and social media has engaged a new, wider audience, proving to be a roaring hit with British fight fans on YouTube. BT Sport has jumped in on the hype too, paying a huge sum of money to retain exclusive UFC rights within the UK. Media coverage has shifted positively over the years, transforming from portraying MMC fighters as street brawlers to elite athletes.

Social and Cultural Impact

MMA has influenced fitness trends and popular culture in a huge way. Popular gyms such as London Fight Factor have seen a distinct shift in the type of people coming in, and the classes they’re interested in. People want to be the next Conor McGregor, and MMA classes are generally just as popular as boxing classes. Due to this demand, there has been a surge of MMA gyms and training centres across the country. Being able to watch the UFC with your mates (just like football or rugby) has played a huge part in the popularity of the sport. Even UK casino sites offer MMA-themed games, a testament to the sport’s widespread appeal.

The Future of MMA in the UK

The future of MMA in the UK looks bright, if everything continues along the same trajectory. At the moment, the British fighters that are crushing their fights were the guys that were invested in around 10 years ago, when they were still teenagers. MMA is a sport where you invest in talent early on and then wait to see results for 5 or more years, but there is talk that another big group of UK talent is coming up. On the other hand, the British Medical Association was campaigning to have the sport banned as recently as 2007, so not everyone has fully embraced this sport as safe. A great expansion strategy for MMA in the future would be more media representation for women fighters in MMA and other global collaborations.


In the UK, MMA clubs can be found everywhere! Incorporating several different styles of martial arts and offering all-round exercise, it’s a sport that trains everything from strength and power to flexibility and motor skills. It is an incredible sport to watch as a fan as well as for beginners through to experienced pros to participate in. The enduring legacy and future prospects of MMA in the UK are exciting!

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Includes collaborations of the MMASucka Team, guest posts from non-LWOS and MMASucka writers, and sponsored posts.

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