Here’s to 30 Years, UFC!

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It’s a tradition as old as time. If you go to a wedding reception, regardless of the couple’s background or the setting of the soiree, the evening will generally begin with a toast to the newlyweds and also a prayer from the assembled guests that the union will be a long and happy one.

Toasts are generally reserved for the most auspicious and the happiest of occasions. Fans of combat sports have a happy moment to look forward to this coming weekend.

On Saturday night, MMA‘s No. 1 promotion, the UFC, commemorates its 30th anniversary in grand style. Madison Square Garden in New York City serves as the site for the biggest MMA party ever, UFC 295. All this talk of toasts and merriment leads us to say that there’s only one thing for us to do at a time like this.

Raise Your Glass

With that having been said, everybody, please stand up and raise your glass as we toast the promotion on the occasion of its pearl anniversary. UFC, you started out with humble beginnings on a November night in 1993.

“MMA? What’s that?,” people asked throughout the promotion’s early going. Nobody knew how big a part you’d play in the sports world’s consciousness back then. If they knew in 1993 what they know now in 2023, people would be amazed.

However, it wasn’t always tough sledding for you right from the beginning. Any courtship has its ups and downs, and yours with society wasn’t any different.

Bans and Controversy

Lawmakers hated MMA in the early going, with late Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona working in concert with the Federal Communications Commission in an effort to halt MMA events from airing on TV. He dubbed it “human cockfighting” and attempted a nationwide moratorium on the sport. Only a few satellite pay-per-view outlets stuck with the sport after McCain’s efforts.

However, as we know now, it didn’t work. This fight within the fight was just in the first round. Despite the UFC instituting rulesets to make the contests safer, not everybody was pleased with the changes.

New York State banned MMA in 1997, resulting in UFC 12 being relocated to Alabama on  short notice. With time, US states began to warm up to the Octagon, and by 2016, the sport was now legal in all 50 US states, ending with New York. 

Still, there were people out there that insinuated that MMA is like WWE. Simply put, this isn’t fake or predetermined in any way.

ESPN Deal Best for UFC By Far

Fast-forward to 2018: After a successful seven-year stint on FOX Sports,  you moved to The Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN.  Initially slated to be a five year media deal, the contract was extended through 2025 just two months after going into effect. This has been a happy marriage itself. There’s no reason why the partnership can’t continue in the future. ESPN has increased the UFC’s exposure and has added to its popularity even more.

The Future Looks Bright

We all know that the four major sports in this country are baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. What about adding MMA as a fifth major sport?

If not for the UFC in its current form, MMA would still be a niche sport. With fights happening nearly every weekend, fans have made a Saturday night in the Octagon appointment viewing, much like television viewers in the 1990s made the CBS medical drama Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman appointment viewing on Saturdays at 8 pm.

Just as Dr. Quinn revitalized Jane Seymour’s popularity as an actress and performer, athletes like Colby Covington, Daniel Cormier, and Ronda Rousey, became household names in the Saturday evening spotlight. While the UFC has had a checkered past, this marriage is as strong as ever.

A Toast

To the UFC and to 30 years. May the best be yet to come.

Now, let’s party!

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.

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